Fall 2019 - IS 355 D100

Refugees and Forced Migration (4)

Class Number: 7922

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Tue, 8:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Examines ideas and practices that affect experiences of forced migration and responses to these situations. What does it mean to live as a refugee? And what needs to change to alleviate the hardships and suffering of so many displaced people? Students who have taken IS 329 with this topic may not take this course for further credit.


An unprecedented number of people have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world. It is estimated that there are more than 25 million people legally classified as refugees, having crossed state borders to seek safety, as well as more than 40 million people who are ‘internally displaced’ (displaced within their home countries). This includes people who have recently fled their homes, as well as millions more who have been displaced for decades because the insecurity that caused them to flee their homes continues. Most refugees are being hosted in countries that are themselves struggling economically and politically, such as Pakistan, Lebanon, and Sudan. In the face of these challenges the international community has had to reckon with how to respond to humanitarian emergencies, such as the many people fleeing Syria, and consider how to shift from emergency relief responses to a more enduring agenda for long-term refugees, such as those who are still displaced from Somalia. Meanwhile, refugees and internally displaced people, after fleeing for their lives to seek safety in other countries and regions, must adjust to their new lives, either in camps run by the UNHCR, or, for the majority, in cities, where they are often banned from legal employment and face challenges in accessing public services. What does it mean to live as a refugee? And what needs to change to alleviate the hardships and suffering of so many displaced people?

In this course we will examine the ideas and practices that affect the experiences of refugees and responses to their situations. This will include examination of the institutional structures, laws, and politics that affect refugee determinations and degrees of protection and control. It will also include study of policy ideas and on-the-ground practices for attempting protection, care, and control of new refugee populations as well as efforts to extend assistance for longer-term management and even development goals. In all of this, we will critically appraise the ways in which the humanitarian purposes of the refugee protection regime can be undermined, often systematically, by the ways in which powerful actors think of, and respond to, refugees.

A primary interest of this course will be to learn more about how different people have experienced their forced displacement and perceived their circumstances. Through the course, we will consider people’s situations in parts of Asia, South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.


  • Class Participation 10%
  • City of Thorns essay (1500 words, minimum one source, due Sept. 9) 10%
  • Case study Essay (2000 words, due Oct. 22) 20%
  • Case study Presentation (10 minutes, due Oct. 29-Dec. 3) 10%
  • Thesis Essay (3000 words, minimum 6 sources, due Dec. 1) 30%
  • Take-home Exam (due Dec. 13) 20%


Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.



Rawlence, Ben. 2017. City of Thorns. Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. Picador.

Selected readings available online through SFU Library.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html