Spring 2021 - IS 808 G500

Special Topics in Governance and Conflict (4)

Refugees & Migration

Class Number: 8107

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 12:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    Location: TBA

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 17, 2021
    5:00 PM – 5:00 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby



*This course will include synchronous and asynchronous components. Students will be required to participate in weekly live (synchronous) discussions.

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 45 million people who are internally displaced (that is, 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 the forcibly displaced 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, support, or control of emergent displaced 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 all parts of the world.


  • Class Participation 20%
  • Essay 1: City of Thorns essay 15%
  • Essay 2: No Friend but the Mountains essay 15%
  • Essay 3: Thesis Essay 30%
  • Take-Home Exam Essays 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.


This course will be delivered via online platforms, such as Zoom, Canvas, etc.

Students are required to have a computer, with a microphone, webcam, and speakers. They also must have good access to the Internet.

Microsoft Office is required, and a free version of Office 365 is available to SFU students here: https://www.sfu.ca/itservices/technical/software/office365.html.

Students will be required to upload assignments to Canvas and through Turnitin.com.



Rawlence, Ben. 2017. City of Thorns. Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. Penguin Random House Canada.
ISBN: 9780345815156

Boochani, Behrouz. 2018. (translated by Omid Tofighian) No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. Picador, Pan Macmillan.
ISBN: 9781760555382

Selected readings available online through SFU Library.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

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


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).