Howard Adelman Lecture to celebrate CRS’s 20th anniversary

"Does Research on Refugees Help Refugees?" That’s the question the founder of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) Howard Adelman will address at the First Annual Howard Adelman Lecture in celebration of the centre’s 20th anniversary on Thursday, April 10.

The event will begin with a reception at 5pm followed by the lecture at 6pm in Founders Assembly Hall, 152 Founders College, Keele campus. Professor Wenona Giles, associate director of CRS, and Professor Peter Nyers, from the Department of Political Science at McMaster University, will also discuss the topic.

If anyone can answer the question regarding research and refugees, Adelman can. He’s been involved in research with a definite real-world focus on helping refugees for close to three decades and is currently a research professor at the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Previously, he was a visiting professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and was a philosophy professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies from 1966 to 2003. Adelman was the first director of CRS and is the former editor of Refuge.

Left: Howard Adelman

Adelman will review some of the research he was personally involved in, taking five examples of domestic and five examples of foreign research on refugees and exploring whether the research helped or hindered and to what extent.

From initial research on the role of religious institutions in the acceptance, assistance and integration of refugees, the role of private sponsorship, and the comparative norms in different countries for adjudicating refugee asylum claims to his most recent work that returns to the religious issue focused on the ‘hijab’ in integration, Adelman will conclude that the research has probably been more beneficial than detrimental in assisting refugees. The most fundamental refugee research question of them all, the tension between the conception of state sovereignty and the rights of refugees to be protected by a state, has also been of benefit.

However, although early research on the numbers of forcefully displaced refugees and on the specific situations of refugee production – in Lebanon and Sri Lanka in particular – seemed to demonstrate the benefits of such research, other later research may show otherwise. Adelman will argue that research on overseas issues such as the relationship of refugees to peace agreements, on refugee rights of return and on warehousing refugees, may have had a detrimental effect on the significance, rights, support for and protection of refugees. The author or co-editor of 21 books and over 100 articles and book chapters, Adelman will conclude the lecture by exploring the possible reasons for the detrimental effects and for the inevitable tension that exists between research and humanitarian efforts to assist refugees.

Adelman recently served as an associate editor for the Macmillan three-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. In 1999, he co-edited The Path of a Genocide: the Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (Transaction Press, 1999). His latest volume on Humanitarian Intervention in Zaire was published by Red Sea Press in 2004. Rites of Return, a book he co-authored, is due out later this year along with two other books – an edited volume on Protracted Refugee Situations in South Asia and a co-authored study on Australian Military Intervention in the Pacific Islands.

Adelman currently serves as the deputy convener of GovNet, a consortium of researchers on governance issues in Australia, and as research director of the International Consortium of Research on Governance of the Health Workforce. He is also the producer and host of the weekly television program, Israel Today, broadcast in Canada and parts of the US.

Giles is an anthropologist and co-coordinator of the international Women in Conflict Zones Research Network 2007 whose research interests include gender, migration, ethnicity, nationalism and war. Her current SSHRC-funded research concerns protracted refugee situations and focuses on Somali refugees in Kenya and Afghan refugees in Iran. She is also co-editor of Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones (University of California Press, 2004).

Research by Nyers examines politicized groups of refugees and non-status migrants and assesses them for the implications for citizenship, sovereignty, human rights and political agency. He is the author of Rethinking Refugees: Beyond States of Emergency (Routledge, 2006) and co-editor of Citizenship Between Past and Future (Routledge, 2008).

The First Annual Howard Adelman Lecture is supported by the Dean’s Office of York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.

If you plan to attend the lecture, RSVP to Michele Millard at