Project to explore experiences of Syrian, Ethiopian refugees

Two hands holding each other for comfort

Directed by York University sociologist Christopher Kyriakides, Canada Research Chair in Citizenship, Social Justice and Ethno-Racialization, a University comparative research project will explore the complexities and challenges of racism faced by Syrian and Ethiopian refugees in Canada.

The project is a community-led research partnership between York’s Centre for Refugee Studies and several organizations in the Greater Toronto Area. Syrian and Ethiopian community researchers will join the York team to conduct interviews with refugees and analyze the qualitative data they collect.

Titled “Refuge, Racisms, and Resistances: A Co-Created Analysis of the Experiences of Syrian and Ethiopian Refugees in Canada,” the co-created project received a total of $196,426 in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Partnership Development Grant, and aims to centralize the diverse voices of refugees and inform both public policy and scholarship on racism and refugee resettlement.

“Refugees are not a monolithic group, and racism is not singular, but exists in multiple forms” says Kyriakides. “Identity, social roles, gender, sexualities, religion and status are among the various factors that shape the negotiation of displacement, exile and resettlement experiences of racisms.”  

Kyriakides says a key component of the research will be to better understand the various forms of resistance refugees employ to defy difficulties and respond to racisms they encounter.  

“Refugees are often reduced to objects of rescue – not as people with pre-resettlement personal histories – and are treated as such, politically and socially,” he says. “Refugees circumvent coercion to develop their own pathways to well-being and social connection, to confirm their eligibility to exist and authority to act beyond refuge.”

The project builds on previous community-engaged work by Kyriakides and his team, as well as work produced by York’s Centre for Refugee Studies.  

In addition to being co-created with community organizations, the project provides community researchers with employment and training opportunities at York University. “Persons from refugee backgrounds, some with prior academic credentials, others without, are rarely involved in refugee research; this project reverses the trend and will challenge institutionalized preconceptions,” says Kyriakides.

The project partners with Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, the Syrian Canadian Foundation, the Oromo Canadian Community Association, the Ethiopian Association in the Greater Toronto Area and Surrounding Regions, and scholars from McMaster University and the Tshepo Institute for the Study of Contemporary Africa at Wilfrid Laurier University.