I just came across an article today that excites every bone in my body beyond my ability to articulate! As I read every sentence and paragraph, I yearned to discover what lay beyond each page. It felt as though this author went into my deepest thoughts to express ideas I have been trying so hard to access over the last few weeks. As I read it, I thought maybe I should write something. Maybe a message to future me; to always keep searching.


Prior to this avalanche of emotions, I also felt quite overwhelmed; probably because of the work involved in migrating all my references to EndNote for better management and minimising future headaches. It’s been long overdue! As I struggled to do this, calling for help several times, going home slightly early crossed my mind more than once. “Maybe I’ll give this a try again tomorrow”, I thought. But it was too early for that. My morning swim today may be making me more irritable than usual. Instead, I decided to do some keyword research on Google. I copied the title of one my draft articles to see what would pop up that was similar to mine. Scrolling past the first few links which seemed uninteresting, with several bland titles, I came across a blog post called ‘Refugee studies: the challenge of translating hope into reality‘. What struck me most was the argument that research in refugee studies that simply accept policy categories uncritically, may end up limiting the scope and impact of the study. Such research more so reflects political and institutional priorities, rather than any empirical reality. The author goes on to reference a journal article which sounded so interesting that I now began to question how it is that my search pulled up this blog. The magic of SEO, I’m sure!


After reading the abstract of ‘Research Beyond the Categories: The Importance of Policy Irrelevant Research into Forced Migration’ by Oliver Bakewell, I downloaded it immediately to read the whole thing. “This is the motivation I need to keep moving!” It was a riveting read on the need for researchers in refugee studies to use methods that distinguish between ‘policy’ categories (ones whose meanings stay the same over time and space) and ‘analytical’ ones (those that are used in the research process, and are derived from underlying conceptualizations). Bakewell argues that the definition of a refugee based on UNHCR and UN conventions often get adopted by researchers, with limited reflection on deeper academic meanings that offer a more comprehensive understanding of the distinctiveness of refugees compared to other types of migrants.

In Bakewell’s view, even attempts to distinguish the varying types of forced migrants, such as incorporating terms like ‘economic’ or ‘environmental’ refugees simply extend the traditional policy definitions. This privileging of policy makers worldview can leave “large groups of forced migrants invisible in both research and policy” (p. 432). Ultimately, through a case study on self-settled refugees in Southern Africa, he shows that this reliance on policy categories constrains the questions asked, the methodologies used, and the connections with broader social science theory. What I particularly enjoyed about Bakewell’s paper was that it drew my attention to the vigorous debates about robust methods that are appropriate for research on forced migration (p. 441).


If you ever feel overwhelmed, unmotivated, with the thought of going home crossing your mind, just push a bit further. Something interesting may just be beyond the horizon that’ll reinvigorate you in a way you currently cannot see. Or maybe, you just need some rest. Come back tomorrow with a fresh mind.

I hope you keep up the blogging 🙂 Maybe more process posts, like how you are improving English writing skills.