Sep - Oct 17 Events

The Ethical Complexities of Working with Refugees and Refugee Narratives


21/09/2017 - 21/09/2017


9:00AM - 12:30PM


Great Hall, Queen's University Belfast



Aura Lounasmaa and Cigdem Esin, Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London

In this workshop, we will raise and discuss questions related to ethical complexities that researchers and practitioners experience in their work with refugees and refugee narratives. We will explore the ethical, conceptual and physical boundaries of working with refugees, drawing on our reflections and examples from numerous overlapping projects and initiatives run by Centre for Narrative Research at the unofficial refugee camp in Calais between November 2015 and September 2016. The projects included a short university course, multimodal narrative workshops with men and women in the camp, and film-making.

The questions we will discuss lie in the constant power negotiations that are shaped by acute conditions and relations that refugees live in. Working with refugees involves being part of these negotiations in which the ‘ethically important moments’ emerge (Guillemin & Gillam, 2004). The narrative approach that we use in our work with refugees enables us to consider the refugee narratives beyond binary categories such as victim/agent or vulnerable/resilient. Yet, representation necessarily gives rise to an ethical dilemma: both the participants and researchers/practioners realise the ‘transformative’ potential of disseminating some of these narratives. However, we cannot control the conditions of dissemination and interpretation once the stories have been told. We will discuss these questions as part of the ethico-political positions that we inhabit within these projects.


  • Doná, G., 2007. The microphysics of participation in refugee research. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(2), pp.210-229.
  • Guillemin, M. and Gillam, L., (2004). Ethics, reflexivity, and “ethically important moments” in research. Qualitative inquiry, 10(2), pp.261-280.
  • Kofoed, J. and Staunæs, D., (2015). Hesitancy as ethics. Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology, 6(2).


Aura Lounasmaa

Dr. Aura Lounasmaa is lecturer in the University of East London, School of Social Sciences, research fellow at the Centre for Narrative Research and coordinator of University of East London Open Learning Initiative for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Aura completed her PhD in the Global Women’s Studies Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2014, funded by the IRCHSS. Her research focuses on women’s political activism in Morocco.

Cigdem Esin

Dr. Cigdem Esin is senior lecturer in Psychosocial Studies, co-director of the Centre for Narrative Research and member of the academic team running Open Learning Initiative for Refugees and Asylum Seekers at UEL. Her research interests are in narrative methodologies, interconnections between gender, power and politics, life stories and visual narratives. She is the author of ‘Telling stories in the pictures: Constituting and processual and relational narratives in research with young British Muslim women in East London’ Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research and ‘Narrative Analysis: the Constructionist Approach’ in Sage Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis, together with Corinne Squire.