Accepted paper:

Dilemmas and contributions of anthropologists working for migrants in violent contexts


Isabel González Enríquez (U.N.E.D.)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is the result of my personal experience working as an anthropologist for the UNHCR with forced migrants during a year in Bogotá, Colombia. I realized how anthropologists can be useful intermediaries between voluntary migrant organisations and the migrant community.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is the result of my personal experience working for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) with forced migrants in Bogotá. I carried out a research on the government assistance programs for displaced families in order to improve them. There are around 3 million people who have been forcefully displaced from their homes as a direct or indirect consequence of the armed conflict in Colombia. Threats, human rights violations, forced recruitment and armed confrontations have pushed millions of people, into moving to major cities in search for opportunities or state help which often isn't received or isn't enough. In Bogotà, as the city that receives the most of both displaced and economic migrants, they don't encounter any type of basic service so they are forced to relocate illegally and manually construct temporary shelters that have become shanty towns on the outskirts of Bogotà. Armed groups continue to operate in these neighborhoods. The implications of violence in the fieldwork process of anthropologists depend on considering them as academic researchers or as social workers. Dealing with this ambiguity is one of the main challenges applied anthropology workers have to face day after day. But it could be also, from my personal point of view, one of their main strengths and unique contributions to voluntary migrant organizations. The union of these two perspectives turns the anthropologist into an useful intermediary between voluntary migrant organisations and the migrant community itself, and could enrich the academic contributions of these anthropologists too.

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panel P25
Can anthropology work for migrants? Anthropology (-ists) at work in charities and NGOs