CARFMS23 Call for Papers

Racism, Rights, and the Responsibility to Protect: Re-imagining the Struggle for Equality and Justice for Refugees and the Forcibly Displaced

15th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS)

May 29 – 31, 2023

Hosted in collaboration with

The Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS), York University at 

 CONGRESS 2023 of the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences,

“Reckonings & Re-Imaginings,” York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Please submit your abstract directly online by February 10, 2023 (please note that this will be a final extension)

One of the realities and tragedies of all societies, whether subtle or pronounced, blatantly conscious or unconscious, is the blight of racism that is layered and embedded in systemic ways and manifested through the inequalities, segregation, and divisions across people’s life experiences within those societies, whether it is in levels of formal education, occupational and income categories, residential accommodations, lifestyles, and even, life spans. Racial disparities are not only evident within societies but across societies where the quality of life for those in the Global South is starkly different from that of those in the Global North. For instance, among the 27 or so protracted armed conflicts in the world today, only three are in the Global North (Ukraine, Turkey, and arguably Mexico) while the rest are confined to the Global South which, consequently, hosts more than 80 percent of the world’s forcibly displaced. Likewise, other forms of extreme organized political violence such as terrorism are also found, unsurprisingly, in those countries that are mired in protracted armed conflict or that are governed by oppressive authoritarian, dictatorial and/or totalitarian political regimes. Is it any wonder then that more than two-thirds of the world’s refugees come from a mere five States that have been and are still wracked by protracted armed conflict or war after decades? Often States in the Global North participate directly and/or support the belligerents in these protracted armed conflicts and have a vested interest in the outcomes of these armed conflicts. All of which are further compounded and complicated by the anthropogenic impacts of climate change.     

These sharp societal racial inequalities are magnified when overlaid with the widening divisions globally, between those who live in relative peace, security, and economic prosperity and those who live in relative armed conflict, precarity, and economic disparity, where one of their most fundamental human rights, the right to live in peace, is being violated. The International Bill of Rights along with a myriad of other essential human rights instruments, promise all the broad and wide panoply of human rights and human dignity. The first sentence of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states elegantly that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” But, as already noted, the enjoyment of fundamental human rights is segmented and segregated based on one’s race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, class or socio-economic status, physical and mental capacity, age, gender and/or sexual identity, irrespective of one’s natural abilities, energy, motivation, and drive. The gulf between what is promised in law, de jure, and what is evident in practice, de facto, is far too wide and contributes to the alienation and delegitimization of individual States and the dysfunctional collective international State system, that seems incapable of addressing the core issues and concerns of our time: ever escalating protracted armed conflicts, forced displacement, gross inequities across a wide spectrum of our social being, poverty, environmental degradation, the continual over reliance on non-renewable energy, and, most decidedly, climate change.   

The member States of the United Nations unanimously approved the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine in 2005 to ensure that it would be the collective responsibility of the international community to protect those persons whose most essential human rights and dignity were being violated when their own State’s authorities were unable to do so. This doctrine has failed to be fully utilized in appropriate situations. Nonetheless, it stands as a beacon for all those in peril, including the forcibly displaced who are seeking asylum. States have an obligation to provide asylum to all those with a well-founded fear of being persecuted on the grounds of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, and political opinion. All States who are signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and their societies are morally and legally obligated to provide asylum to those who are fleeing persecution. Indeed, the principle of non-refoulment to persecution is widely accepted as a peremptory norm in international law.

Now is the time to seek creative solutions to the racial and other inequities and injustices experienced by refugees and other forced migrants today, in an effort to help realize everyone’s most fundamental human rights with dignity, and, in the process, to reach and ensure that we fulfill our State’s obligations to protect the fundamental rights of all those who are seeking asylum. We all have a “responsibility to protect” those who are fleeing persecution and are seeking protection.

The 2023 CARFMS Conference will bring together researchers, academics, legal counsel, government and international organization officials, policymakers, NGO officials, practitioners, students, refugees and other forced migrants, and activists from diverse disciplinary and regional backgrounds to discuss racism, rights, and the responsibility to protect, while “reckoning and re-imagining” the struggle for equality and advancing refugee protection and international justice for  refugees and the forcibly displaced. The conference will feature keynotes and plenary sessions from leaders in the field of refugees and forced migration, and we welcome proposals for individual papers, organized panels, roundtables, art exhibits, film documentaries, and our graduate student poster exhibit that are based on any of the following broad five subthemes:

1)          Human Rights and National and International Laws – more than just words in the protection, settlement, and inclusion of refugees and forcibly displaced peoples

In addition to the nine-core international human rights conventions, liberal democratic States typically also have a set of constitutional national laws that protect fundamental rights and liberties – including the right to racial equality. These liberal democratic States have established precedential jurisprudence that protects the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. This subtheme considers how national and international law and practice either advances or hinders the rights of forced migrants as they seek to obtain asylum, resettlement, or integrate within their host societies. To what extent does race impinge on an individual’s ability to exercise their most fundamental human rights? How can law, whether national or international, be better and more fully exercised to advance and protect the human rights and dignity of all those who seek asylum from persecution, and to resettle and integrate within Canada and/or elsewhere?

2)           Relationships between Indigenous Communities and Newcomers and the BIPOC Community and Newcomers – differences and commonalities; challenges and opportunities; partners and allies in the struggle for equality and justice

All those who are racially marginalized in societies share commonalities and differences. How do these racialized communities relate to “newcomers,” especially, refugees and other forced migrants? Are they natural partners and allies in the struggle for equality and justice or are they perceived as “settlers,” newly arrived, who are occupying their traditional lands? This subtheme examines and analyzes the relationships between Indigenous Communities and “newcomers” and the BIPOC Community, as a whole, and “newcomers,” and, more specifically, refugees and other forced migrants and how these relationships can potentially be utilized to advance their common struggles for equity and justice within their own communities and the broader society at large.

3)           Structures/Processes and Policies/Practices that perpetuate persecution and prevent access to protection – understanding the “intersectionality of exclusion,” understanding the “continuum of care”

Existing policies and practices can mask biases, prejudices, colonial legacies, and inherent injustices that reproduce and perpetuate inequalities within societies. The compounding nature of the cross-cutting multiple barriers confronting racialized minorities can constitute an “intersectionality of exclusion” rather than advancing a “continuum of care.” This subtheme welcomes explorations and analyses of how past and existing policies and practices continue unfair systemic societal structures and relationships that exclude racial minorities and newcomers from being able to achieve their full potential as individuals and/or communities. How can these systemic barriers be dismantled in constructive ways to advance further the ideals of a more “just society and world?” How should we more effectively “Indigenize” and “Decolonize” existing structures and processes, policies, and practices to incorporate fully our Indigenous communities while also welcoming newcomers, forced migrants, and refugees to our multicultural Canadian society?

4)          Actions to Address Systemic/Structural Violence experienced by refugees and other forcibly displaced peoples – engaged research for political action, community development, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding activities

What new forms of creative constructive re-imagined actions are necessary to address the predominate “root causes” of forced displacement in the world today? The mobilization of broad-based political movements whether at the local, national, or international level have been proven essential to realize positive changes. First, they can play an essential educative role by raising our awareness of the injustices that need to be addressed. Secondly, they can provide possible solutions for the immediate problems that need to be rectified. And, thirdly, they can harness the political system so that the State and international community can respond appropriately to remedy the injustices. This subtheme focuses on how grassroots, middle-level, and top-level progressive movements across wide ranging alliances and coalitions through concentrated and sustained efforts over time have proven successful in realizing effective positive change to achieve a more equitable, sustainable, peaceful society and world.

5)   New Methodologies and Best Practices in Refugee and Forced Migration Research

What are the methodological challenges confronting the relatively new discipline of refugee and forced migration studies? What best practices have emerged to overcome the ethical research issues and concerns in engaging with questions of racial marginalization across Indigenous Communities, the BIPOC Community as a whole, and refugee and other forced migrant communities? What new methodologies need to be developed to assist in furthering a more equal, fair, just, and caring community? We welcome submissions that address our major conference theme from a methodological perspective – the appropriate and valid means of gathering, measuring, weighing, and analyzing data – capable of addressing meaningful and ethically sound and practical action-oriented research that advances knowledge, understanding, and practice in the discipline of refugees and forced migration studies while also affecting progressive positive change.


We welcome submissions for panels, individual papers, or workshops, all in 90-minute sessions, that can include diverse discussion and/or presentation formats (e.g., media presentations and demonstrations). We also invite graduate students to submit their research to our adjudicated poster exhibit that will be featured throughout CARFMS23 and CONGRESS.  All those who are interested in displaying their art and media exhibits and film documentaries, that will be shown during the conference as well as made available on the website of the CARFMS 2023 Conference and on the CARFMS YouTube channel, should submit their abstracts as well. Please indicate which subtheme your submission best aligns with.  

For full panel session presentations, please indicate the overall theme of the panel in your abstract and then the individual authors/contributors and their abstracts in the same submission. If you have a subtheme for a panel session and are looking for authors, please feel free to use our CARFMS mailing list. If you are not already subscribed to the list, please send a request to

Please submit your abstract directly online by February 10, 2023 at 

Earlier submissions are welcome.