The important question on research partnerships and agenda-setting and the challenges of sustaining a research network in the age of protracted displacement can make it challenging for academics to do reciprocal and impactful research. Institutional incentive structures can take academics away from relevant research by emphasizing theoretical contributions to academic disciplines over relevance, practical impact, or solutions to the problems displaced communities face. Research cannot be limited to knowledge production but needs a purpose.
What makes for objective research? Who sets the research agendas, and how can we open refugee participation? How can we empower refugees to tell their own stories and to conduct their own research on topics that they consider to be important? What kind of alternative approaches allows refugees to make their voice heard?
Through our work in knowledge production and refugee research, the Centre for Lebanese Studies is looking to denounce the positionality of refugees and empower them to be independent researchers then able to connect with scholars around the world. Making space for refugees can take different forms and involve theatre, exhibitions, or documentaries in addition to traditional written research publications. With our partners and other well-respected institutions and scholars in the North, this program enables us to lend legitimacy to the research findings of refugees and local researchers and stand with them when there are potential risks for speaking up and making their research relevant.