University research into refugee experiences part of major new exhibition

From the First World War to the present day, countless lives have been affected by conflict, resulting in ordinary people making the difficult decision to flee their homes – this is the focus of a major new exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum London, which features work by two researchers from The University of Manchester.

Refugees: Forced to Flee is rooted in cutting-edge research which explores the decisions and consequences faced by those whose worlds have been turned upside down by war over the past 100 years.

Combining new research and real-life experiences with photographs, oral histories, documents and objects – many of which will be displayed for the first time – the exhibition will question why conflict forces people to leave once safe places.

Challenging perceptions by putting people’s experiences at the centre of the exhibition, it will explore why people flee their homes and take certain items with them, how they make their journeys and find safety, and the challenges that can be experienced when re-settling.

The first Manchester project included in the exhibition is Translating Asylum, led by Rebecca Tipton. This aims to enhance public understanding of language and communication challenges common to individuals who have been displaced by conflict. It also investigates historical and contemporary approaches to language support provisions for refugees, such as translation and interpreting services.

The second project is Reckoning with Refugeedom, led by Peter Gatrell. This aims to put refugees at the centre of modern history by accessing the perspectives of refugees from different backgrounds, through petitions and letters to the authorities, as well as personal correspondence and other source material. It looks at how refugees engaged with the history and circumstances of their displacement, and assesses how they understood and negotiated the personal and political consequences of ‘being a refugee’.

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