Call for Papers

The Comparative Politics of Refugee Governance in Power-Sharing Systems

Call for Papers for a Special Journal Issue

Guest editors: Tamirace Fakhoury (Aalborg University) and Allison McCulloch (Brandon University)

How do power-sharing systems respond to forced or conflict-induced displacement? And how effective are they at ensuring rights-based refugee protection? From Syria to Afghanistan to Ukraine, forced migration due to violent conflict is occurring on an unprecedented scale. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that some 68.5 million people have experienced displacement due to war and conflict. The Syrian war alone has created over 6 million refugees and internally displaced a further 6 million within the country. Refugee governance, defined as the crafting of conditions and processes for the purpose of ordered and collective action around refugee issues, has emerged as one of the most contentious and complex policymaking processes necessitating coordination among multiple local, national and international sites of authority. Refugeehood arises both as an exogenous shock to which the state must urgently respond as well as a source of domestic contention between local parties and other political actors. While all refugee-receiving states must engage with this duality, this special issue will examine how such pressures manifest themselves in political systems which primarily seek to accommodate already existing ethno-national communities and whose equilibrium is predicated on well-protected ethnic demarcations.

Indeed, international mediators and domestic constitutional designers often recommend power-sharing agreements to bring about war’s end.  While it brings a clear peace dividend – it stops violence, avoids minority exclusion, and reduces the mistrust and insecurity felt by those tasked to govern together – power-sharing often falls short of good governance standards. Certainly, consociationalism has not yet engaged fully with the literature on refugee governance, in part, because it considers non-citizens and displaced individuals as non-core groups in national policymaking. To the extent that it does consider the rights of displaced individuals and asylum-seekers, it is often in terms of their ‘ethnic recruitability’ or the ease with which they may be coopted into one of the existing ethnic communities or by which they will be seen as a ‘fifth column’ threat or geopolitical asset. Moreover, consociationalism is likely to engender a slow pace of policymaking by bringing together disparate and often reluctant power-sharing partners, who are divided not only by ethnicity but by ideology as well, into coalition with one another. Parties that share power are thus likely to exhibit ideological divergences on questions of refugee governance, challenging a coherent policy response. Consociation also risks fragmenting the policymaking process, manifesting a lack of coordination between the centre and the units or across government departments or by devolving policy down to local NGOs or upwards to international organizations without effective coordination and consultation between the state and non-state actors. Thus, while the last decade has seen refugee issues deeply polarized majoritarian party systems, including in the United States and across Europe, we anticipate that the consociational state apparatus, as a form of thick institutional complexity, generates additional challenges in the making and implementation of effective refugee governance.

Drawing on individual case studies as well as wider comparative analysis, this special issue seeks to engage the following questions:

  • How do power-sharing partners (often with diverging interests and competing logics) engage with refugee governance on the ground, including on matters of hosting and reception and return?
  • How does return migration affect/is affected by conflict dynamics in countries of origin?
  • How do power-sharing governments negotiate with the international refugee regime and the humanitarian order? And how does the international humanitarian order navigate their complexity?
  • How do refugees as actors in their own right interact with such complex decision-making processes, often leading to an exacerbation of their vulnerability?
  • To what extent do existing concepts, levels of analysis and methods in the literature on power-sharing further our understanding of asylum policymaking in divided political settings? How ought we to conceptualize the intersection of refugee governance and power-sharing politics?
  • What methodologies and theoretical frameworks allow us to further our understanding of displaced people’s agency in power-sharing systems, an often overlooked research topic?

Submissions adopting inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches are welcome, as are single-case studies or larger-N analyses. We are particularly interested in submissions by authors identifying with different genders, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, early career scholars, and scholars working in the Global South.

Abstracts (~ 400 words) and author bio (~ 100 words) should be sent no later than 20 October 2023 to both Tamirace Fakhoury ( and Allison McCulloch (