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Types of Migration
Internal Migration
Global Labour Mobility
Child Migration
Skilled Migration
Forced Migration
Return Migration

Key Themes
Modelling Causes
and Consequences
Links between Migrations
Rural Poverty and Livelihoods
Social Protection
Gender and Generations
Health and Education

UK / international
Albania / Eastern Europe
Ghana / Africa
Egypt / the Middle East
Bangladesh and
South Asia




Project 1e
Gendered ‘Return Home’: Sudanese Refugees are Coming Back

The forced migration and conflict literature predominantly treats issues of refugees from a gender-blind perspective. At best, it focuses selectively on issues of women often in conjunction with children (‘womenandchildrean’ phenomenon) treating them as victimized and disempowered population and pays little attention to the gender dynamics of refugee experience. Often referred to as ‘vulnerable population’ women experience forced migration and exile in a complex manner whereby their traditional roles, identities and their position in the family, community and society at large undergo transformation. Similarly, the experience of conflict and exile has significant consequences for the masculine identities and the traditional roles ascribed to men at home and in the society. These changes can be traced back to the experience of war and conflict, where often ‘war is increasingly waged on the bodies of unarmed civilians’. Although in exile these changes partly reflect economic, political and social contexts in the host country, they may also endure as refugees return, with direct impacts on the development and reconstruction of post-conflict societies.

This study examines the intersection of gender, violence and displacement, and their consequences for contemporary involuntary migration flows as well as the impact of these experiences on the reconstruction of post-conflict societies. In particular, through the use of gender analysis the study will focus on the experience of ‘return’ of Sudanese refugees to South Sudan and the impact of the returnees and their changed gender relations on the traditional society back home.

Gender relations determine the social, cultural, economic and political exchanges between women and men in different arenas and institutions (household, community, the state). Gender plays a central role in negotiations over societal roles and responsibilities, access and distribution of resources and enjoyment of rights for both women and men. Allocation and control over resources as well as access to decision making are highly dependent on gender relations embedded in both ideology and practice. I will investigate gender through a social relations analysis and examine how gender relations are deconstructed and reconstituted in the gendered return of population and its impact on society back home.

Key Research Questions

Dot How are local gender identities (femininities and masculinities) reconfigured during the time of conflict and exile?
Dot How do women and men cope with displacement? What is the impact of the exile conditions on the gender relations? What are the factors influencing changes in gender relations?
Dot How do women and men construct narratives of home and ‘return’? In what way is the process of return gendered? How do women and men experience ‘returning home’?
Dot How are institutionalised categories of ‘returnees’ and ‘stayees’ are gendered? What is the impact of changed gender relations of returnees on these of stayees?
Dot How are gender identities and relations reconstructed after ‘return’? How do changed gender relations manifest themselves in the access to and control over resources, access to decision making, division of labour and enjoyment of rights?
Dot What is the role of outsiders in influencing changes as part of reconstruction and development efforts?



Key Theme(s)
Gender and Generations

Type(s) of Migration
Forced Migration
Return Migration

Ghana / Africa


Richard Black

Katarzyna Grabska (FMRS)

Key Activities

  Extensive fieldwork will be carried out within refugee communities in both exile country and back in Sudan with those who have repatriated. The study will follow a small number of families and individuals as they embark on their journey home, as well as looking at Sudanese who stayed behind in the country.

It will be further supplemented by interviews with policy-makers, organizations which provide emergency as well as development assistance in the country of return, community organizers, politicians, and with academics and experts.

Key Outputs

A Migration DRC working paper
An article in a refereed journal
A presentation to the IASFM conference in Cairo, January 2008
  © University of Sussex 2003 Text-Only
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With thanks to IOM and Claudia Natali for the photographs