Why does education harm refugees? Amanda Poole of the Department of Anthropology tackles this vexing question in an article published in the Journal of Refugee Studies, titled “What Kind of Weapon Is Education? Teleological Violence, Local Integration, and Refugee Education in Northern Ethiopia.”  

Co-written with Jennifer Riggan, professor of international relations at Arcadia University, this article explores education programs for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia which are designed to encourage them to stay in the country and avoid secondary migration to the Global North. To understand why education damages refugees, we need to ask how education frames refugees’ thinking about their future, specifically related to questions of waiting in the camp or migrating through dangerous, irregular channels. Between 2016 and 2019, Ethiopia was at the forefront of trends in migration policy that prioritized education as part of a global strategy to prevent irregular, northward migration. However, despite increased educational opportunities, refugees rejected schooling as they weighed the decision to migrate onwards, citing a sharp disconnect between aspirations connected to schooling and the constraints on professional and personal progress that they face in hosting states. Drawing on long-term, multi-sited, ethnographic research on temporal violence, and temporal agency among Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, we develop the concept of teleological violence to describe the harm generated by this disconnect, as risky secondary migration may come to seem like the only path toward a desired future. 

The Journal of Refugee Studies is a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to exploring the complexities of forced migration and local, national, regional, and international responses. The Journal of Refugee Studies is published in association with the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford.