On 2 October 2021, Dr. Shahida Aman and Dr. Ayub Jan, Assistant Professors at the University of Peshawar and members of the Protracted Displacement Economies (PDE) team, organised a two-hour session on Refugee studies and research methodologies: Challenges of data collection in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. The session took place during the 8th annual International Summer School (ISS) organised jointly by the University of Peshawar’s Department of Political Science and the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The theme of the 2021 iteration of the ISS was ‘The importance of regional connectivity in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region with a focus on bilateral dialogue and challenges’.
Dr. Aman and Dr. Jan shared their experiences of conducting surveys in refugee villages in Pakistan as part of the PDE project. This included challenges relating to community members’ limited understanding of academic work and socio-economic vulnerability, as well as a generally unfavourable political context. Those who participated in the session took a keen interest in the PDE project. Afghan participants reflected on their own identities and experiences of living and interacting with host communities in Pakistan. Pakistani participants stressed that their understanding of Afghans is shaped by the political tension between the two countries and the dominant narrative in the Pakistani media that Afghanistan is not a political ally of Pakistan (similar presentations about Pakistan can be seen in the Afghan media).
The ISS is unique in bringing together university students from Pakistan and Afghanistan, including refugees and other displaced persons, on themes related to conflict, governance and regional cooperation. Discussions at the ISS help participants to critically analyse incomplete and distorted understandings of the two countries. At the end of the session, some participants showed interest in working on similar research topics in the future. Perhaps they and other members of the prominent network of ISS students across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border can collaborate to build upon the research conducted through the PDE project.