Being young and out of place

Deadline for submission of articles: 21st November 2011

Being displaced involves not just a change of physical location but a dislocation of many aspects of normal life. Families are divided (often leaving young people with new responsibilities), social relations are broken, education is disrupted, and access to places of worship, places of burial and other social spaces is no longer possible. But life goes on and, whether displaced into a camp or into an unfamiliar urban environment, someone who is forcibly displaced has to try to find ways to re-create what is lost or to find substitutes for it.

The experience varies for different age-groups. Young people – in this context we mean those between early teenage and late twenties – can be susceptible in particular ways to the stresses of being physically and socially dislocated at a time when they face important changes, rites of passage and the formation of adult relationships. They can also be under pressure to join militarised groups.

The society from which these young people come and on which they depend may no longer exist for them in a meaningful way. Local, or 'host', communities are often ill-equipped to support young people faced with this reality. Camps or collective centres create opportunities for damaging or exploitative behaviours of and by young people and are poor substitutes for a normal social environment. And human trafficking is a phenomenon that overwhelmingly affects young people, many of whom end up in servitude or sexually abused.

Outsiders' responses to the needs, and rights, of displaced people rarely cater for the social needs of young people at this stage in their life. Food, shelter, water, sanitation and health services and income-generating programmes address essential physical requirements but it is up to young people themselves and whatever community exists for them to satisfy their social and other needs, possibly including finding how to become socially adult.

The FMR editors are looking for practice-oriented submissions, reflecting a diverse range of opinions but focusing on situations of forced displacement, which address questions such as the following:

  • How does displacement affect traditional inter-generational relations and social mentoring?
  • What substitutes do young people in displacement find for such social norms as rites of passage into adulthood and how do these affect their life-strategies?
  • How does displacement affect the learning of social and community norms by young people?
  • What opportunity does displacement present young people for renegotiation of norms and relations of power?
  • What are the effects on marriageability and opportunities for marriage and child-bearing of being displaced?
  • How are sexual mores changed by the breakdowns that result from displacement?
  • Do such social changes change the attitudes of young people to the main 'solutions' to displacement (return, integration and resettlement)?
  • To what extent do the social norms of 'host communities' take hold among displaced young people and with what results for the young people and their communities of origin? How do displaced young people interact with local communities?
  • What effect does camp life have on the behaviour of young people?  How could camp management strategies be more sensitive to their needs?
  • Are the effects of displacement more severe for young people from rural than from urban backgrounds and how?
  • As displacement becomes protracted, do the challenges to be faced by young people change as they grow up and grow older living in a state of extended yet temporary limbo away from 'home'?
  • What are the gender differences in how young people manage or are treated in dealing with displacement?
  • How can assistance and protection programmes be useful to young people in dealing with the social disruption of displacement and how can they be better consulted or represented?

Deadline for submission of articles: 21st November 2011

Maximum length: 2,500 words.

We are particularly keen to reflect the experiences and knowledge of communities and individuals directly affected by these questions.

Please email the Editors at if you are interested in contributing or have suggestions of colleagues or community representatives who may wish to contribute. If you can put us in touch with young displaced people who might be interested in writing, please do email us; we are happy to work with individuals to help them develop an article.

If you are planning to write, we would be grateful if you would take note of our Guidelines for Contributors