Refugee Men as Perpetrators, Allies or Troublemakers? Emerging Discourses on Men and Masculinities in Humanitarian Aid


Olivius, Elisabeth. 2016. “Refugee Men as Perpetrators, Allies or Troublemakers? Emerging Discourses on Men and Masculinities in Humanitarian Aid.” Women’s Studies International Forum 56: 56–65.

Author: Elisabeth Olivius


The importance of including men and boys in order to successfully promote gender equality has been increasingly emphasized in international policymaking and governance. This article examines emerging discourses on men, masculinities and gender equality in the field of humanitarian aid to refugees. Through an analysis of key policy texts as well as interviews with humanitarian workers, three main representations of the role of refugee men in relation to the promotion of gender equality are identified. Refugee men are represented as perpetrators of violence and discrimination; as powerful gatekeepers and potential allies; and as emasculated troublemakers. These ways of conceptualizing men and masculinity are problematic in ways which significantly limit their potential for the transformation of unequal gender relations: gendered power relations are obscured; refugee men's masculinity is pathologized as “primitive”; and attempts to take the needs of men into account are often turned into an argument against the empowerment of refugee women.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Humanitarian Assistance

Year: 2016

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