Representing Refugees in the Life Cycle: A Social Age Analysis of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Annual Reports and Appeals 1999–2008

This paper provides a longitudinal quantitative and qualitative analysis of textual and visual references to age in UNHCR’s annual appeals and reports published from 1999 to 2008. In contrast to an assumed over-representation of children in refugee imagery, this study reveals that adults are present in the greatest number of photographs across the time period studied. However, children, particularly girls, are mentioned much more frequently than adults in the texts, primarily in reference to ‘vulnerability’ and protection, education and health. Indeed, efforts towards gender- and age-sensitivity have instead reinforced a discourse that presents ‘women, children and the elderly’ as problematic
‘vulnerable’ groups and overlooks the complex power relations of gender and social age. The article concludes with some recommendations for re-presenting refugees.

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