Karen Jacobsen

Associate Research Professor, Acting Director of the Feinstein International Center

  • PhD, Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • SM, Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • MA, Northeastern University
  • BA, University of Witwatersrand


Karen Jacobsen is Associate Professor of Research at The Fletcher School and directs the Refugees and Forced Migration Program at the Feinstein International Center. She has taught and conducted research in the field of forced migration for twenty years, and consults on this topic to public and private organizations. Of particular interest in her research is the ways in which refugees and other displaced people pursue livelihoods and regain their dignity and financial independence, and her book addresses this issue. From 2000-2005, she directed the Alchemy Project, which explored the use of microfinance as a way to support the livelihoods of people in refugee camps and other displacement settings. Her current research continues this line of investigation, with a focus on urban refugees and on remittance patterns to conflict zones. She received her B.A. in Politics and English Literature from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and her PhD in Political Science from MIT. She lives in Brookline with her son and dog.

Professional Activities
  • Director of Forced Migration Program at Feinstein International Center
  • Taught at Regis College (1995-present)
  • Consultant for UNHCR and NGOs
  • Executive Committee, Inter-University Committee on International Migration (1995-present)

  • Refugees & Forced Migration Program
  • Institute for Human Security

Research Interests
  • Refugee and migration issues
  • humanitarian assistance, livelihoods in complex emergencies
  • field methods, Africa
  • developing countries

• Jacobsen, Karen. "Migration within Africa: The View from South Africa." The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 31, no. 1 (2007): 203-.
• "Introduction: Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Urban Areas: A Livelihoods Perspective," Journal of Refugee Studies (2006);
Jacobsen, Karen, Anastasia Marshak, Akua Ofori-Adjei and Jane Kembabazi. "Using Microenterprise Interventions to Support the Livelihoods of Forcibly Displaced People: The Impact of a Microcredit Program in IDP Camps in Lira, Northern Uganda." Refugee Survey Quarterly 25, no. 2 (2006): 23-39.
• The Refugees in Urban Settings. Special Issue of Journal of Refugee Studies (guest editor) (2006);
Jacobsen, Karen and Loren B. Landau. "Recommendations for Urban Refugee Policy." Forced Migration Review 23, (2005).
Jacobsen, Karen and Loren B. Landau. "The Value of Transparency, Replicability and Representativeness." Forced Migration Review 22, (2005): 46-.
• Jacobsen, Karen. "Just Enough for the City: Urban Refugees Make Their Own Way ." World Refugee Survey 1, (2004).
Jacobsen, Karen and Loren B. Landau. "Refugees in the New Johannesburg." Forced Migration Review 19, (2004).
• Jacobsen, Karen and Loren Landau. "The Dual Imperative in Refugee Research: Some Methodological and Ethical Considerations in Social Science Research on Forced Migration." Disasters 27, no. 3 (2003): 185-206.
• Jacobsen, Karen. "Livelihoods in Conflict: the Pursuit of Livelihoods by Refugees and the Impact on the Human Security of Host Communities." International Migration 40, no. 5 (2002): 95-.
• Jacobsen, Karen. "Can refugees benefit the state? Refugee resources and African statebuilding." Journal of Modern African Studies 40, no. 4 (2002): 577-596.
• "African States and the Politics of Refugees: Refugee Assistance as Political Resources," Journal of Modern African Studies (2002);
Jacobsen, Karen and Jeff Crisp. "Refugee Camps Reconsidered ." Forced Migration Review 3, (1998): 27-.
Jacobsen, Karen. "Refugees' Environmental Impact: The Effect of Patterns of Settlement ." Journal of Refugee Studies 10, no. 1 (1997): 19-.
• Jacobsen, Karen. "Factors Influencing the Policy Responses of Host Governments to Mass Refugee Influxes." International Migration Review 30, no. 3 (1996): 655-678.
• "Impact of refugees on the environment: a review of the evidence." International Migration and Security. June 1994.

• Jacobsen, Karen. The Economic Life of Refugees. Kumarian Press, 2005.




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Mailing Address
Feinstein International, Famine Center, Tufts University, 200 Boston Ave.
Medford, MA, 02155