This article argues that humanitarian agencies represent refugees in terms of helplessness and loss. It is suggested that this representation consigns refugees to their bodies, to a mute and faceless physical mass. Refugees are denied the right to present narratives that are of consequence institutionally and politically. Narration of refugee experiences becomes the prerogative of Western ‘experts’: refugee lives become a site where Western ways of knowing are reproduced. The central focus of this article is a detailed examination of a project by Oxfam GB called ‘Listening to the Displaced’. It is suggested that Oxfam fails to consider that its interests as a humanitarian/development agency lead to the filtering of a particular sort of voice of the displaced. ‘Listening to the Displaced’ does not succeed in providing refugees with a means to speak for themselves, but rather results in a de‐politicized and de‐historicized image of refugees.

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