Karen Jacobsen is the Henry J. Leir Professor in Global Migration at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and directs the Refugees in Towns Project at the Feinstein International Center. Professor Jacobsen’s current research explores urban displacement and global migration, with a focus on the livelihoods and financial resilience of migrants and refugees, and on climate- and environment-related mobility. In 2013-2014, she was on leave from Tufts, leading the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) at United Nations in Geneva. From 2000-2005, she directed the Alchemy Project, which explored the use of microfinance as a way to support people in refugee camps and other displacement settings.
Prof. Jacobsen’s Ph.D. in Political Science is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her areas of expertise include refugee and migration issues, humanitarian assistance in developing countries, urban impact, and climate change and migration. She is currently at work on a book that examines the impact of displacement on cities. Her books include A View from Below: Conducting Research in Conflict Zones (with Mazurana and Gale, Cambridge UP 2013 ); and The Economic Life of Refugees (Lynne Rienner, 2005), which is widely used in courses on forced migration. She consults and works closely with UNHCR and other UN agencies and international NGOs. She is a citizen of both South Africa and the U.S., and splits her time between Brookline, MA and western Maine (Andover, ME).
In 2022-2023 she is a Tisch Faculty Fellow at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. This year’s project builds on Jacobsen's work last year which sought to gain a better understanding of how refugees learn about and experience racism in the United States. In partnership with Hello Neighbor, the project conducted two in-depth case studies led by student researchers in Pittsburgh, PA and Mobile, AL. That research provides the basis for the planned work this year, which continues our work with Hello Neighbor, and adds a curriculum consultant in order to develop a pilot version of an anti-racism teaching and training curriculum targeted at students and adult learners. The project will also include draft policy recommendations around race and refugees/immigrants. directed at the Boston Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.