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Open access

Introduction

States of Displacement: Middle Eastern Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Asylum Seekers in Global Context

Lucia Volk and Marcia C. Inhorn

Abstract

The plight of forcibly displaced persons may have lost the spotlight in the global news cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Middle Eastern refugee crisis has continued unabated. Nearly 80 million people have been forcibly displaced, including millions of Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, and Yemenis. In this special issue, anthropologists highlight different states of displacement – protracted, repeated and recent – amongst Middle Eastern populations that have fled to Germany, Greece, Jordan and Turkey. Amidst profound precarity, refugees manage to negotiate new geographies of displacement, re-create a sense of home, plan their reproductive futures, organise protests to claim their asylum rights, and engage in activism and solidarity. Featuring nuanced ethnographic studies, this special issue bears witness to refugees’ fortitude and resilience.

Open access

‘Life Is Tight Here’

Displacement and Desire amongst Syrian Refugee Women in Jordan

Morgen A. Chalmiers

Abstract

Since the civil war began in 2011, 5.5 million Syrians have fled their home country and are now living as refugees. Building upon anthropological studies of precarity, the article draws upon 14 months of person-centered ethnographic fieldwork to examine the contextual specificities of Syrian women's protracted displacement in Jordan. By foregrounding bodily experience as described by three interlocutors during person-centered interviews, the article considers how subjectivities are reshaped under such conditions. The narratives analysed here illustrate how the precarity of displacement fosters an embodied sense of tightness, constriction and stagnation while reconfiguring temporal horizons and rendering visions of imagined futures increasingly myopic.

Open access

Min Al-Mukhayyam’ (‘From the Camp’)

Discourses of Difference and the Boundaries of Exile amongst Palestinian Refugees in Jordan

Michael Pérez

Abstract

This article examines the implications of long-term encampment and exile for the meaning of Palestinian identity amongst refugees. It shows how the conditions of Palestinian camps in Jordan function as a key marker of social difference between refugees of the camps and the city. Whereas camp refugees see the hardships of camp life as conditions to be confronted, urban refugees take them as constitutive features of a socially distinct refugee. As I argue, the distinctions between camp and city refugees illustrate how the refugee category and the humanitarian camp exceed the ideology and function of humanitarianism. They demonstrate how, in protracted refugee situations, the refugee label and the historical context of the camp can become socially significant and contested features of identity.

Open access

The Obligation Is the Point

‘Refugee 2 Refugee’ Care and Solidarity in Greece

Zareena Grewal

Abstract

This article examines how grassroots refugee-activists and ‘solidarians’ in Greece articulate a collectivist political vision and praxis of care through an expanding network of social obligation that upends narrow understandings of refugees’ ‘basic’ rights and moral obligations of care. The refugees draw on a wide range of universalising collectivist frames including Islamic, Anarcho-Marxist and Palestinian-liberationist frames to articulate visions of solidarity and nurture trust and mutual care amongst refugees.

Open access

Nell Gabiam

Abstract

This article focusses on Al-Nur, a community centre in Istanbul, Turkey, that caters to Syrian and Palestinian Syrian refugees. It is based on five months of fieldwork conducted in the winter and spring of 2017 in Turkey that included participant observation as a volunteer English teacher at Al-Nur. A focus on the philosophy that guides Al-Nur's functioning as a community centre as well as on the stories of displacement of some of its managers and volunteers sheds light on the importance of being able to (re)create home in exile. Such a focus also sheds light on how repeated displacement has shaped Palestinian Syrian refugees’ experiences of exile from Syria as well as their interactions with Syrian refugees.

Open access

Reports

Publications and Films

Kathleen M. Gallagher, Ahmed Kanna, Natalie Nesvaderani, Rana Dajani, Dima Hamadmad, and Ghufran Abudayyeh

Melissa Fleming, A Hope More Powerful than the Sea: The Journey of Doaa Al Zamel (New York: Flatiron Books, 2017), 288 pp.

Omar Dewachi, Ungovernable Life: Mandatory Medicine and Statecraft in Iraq (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017), xviii + 239 pp.

Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, Sonita (Zurich: Xenix Film, 2015), 90 min.

Ron Bourke, Terror and Hope: The Science of Resilience (Portland: Collective Eye Films, 2019), 36 min.

Open access

Bridges or Walls? Or Bridges are Walls?

Hegemony, Situational Selection and Counter Narratives at the Boundaries of Spain and Europe

Elaine McIlwraith

Abstract

This Forum contribution considers the idea of bridges and walls. It compares two cultural programmes in Granada, Andalusia, that use the concepts of ‘dialogue’ and ‘tolerance’ along with the idea of a bridge between Spain and Europe, and the Arab-Islamic world. Ethnographic data suggest that the idea of bridges and walls are not always mutually exclusive. The former can incorporate subtleties that reinforce the latter. Consolidation of either depends on how closely hegemonic and subaltern narratives align. Even when bridge narratives have a significant presence within a country, ideas of walls at national borders reinforce the exclusion of an imagined ‘Other’. Considering hegemonic processes helps to clarify the emergence of these narratives and their effects on both cross-border and local ethnic connections.

Open access

Building Bridges over Troubled Waters

EU Civil Servants and the Transcendence of Distance and Difference

Seamus Montgomery

Abstract

This Forum contribution presents fragmented accounts of historical narratives collected while conducting ethnographic fieldwork among civil servants in and around the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. It focuses on the roles that heritage-making practices play in articulating European identity and belonging within these institutional spaces. In the ongoing debates over ‘bridges’ and ‘walls’, Commission officials advocate building the former and tearing down the latter. The European heritage narratives they enact tell the story of a supranational community formed from the expansion of external borders and the elimination of internal ones. Through the transcendence of borders, both physical and cognitive, geographic distances and social differences are made increasingly irrelevant. Their efforts in this regard are nonetheless hindered by futurist temporalities that orient Europeanness in opposition to the past.

Open access

Cross-Border Cultural Cooperation in European Border Regions

Sites and Senses of ‘Place’ across the Irish Border

Giada Laganà and Timothy J. White

Abstract

The growing interaction between local cultures and international organisations suggests the need for peacebuilders to act strategically when trying to overcome cultural differences and build trust in societies long divided by bloody conflicts. This task is more difficult because the mental barriers that divide people and cultures are exacerbated by borders and walls. Through an analysis of the evolving role of the European Union (EU) in peacebuilding in the border region of Ireland, this forum contribution examines the potential of international organisations to enhance reconciliation by creating new cultural opportunities for cooperation. Existing scholarship focuses mainly on policy initiatives, strategies, directives and funding bodies, often failing to mention how theories are deployed by practitioners especially in the realm of cultural programmes.

Open access

David Farrell-Banks

Abstract

Right-wing populist, nationalist and extremist groups frequently make discursive use of the past to support their political agenda. This contribution briefly examines the use of the 1683 Siege of Vienna in political discourses. It shows how certain parts of European heritage are mobilised globally to present a singular view of European identity as white and Christian. This identity is constructed in opposition to a Muslim and migrant ‘other’. The contribution shows that this notion of European identity is used not as a call for European unity, but to serve nationalistic needs when utilised by far-right groups. Moreover, this piece calls for greater recognition of how heritages are mobilised across borders in the interests of advancing a politics of exclusion and division.