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Enacting Citizenship

A Case Study of a Syrian Refugee Protest in Germany

Lucia Volk

In June and July 2015, a group of Syrian asylum seekers and local refugee supporters organised a protest camp in Dortmund, Germany. For 53 days, about 50 protesters at a time slept under open tarps on the pavement in front of the city’s main train station, demanding a quicker asylum review process and reunification with their families. This article focusses on the refugees’ interactions with different state actors on the municipal and state levels, and illustrates how the Syrian refugees were able to enact citizenship subjectivities. Through sustained and well-organised public protest, refugees claimed their place within the host community. Importantly, they became active contributors to the debate over Germany’s response to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ and proved that political activism can help promote political and legal change.

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Introduction

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

Lucia Volk and Marcia C. Inhorn

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.

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‘Life Is Tight Here’

Displacement and Desire amongst Syrian Refugee Women in Jordan

Morgen A. Chalmiers

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.

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Min Al-Mukhayyam’ (‘From the Camp’)

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

Michael Pérez

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.

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The Obligation Is the Point

Refugee 2 Refugee’ Care and Solidarity in Greece

Zareena Grewal

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

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.

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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.

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Building ships while breaking apart

Container economies and the limits of chaebol capitalism

Elisabeth Schober

With the center of gravity of the maritime industry over recent decades progressively moving eastwards, South Korea is today a giant in both shipping and shipbuilding. Its largely family-controlled industrial enterprises are nowadays increasingly engaged in risky business experiments abroad, which on occasion fail in a spectacular manner. By following the story of how one family-run economic actor invested unsuccessfully in the Philippines, I combine an exploration of the political-economic factors involved in this failure with an investigation of how these larger structures are entangled with a complex family story inside a Korean conglomerate. The forced separation between family and business that ensued in this case illuminates changing and competing ideals of “waterborne” capitalism in the twenty-first century.

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“Close to the skin”

Conceptualizing the intimate functioning of the US–Mexico border

Miranda Dahlin

Jusionyte, Ieva. 2018. Threshold: Emergency responders on the US-Mexico border. Oakland: University of California Press.

Yeh, Rihan. 2017. Passing: Two publics in a Mexican border city. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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Containing mobilities

Changing time and space of maritime labor

Johanna Markkula

This article uses ethnography from onboard container ships to show how seafarers as a workforce at the center of global capital circulation are increasingly confined inside their mobile worksites. Drawing on theories of the transformation of time and space as internal to the logic of globalization and capitalism, the article argues that the increased mobility of goods, as facilitated by developments in maritime logistics, has decreased the mobility of the seafarers in charge of moving these goods across the world. The article proposes “containing mobilities” as a term for thinking through the particular contradictions and inequalities of mobility that shape the everyday life of the workers at the heart of the global system of mobility and transport that constitutes the maritime supply chain.