Author Archives: Estella Carpi

Lettera mia personale a ricercatrici e ricercatori di/in Medio Oriente

(I’ll soon translate this post into English and Arabic)


The term RESEARCH is inextricably linked to
European imperialism and colonialism…
The word itself RESEARCH, is probably one of the dirtiest words
in the indigenous world’s vocabulary
(Linda Tuhiwai Smith, University of Auckland, NZ)

 

È da un pò che noto status Facebook e Twitter di amiche/i, colleghi/e, e conoscenti siriani/e, palestinesi e libanesi, che si appellano all’importanza di fare ricerca sui propri paesi, e, soprattutto, alla necessità di diminuire il numero di ricercatrici/ori internazionali. Al contrario, ho sempre desiderato sapere che cosa direbbe dell’italia uno studioso del Guatemala, una studiosa sudafricana, un indiano e una svedese. Inutile dire che le radici dei nostri sentimenti diversi a questo riguardo affondano in una diversa storia coloniale, alquanto scomoda. Ma quest’ultima non può rispondere a tutto. Questi commenti non mi trovano personalmente d’accordo: sono totalmente incapace di ignorarli da un punto di vista emotivo, ma neanche credo vadano ignorati o scartati tout court da un punto di vista professionale.

In qualità di ricercatrice italiana di Medio Oriente, sarei ipocrita se dicessi che questi commenti non mi toccano. A dirla tutta, questi commenti mi feriscono smisuratamente. Ma non è per questo che scrivo questo post: se lo state leggendo come un’auto-difesa o un’apologia morale della mia professione, non siamo esattamente sulla stessa lunghezza d’onda. Nonostante questi commenti non mi trovino d’accordo, credo sia mio dovere mettere in discussione quello che penso a partire dalla mia posizionalità nella compagine sociale, politica, ed economica delle/dei ricercatrici/ori internazionali.

Perchè non mi trovano d’accordo? Perchè altrimenti non farei quello che faccio. La lingua araba, che in qualche piccola forma linguistico-emotiva è entrata nella mia vita sin dal 1990 quando vivevo con la mia famiglia al Cairo, è una lingua incredibilmente difficile. Se non fossi stata convinta di voler lavorare come ricercatrice in Medio Oriente, non mi ci sarei neanche cimentata seriamente molti anni più tardi.

Questi commenti non mi trovano d’accordo perchè la cittadinanza, la maturità personale e l’emotività non procedono linearmente mano nella mano. È vero, sono nata e cresciuta in Italia per la maggior parte della mia vita, se penso a tutti i miei 35 anni. Ma ci sono dei momenti in cui alcuni tratti del processo individuale di socializzazione e maturità intellettuale non avvengono nel proprio paese di origine. Sono certa che colleghi/e arabisti/e concordano nel fatto che a volte troviamo più significativi nell’arco della nostra vita emotivo-intellettuale cinque mesi a Beirut, otto mesi in Siria, o anche una sola settimana ad Algeri, rispetto a dieci anni nella propria città di nascita, dove spesso la vita quotidiana è costituita da famiglia, parenti, amiche/i di infanzia, compagni/e di studi. Con ciò non voglio affatto minimizzare la crescita intellettuale che la vita da non migrante offre. Piuttosto, voglio delineare un continuum tra quei periodi di tempo: un continuum che rende arbitrario il sostenere che la vita altrove non ci abbia formate/i in egual misura, o persino in misura maggiore.

Questi commenti non mi trovano d’accordo perchè non ho mai studiato l’Italia da un punto di vista scientifico, e perchè francamente non sono dell’opinione che dovrei necessariamente farlo.

Questi commenti non mi trovano d’accordo perchè sono frutto di un’arbitraria omogeneizzazione sui non-locali – simmetricamente la medesima di cui parla Edward Said nel suo Orientalismo – come se conoscenza, empatia, e mobilitazione debbano essere dettate dai passaporti.

Non mi trovano d’accordo perchè non credo proprio che questa sorta di “leghismo” nazionalista della ricerca riesca a compensare secoli di sfruttamento coloniale, di paternalismo morale ed economico che continua ad imperare in Medio Oriente e Nord Africa in varie forme, tra cui varie modalità di assistenza.

Non mi trovano d’accordo perchè da un punto di vista di una revisione radicale del pensiero umano, il punto cruciale non è soltanto assicurarsi che il detentore di qualsiasi passaporto abbia i mezzi per studiare, ricercare, e scrivere; ma è anche assicurarsi di non utilizzare autori e autrici che sono frutto di un sistema prettamente etnocentrico, spacciato troppo a lungo per universale.

Se da domani iniziassi a pubblicare sull’Italia, nessuno/a metterebbe mai in dubbio la mia legittimità etica di ricercatrice. All’improvviso, agli occhi della comunità internazionale, mi libererei di questi discorsi che mi fanno contorcere lo stomaco all’ordine del giorno. E invece vi dico che non dovrei godere di nessuna legittimità, dal momento che di Italia – il paese del mio passaporto – da un punto di vista scientifico ed intellettuale so ben poco.

Io vi ho detto quello che penso, ma potrei benissimo essere in torto. Questo pensiero mi affligge: concretamente, senza troppe filosofie, che tipo di scelte dovremmo compiere? Vi chiedo quindi di mandarmi i vostri pensieri, in modo anonimo o con il vostro nome, per iniziare una riflessione comune su questi importanti argomenti. Mi sento in balia di ragionamenti che finora non trovano nessun interlocutore e nessuna interlocutrice nella vita reale. Per me fare ricerca è anche cercarvi, costruire o rinverdire una mutua solidarietà. Non possiamo ignorarci.

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Humanitarianism and Postcoloniality: A Look at Academic Texts

Southern Responses to Displacement

In this blog post Southern Responses’ Research Associate, Dr Estella Carpi, uses her experience of teaching humanitarianism in Lebanon, Turkey and Italy, to examine how ‘northern-born’ theories and frameworks of humanitarianism interact with the ‘cultural dispositions’ of students and how, in turn, these interactions influence student responses to humanitarian teaching. 

In this post, I draw on my experiences of teaching humanitarianism in Lebanon, Turkey and Italy to explain how the long established theoretical framework of humanitarianism, that increasingly populates academic books and media outlets, does not meet its listeners identically. In this vein, the Southern Responses project makes the effort to decentralise the mainstream humanitarian narrative. However, understanding southern responses to displacement does not merely mean explaining in class new approaches to displacement and models of care in school and academic programmes.

I believe teaching humanitarianism particularly tests the students’ cultural dispositions – dually meant as both habitus and cultural…

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Localising Response to Humanitarian Need

Southern Responses to Displacement

In October 2017, Dr Estella Carpi participated in the forum “Localising Response to Humanitarian Need. The Role of religious and Faith-Based Organisations”, in Colombo (Sri Lanka). Organised by the Partnership in Faith and Development the forum involved a wide range of secular and faith-based NGOs and built on the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. In her blog detailing the event Dr Estella Carpi reflects on the sometimes challenging and misunderstood role of localising response to humanitarian need.

Localising Response to Humanitarian Need.

By Dr Estella Carpi, Southern Responses to Displacement Project

The forum’s discussions were particularly relevant to the Southern Responses to Displacement project in light of the scarce public attention and acknowledgment that is usually paid to Southern – especially faith-based – provision of services and care in contexts of displacement. A deeper understanding of the criteria Southern actors set up to sanction beneficiary eligibility, the effectiveness of their programmes…

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Southern Responses to Displacement Research at GCRF Conference on Protracted Conflict, Aid and Development

Southern Responses to Displacement

In October 2017 the Southern Responses to Displacement team participated in a Global Challenges Research Fund Conference entitled ‘Protracted Conflict, Aid and Development: Research, Policy and Practice’. The conference aimed to examine ways in which Southern led responses complement and, at times, challenge Northern led responses. Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Dr Estella Carpi attended the conference at the British Academy in London. Here Dr Carpi reflects on her experience as part of a panel exploring South-South humanitarianism and self-reliance amongst conflict-affected populations.

Southern Responses to Displacement Research at GCRF Conference on Protracted Conflict, Aid and Development.

By Dr Estella Carpi, Southern Responses to Displacement project

The panel – formed by Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (PI of the Southern Responses to Displacement project, UCL), myself (Dr Estella Carpi, Southern Responses to Displacement Research Associate, UCL), Eva Svoboda (Overseas Development Institute), Dr Rumana Hashem (University of East London), and chaired by Boitshoko Mokgatlhe (African…

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Internationalism and Solidarity

Southern Responses to Displacement

Throughout history, assistance for people affected by conflict and displacement has been provided by state and non-state groups across the global South. How does ‘solidarity based’ humanitarianism influence Southern led responses to displacement? In the first of our introductory mini blog series Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh presents a brief reflection on the history of internationalism and solidarity based initiatives.

Internationalism and Solidarity

By Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Southern Responses to Dispacement.

At times, state-led responses to displacement have been justified through reference to what is known as ‘South-South Cooperation’: processes through which states from the global South work together to complement one another’s abilities and resources, based on principles including ‘solidarity,’ ‘reciprocity’ and ‘mutual respect’. South-South cooperation is often seen as a way of enabling Southern actors to break down barriers and structural inequalities created by colonial powers, and is also often presented as providing an alternative mode of response to that implemented…

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Refugee-Refugee Humanitarianism

Southern Responses to Displacement

First responders in contexts of displacement are themselves often refugees. In this, our third introductory mini blog, Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh examines how a focus on refugee-refugee humanitarianism makes it possible to recognise and meaningfully engage with the agency of displaced populations.

Refugee-Refugee Humanitarianism

By Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Southern Responses to Displacement

On-going cycles of displacement mean that refugees are increasingly experiencing what I refer to as ‘overlapping displacement’ in the sense that they often physically share spaces with other displaced people for long periods of time. Although it is often assumed that refugees are ‘hosted’ by settled national populations, first responders in contexts of displacement are in fact themselves often refugees.

Refugee-led initiatives developed in response to existing and new refugee situations directly challenge widely held (although equally widely contested) assumptions that refugees are passive victims in need of care from outsiders.

By focusing on refugee-refugee humanitarianism it is…

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Faith-Based Humanitarianism

Southern Responses to Displacement

How do local faith communities respond to populations affected by conflict and displacement. In our second introductory mini blog Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh provides a brief overview of how local faith communities are often the first and longest standing responders to displaced populations.

Faith-Based Humanitarianism

By Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Southern Responses to Displacement

Local faith communities are often the first responders to communities affected by conflict and displacement, providing food, shelter and other material needs in addition to providing spiritual and pastoral support (Kidwai and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2017). For instance, local communities and local faith-based organizations have been delivering aid and providing spiritual support to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon (Pacitto and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh 2013; El-Nakib & Ager, 2015.

With around 90% of all refugees living in cities, towns and camps across the global South, and with displacement being increasingly protracted in nature, this also means that refugees live alongside the members…

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Southern Responses to Displacement: Background and introduction to our mini blog series.

Southern Responses to Displacement

Northern-led responses to displacement from Syria have been complemented and at times challenged by responses developed by actors from the global South.   In this introduction to our mini blog series Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh gives an overview of the background to the Southern Responses to Displacement project and the approaches we are using to better understand the motivations, nature and impacts of Southern-led initiatives to displacement from Syria.

Southern Responses to Displacement:  Background and introduction to our mini blog series.

By Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Southern Responses to Displacement 

Since 2011, aid programmes have been implemented in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey by diverse humanitarian agencies and donor states to assist over 5 million refugees from Syria. While many programmes have been designed and led by states and organisations from the global North, these Northern-led programmes have also been complemented, and at times challenged, by responses developed by actors from the global…

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Before Defining What is Local, Let’s Build the Capacities of Humanitarian Agencies

Southern Responses to Displacement

In this piece, Dr Janaka Jayawickrama and Bushra Rehman argue that the localisation of aid agenda is shaped by a discourse of global humanitarianism that is characterised by a particular, cultural relationship to power. This suggests that current discourses on localisation have largely been North-centric, often overlooking the Southern contexts and histories that shape ‘the local’ in the first place. This article, therefore, calls into question the hegemonic framing of humanitarian discourse, particularly in relation to the localisation agenda, something the Refugee Hosts project aims to do through our research in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. For more on this theme, visit the Refugee Hosts project’s Contextualising the Localisation of Aid Agenda Series, or visit the suggested pieces listed at the end of this article.

Before defining what is local, let’s build the capacities of humanitarian agencies.

By Dr Janaka Jayawickrama (Senior Lecturer at University of York and Academic Fellow…

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Teaching Humanitarianism: The Need for a More Responsive Framework

Southern Responses to Displacement

In this blog post Southern Responses Research Associate Dr Estella Carpi reflects on her experiences of teaching humanitarianism in different countries and languages.  These experiences have led her to acknowledge and question different academic cultural frameworks of displacement, migration and humanitarian action and provided insight into how this can help to challenge and remould the humanitarian mainstream narrative.  

In this blog I  reflect on some lectures I delivered on humanitarianism in Lebanese, Turkish, and Italian universities over the last three years, and  on the “public afterlife” of my experience of teaching, the language I used in those classes, and the response I received from different cohorts of students. This will allow me to tease out some of the current epistemological challenges of my primary area of studies and underscore the very importance of de-centring the humanitarian discourse.

Speaking of and teaching humanitarianism cannot produce the same effects…

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