Author Archives: Estella Carpi

Le Corps dans le roman des écrivaines syriennes contemporaines (by Martina Censi, Brill 2016)

Even for researchers who do not actually deal with gender-related and literary topics like myself, it is surely a real pleasure to read Martina Censi’s Le Corps dans le roman des écrivaines syriennes contemporaines, which has been published by Brill in 2016.

In this book, Censi, who is presently Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Bergamo (Italy), explores the political and social significants that the female and the male bodies convey in Syrian contemporary novel. To do so, she selects six novels written by Syrian women writers: Kursi by Dima Wannus, Hurras al-Hawa’ by Rosa Yassin Hasan, Banat al-Barari by Maha Hasan, Rai’hat al-Qirfa by Samar Yazbik, Imra’a min Hada al ‘Asr by Haifa’ Bitar, and Burhan al-‘Asal by Salwa al-Na’imi. Censi navigates the ways in which the six writers have been shaping, fantasising, and at times boosting “difference” through their body and sexual pleasure experience. In particular, she does not demand difference in their writing: she rather makes the effort to nuance how difference takes place for each novelist, at the level of the individual body and sexual pleasure, in relation to maleness and political power, and in terms of new emerging subjectivities. Indeed, she suggests how it gets configured in the contemporary Syrian scenario, made of repressive politics and social transformations. By analysing how each writer relates to ruling and hidden powers and gendered social relations in Syria, her analysis goes way beyond femaleness conceived as fighting male-led body domination. Maleness also shows its own vast array of vulnerabilities; also changes in reflection to a complex political scenario; and, as such, also can be dominated by female difference.

For all of those who have ever engaged with the key debates on womanhood versus manhood, performativity, sexualization, bodies and gender (see, for example, Judith Butler, Simon de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous), this book establishes an important dialogue between Syrian women thinkers who, through novels, convey their different understandings of what the body can mean in contemporary society, both materially and metaphorically. In the current whirlwind of macro-political and sociological commentaries on Syrian society(ies), a window onto the literary perspectives is very much needed!

The book can be accessed here:

https://brill.com/view/title/32785?lang=fr

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Book Review of Naohiko Omata’s “The Myth of Self-Reliance: Economic Lives inside a Liberian Refugee Camp” (June, 2019)

Inside the 2019 first issue of the Migration and Society Journal you can find my review of Naohiko Omata’s book The Myth of Self-Reliance: Economic Lives inside a Liberian Refugee Camp, published with Berghahn Books in 2017.

https://www.berghahnjournals.com/abstract/journals/migration-and-society/2/1/arms020113.xml

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The Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations: Launch Event Podcast — Southern Responses to Displacement

On 20th May 2019 The Southern Responses to Displacement project launched the Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations at the UCL Institute of Advances Studies (IAS). You can access the full podcast of the event here: Alternatively you can access podcasts of each contributing author speaking about their own chapter below. The Routledge Handbook of South-South […]

via The Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations: Launch Event Podcast — Southern Responses to Displacement

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Winking at Humanitarian Neutrality: The Liminal Politics of the State in Lebanon (June, 2019)

What does it happen when local residents of the Beirut southern suburbs speak of the Lebanese state offering Lebanon “on a silver tray” and Syrian refugees in the northern region of Akkar mention the Lebanese state as a repressive political actor allied with supposedly neutral humanitarian agencies which manage their everyday life?

In this article, just published in the main Canadian Anthropological journal Anthropologica 61(1): 83-96 (University of Toronto Press), I rethink liminality in anthropology and I identify in liminality the behavioural politics of the Lebanese state, whose enmity is perceived by refugees and local citizens, both frustrated by failed attempts at befriending the central state throughout Lebanon’s history.

Here below you can find the abstract in English and French, as well as the link from where to access my article.

Abstract: Drawing on the July 2006 Israel–Lebanon War in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Syrian refugee influx into the villages of Akkar in northern Lebanon, I suggest that the Lebanese state aspires to officially assert itself as a liminal space in a bid to survive crises and preserve its political capital, therefore aborting the attempts made by citizens and refugees to leave such liminality. I look at how professed state liminality meets with humanitarian neutrality, which is a principle of several international humanitarian agencies that assisted the internally displaced in 2006 and Syrian refugees from 2011 in Lebanon. Although in anthropology liminality has mostly been approached as anti-structural and an embodiment of the mar-gins, by proceeding from people’s perception of state enmity and their frustrated aspirations to befriend the state, I suggest that state liminality rather captures the structural peculiarity of the Lebanese state’s agency and violent presence, made of repressive and neglectful politics.

Keywords: refugees, Lebanon, humanitarianism, welfare, NGOs

Résumé : Partant de la guerre israélo-libanaise de juillet 2006 dans la banlieue sud de Beyrouth et de l’afflux de réfugiés syriens dans les villages du Akkar au nord du Liban, j’émets l’hypothèse que l’État libanais cherche à s’affirmer officielle-ment comme espace liminaire afin de survivre aux crises et de préserver son capital politique, faisant ainsi échec aux efforts de citoyens et de réfugiés pour quitter cette liminarité. J’exa-mine l’intersection de la liminarité étatique proclamée et de la neutralité humanitaire, ce dernier principe étant mis en avant par de nombreuses agences humanitaires internationales qui ont assisté les déplacés internes en 2006 et qui accompagnent les réfugiés syriens au Liban depuis 2011. Si en anthropologie la liminarité est généralement abordée comme un phénomène anti-structurel et comme une incarnation des marges, je m’ap-puie sur la perception qu’ont les gens de l’inimitié étatique et de leurs aspirations frustrées à se rapprocher de l’État pour avancer que la liminarité étatique permet plutôt d’appréhender la particularité structurelle de l’agencéité et de la présence violente propres à l’État libanais, lesquelles sont marquées par une politique conjointe de répression et d’abandon.

Mots clés : réfugiés, Liban, humanitaire, protection sociale, ONG

https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/anth.2018-0006?journalCode=anth

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Local Faith Actors in Disaster Response and Risk Reduction – ALNAP Webinar

Southern Responses to Displacement

What happens when international agencies intervene without knowledge of the historical, geographical, or relational contexts of the area? Should engagement with and use of local faith leaders as intermediaries become standardised within international aid provision? In March 2019 our Research Associate Dr Estella Carpi participated in a seminar organised by ALNAP-Overseas Development Institute and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI). During the webinar, Estella discussed her findings from many years’ fieldwork in northern Lebanon where, within the broader framework of the Southern Responses project, she examined the opportunities and challenges of the increasing participation of local faith leaders in international humanitarian programming.

If you find this piece of interest please visit the recommended reading list at the end of this post.

This blog was posted on 24th May 2019 

Local Faith Actors in Disaster Response and Risk Reduction – ALNAP Webinar

By Estella Carpi, Southern Responses…

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Intervista a RadioBlackout (May, 2019)

lo spettro dei rifugiati sulla crisi libanese

lo spettro dei rifugiati sulla crisi libanese

Scritto da su 11 Maggio 2019

Dall’inizio della guerra civile siriana i libanesi hanno assistito a un vero e proprio esodo di profughi verso il proprio Paese. Il Libano è grande come l’Abruzzo, ha una popolazione di quattro milioni e mezzo di persone e ospita un milione e mezzo di siriani che si aggiungono ai 250 mila palestinesi, e alle migliaia di persone arrivate negli ultimi anni da Etiopia, Filippine, Bangladesh e Sri Lanka già presenti sul territorio. Il Libano non ha firmato la convenzione di Ginevra, dunque non riconosce lo status di rifugiato. Assimilare un milione e mezzo di siriani nella società libanese non è pensabile, anche perché il Libano deve fare i conti con una situazione economica che va peggiorando, il 30 per cento dei cittadini vive in condizioni di estrema povertà, in un Paese che stenta a garantire elettricità 24 ore al giorno.

Nel frattempo, il malcontento tra i libanesi continua a crescere e i rifugiati sono spesso additati come la causa principale della tragica situazione economica che sta mettendo in ginocchio l’intero Paese. La pressione per rimandare i rifugiati in Siria è sempre più forte, sempre più frequenti i casi di incendi dolosi negli insediamenti informali.

Il fenomeno migratorio è stato finora regolato dalla discussa legge Kafala, un sistema di controllo diffuso nei paesi del Golfo che permette ai governi di delegare la supervisione e la responsabilità dei migranti a compagnie o privati cittadini, concedendogli una serie di poteri legali. Una volta entrati nel Paese, ai lavoratori viene ritirato il passaporto, la loro permanenza legale è strettamente vincolata al contratto stipulato con la compagnia che li ha ingaggiati, senza il cui permesso la possibilità di movimento è praticamente nulla.

In collegamento dal Libano Estella Carpi, antropologa sociale dell’University College of London, si occupa di migrazione forzata, assistenza umanitaria e politiche dell’identità nel Levante arabo e in Turchia.

 

Categories: Arab Gulf, Golfo Arabo, Lebanon, Libano, Siria, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

No one wants to be the “Global North”? On being a researcher across the North and South (May, 2019)

No one wants to be the “Global North”? On being a researcher across the North and South

In this blog post I would like to share my personal experiences of carrying out qualitative research in what contemporary scholars call the “Global South” (Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt) and the “Global North” (Australia and the United Kingdom). To convey my message clearly, I adopt the classical political geography of “South” and “North” with the intention of neither confirming these narrow categories nor of universalizing my personal experiences but in order to work towards an honest sociology of knowledge through such peculiar experiences.

In particular, I discuss what I think are some of the emerging behavioral and ethical tendencies in today’s research economy and its main methodologies. On the one hand, the reluctance in the “Southern” environments in recognizing their own tendency to embrace predominant ways of producing knowledge. On the other, the reluctance of “Northern” research entities to acknowledge their own positionality within the global scenario – that is, accepting the fact of conducting research as outsiders and, above all, the sociological harm of pretending localism. The result of these two tendencies is, from my perspective, a globalized impoverished attention to factual awareness, which depends on the personal involvement of researchers in the context they study and the cultivation of the capability to build and rebuild a continual relationship with the subjects and the places studied beyond the duration of fieldwork research.

The “Southern” tendency to perceive the practice of producing research as antithetical or substantially different to the North consistently builds on the universal romanticization of the research produced in the Global South, cutting across the North and the South. Indeed, while the research and academic institutions that I worked for in the Global South tended to believe that their fieldwork quality standards were inherently higher, the fact of being at the mercy of external – and unstable – sources of funding often endangered their existence and alternative ways of working. In these circumstances, fieldwork mostly took place in relatively small timeframes and, likewise, theories needed to be quickly wrapped up, making it difficult to identify any effective counter-culture of knowledge production. Studies on publishing locally and perishing globally have importantly highlighted the material constraints of localizing research. While “Southern” knowledge is barely known and mentioned by North-produced researchers (although it often marks significantly several fields of studies), it is also important to add that, in my own experiences across the Arab world, large segments of upper and middle classes tend to receive their postgraduate education and establish their scholarship in Northern institutions, thereby being trained according to Northern criteria while trying to preserve their reputation of being local researchers. In similar ways, Southern institutions often delegate fieldwork to research assistants who struggle to receive intellectual acknowledgment. (The same acknowledgment that many “Southern” research institutions have been looking for in the international arena, still dominated by Global North’s epistemologies and funding sources). In this regard, I have seen no co-authorships offered to research assistants, who undergo processes of alienation similar to those recently discussed in the context of the institutions of the Global North. Likewise, I have witnessed similarly exploitative relationships which seek to build knowledge upon the anonymity and the belittling of an underpaid workforce, whatever the latter’s passport is.

Despite acknowledging the partially ethnic character of some of these power dynamics – such as European academics versus local researchers in the Arab Levant, mostly when the former lack the necessary linguistic skills and in-depth knowledge of the research settings – I would like to emphasize some nuances. While the global archetype of neoliberal academia certainly does not stem from Southern institutions, largely due to colonial legacies, in my experience I have identified hierarchical and alienating structures of research-making across different cultural patterns of knowledge production.

Dauntingly, ethical research and decolonial methodologies are becoming tokenistic worldwide, turning into a further disenfranchisement of diversely vulnerable researched subjects, such as refugees. In this scenario, the Global North currently promotes itself as a pioneer advocate of ethical research – a phenomenon which has led to a proliferation of publications on the topic, rather than finally aiming for a radical transformation of research and for the uprooting of the vulnerabilities of the researched.

With no intention to bury unequal historical relationships, the intrinsic “non-ethicness” of such structural deficiencies needs to be observed across Norths and Souths. To ethnographers, if quality fieldwork means collecting relevant data, it also needs to mean collecting what matters at a local level and in an appropriate way. Contextual relevance and cultural appropriateness inevitably require generous timeframes. Doing less but long-term research and paying under-explored forms of respect to the researched may be the way to go.

Moreover, a pressing question may center on the tyranny of grants and funding, which is said to dictate the design of today’s projects. To what extent is this the cause of such an unacknowledged sociology of failure in academic research? The present tendency is to design methods that involve an extremely large number of interviews and what I would call the “participatory approach fever”. The result of a misinterpretation of what “participation” should mean is subcontracting scientific evidence to researched subjects overburdened with theoretical expectations and over-theorizations, a tendency which seldom turns out to provide sound empirical evidence. In this vein, Northern-led research not only tends to romanticize the South, which would not be new in postcolonial scholarship, but increasingly invites the South to actively participate in its own romanticization. Affected by “participatory approach fever”, many scholars in the Global North feel urged to depict their work as local, while also missing the fact that sharing their own conscious positionality vis-à-vis the researched would instead be an invaluable point of departure in the effort to avoid ethical and scientific failure. Indeed, such a self-acknowledgment would finally contribute to nuancing the multiple cultures in which research design, data collection, writing, and knowledge production are embedded – cultures that are hardly definable within the categories of “North” and “South”.

In light of these considerations, I ask myself how ethnographic studies can survive without being sociologically relevant and, at times, even culturally appropriate. Subcontracting the production of knowledge either to local researchers or to the researched themselves is certainly not a one-size-fits-all answer. Yet it looks unfeasible for many researchers across the globe to dispose of proper time and funding to conduct research over a longer timeframe and develop a localized understanding of the contexts they wish to study. I identified a similar issue when I realized that some researchers who have a poor command of the local language shy away from hiring an interpreter due to a lack of material means or because they are in an environment that frowns upon social science researchers who lack contextual skills. While peacefully sharing one’s own limits and assets would potentiate empirical analysis overall, everyone wants to be the “voice of the Global South”. Instead, no one wants to be the Global North, impeding a honest sociology of knowledge. Thus, how do we decolonize sociological and anthropological knowledge and, at the same time, the sociology of knowledge, if the drivers of epistemological coloniality, across Norths and Souths, have managed to make themselves invisible?

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Dr. Estella Carpi lecture at the Lebanese American University: The Effect of Displacement on Religious Authorities from Syria

Southern Responses to Displacement

In March 2019 Dr. Estella Carpi, Research Associate of the Southern Responses to Displacement project, gave a lecture entitled ‘The Displacement of Religious Authorities from Syria and their Involvement in Aid Provision:  Looking Beyond Humanitarianism’ at the Lebanese American University.  There she presented preliminary findings of the Southern Responses to Displacement project and drew on her longstanding research into faith-based organizations and faith leaders working in Syria. In this post, Fidaa Al Fakih, Research and Project Assistant at the Lebanese American University, summarises Dr. Carpi’s lecture.  You can access the slides for this lecture here: DRAFS_Estella Carpi LAU Byblos March 27 2019

This blog was posted on 29/04/2019

If you find this piece of interest please visit our recommended reading list at the end of this post.

Beyond Humanitarianism Paradigm: The Effect of Displacement on Religious Authorities

By Fidaa Al Fakih

Lebanese American University’s (LAU’s) Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution…

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My lecture at the Lebanese American University (March, 2019)

http://sas.lau.edu.lb/institutes/isjcr/news/index.php#69387

News

Beyond Humanitarianism Paradigm: The Effect of Displacement on Religious Authorities

posted on 10/04/2019

isjcr-carpi-seminar.jpg

By Fidaa Al Fakih

LAU’s Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution (ISJCR) and the Department of Social Sciences hosted a seminar on “The Displacement of Religious Authorities from Syria and their Involvement in Aid Provision: Looking beyond Humanitarianism.”

The cross-campus seminar was based on the preliminary findings of Research Associate at University College London, Dr Estella Carpi.

Welcoming the attendees, moderator and ISJCR Director and Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Tamirace Fakhoury said the seminar sheds light on the under-researched topic of “how the displacement from Syria has affected religious authorities and how religious authorities have had to reinvent their mission and involvement in aid provision.”

Dr. Carpi then kicked off the seminar by explaining that the field research she has been conducting in Lebanon is part of a much broader project with Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh of University College London under the framework of “south–south humanitarianism.” The research, she said, looks at southern agents of aid provision, particularly faith leaders or religious authorities who try to help their own displaced communities.

Dr. Carpi’s presentation built on her extensive research on faith-based organizations working in the Syria neighborhood, including her engagement with Syrian refugee faith leaders in Lebanon. “I relied on self-accounts of personal experiences in aid provision to the displaced communities once Syrian faith leaders became refugees themselves,” she said.

Dr. Carpi then mapped a geography of displaced religious authorities following their physical trajectories outside of Syria. She also focused on how displacement from war, violence and persecution reconfigures their spiritual role and their social status within receiving societies. By doing so, Dr. Carpi captured how the spiritual mission of such religious leaders changes in response to their own refugee status and their intent to provide aid, support and solidarity to the displaced communities.

Concluding the seminar, Dr. Fakhoury and Chair of the Social Sciences Department Marwan Rowayheb thanked Dr. Carpi for uncovering concepts of humanitarianism that shed light on new actors often overlooked by researchers when studying Syrian refugee challenges in neighboring host societies.

Dr. Rowayheb encouraged Dr. Carpi to account for the structural differences in the nature of the religious establishments in Lebanon, and to examine the competition between Lebanese religious authorities and displaced Syrian faith leaders that in some instances trigger sensitivities.

Categories: Europe, Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right to Play Versus the Right to War? Vulnerable Childhood in Lebanon’s NGOization (February 2019)

My chapter with Chiara Diana (Université Libre de Bruxelles) is now published in Kristen Cheney and Aviva Sienrvo’s “Disadvantaged Childhoods and Humanitarian Interventions”, Palgrave MacMillan, 2019. Look it up!

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-030-01623-4_6

In the wake of the massive human displacement from Syria (2011–), some international NGOs (INGOs) have intervened in Lebanon to prevent Lebanese and Syrian youth from “radicalizing” and joining armed groups. In the framework of international humanitarian assistance within the “Global South,” while refugee adults are expected to become self-reliant, children and youth are often addressed as objects of universal concern and rarely as aware subjects of decision-making. Drawing on interviews conducted between Spring 2015 and Autumn 2016 with INGO workers and child players and their parents, we consider INGO play activities in contexts where political violence is widespread and longstanding, such as the Tripoli governorate in northern Lebanon. This chapter first aims to unpack the INGO discourse on children’s vulnerability. Second, we analyze INGO discourses and practices in a bid to critically examine the humanitarian and developmental attempts at providing politically neutral spaces for refugee and local children. We therefore build a threefold analysis focusing on the dehistoricization of political violence in the Arab Levant, the employment of the “Sport for Development” formula as a path to social cohesion, and the weak cultural literacy of INGOs in regard to contextual adult-child relations. Thereby, we argue that while INGOs tend to commodify the child as an a priori humanitarian victim, the international assistance community should rather strive to provide children with alternate avenues for political engagement in order to counter war recruitment.

Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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