Jordan

REFUGEE HOSTS INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 2019

https://refugeehosts.org/refugee-hosts-international-conference/

On 24 and 25 October 2019 Refugee Hosts hosted and live-streamed our Refugee Hosts International Conference, with a series of keynote lectures, panels, roundtables, and artistic interventions exploring themes that are key to our project.

This two-day conference – convened by Prof Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (UCL), Prof Alastair Ager (Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh), Dr Anna Rowlands (Durham University) and Prof Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of Birmingham) – marked the fourth and final year of the AHRC-ESRC funded Refugee Hosts project and brought together leading academics, practitioners, creatives and experts in the fields of migration, displacement and refugee studies, to challenge, inform and debate dominant humanitarian discourse, the politics and ethics of knowledge production, and current theory and practice in relation to forced migration.

A full programme can be found here. 

A video of day 1 can be found here.

A video of day 2 can be found here.

You can give feedback on the event here

You can still join the conference conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #RHIC19 and #PoliticsAndPoetics and by tagging @refugeehosts

The Refugee Hosts interdisciplinary project has used in-depth ethnographic research, over 500 interviews and a series of creative writing workshops with members of nine refugee hosting communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, to examine the diverse roles played by local communities – including established refugee communities and diverse local faith communities – in responding to refugees displaced from Syria since 2011.

The conference included a series of presentations, panel and roundtable discussions, workshops and film screenings, and provided an opportunity to join Refugee Hosts’ ‘community of conversation’ on key themes. To find out more about the roundtables and panels explored at the conference, follow the links below:

 

Our Distinguished Keynote Speakers were:  

Homi K. Bhabha (Opening Keynote Speaker) is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English, the Director of the Humanities Center and the Senior Advisor on the Humanities to the President and Provost at Harvard University. Prof. Bhabha has authored a number of publications exploring postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, and cosmopolitanism. His work includes Nation and Narration and The Location of Culture, reprinted as a Routledge Classic in 2004.

Patricia Daley (Keynote Speaker) is Professor of the Human Geography of Africa and Vice-Principal and The Helen Morag Fellow in Geography at Jesus College, Oxford. Prof. Daley’s main research interests are the political economy of population migration and settlement (forced migration, identity politics and citizenship);  the intersection of space, gender, militarism, sexual violence and peace (feminist geo-politics); racial hierarchies and violence (geographies of racialization and coloniality using Critical Race Theory and decolonizing methodologies); the relationship between conservation, resource extraction, and rural livelihoods (political ecology). She has authored, edited and contributed to numerous publications, including her 2018 co-edited book, The Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations.

Sari Hanafi (Keynote Speaker) is Professor of Sociology at the American University of Beirut and editor of Idafat: the Arab Journal of Sociology (Arabic). He has served as a visiting professor at the University of Poitiers and Migrintern (France), University of Bologna and Ravenna (Italy) and visiting fellow in CMI (Bergen, Norway). The former Director of the Palestinian Refugee and Diaspora Centre (Shaml) from 2000-2004, Prof. Hanafi has authored a number of publications including Knowledge Production in the Arab World (Routledge). He is the co-editor of Palestinian Refugees: Identity, Space and Place in the Levant (Routledge).

Our Confirmed Chairs were:

Prof. Alison Phipps 

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh 

Sarah Clarke

Prof. Philippe Sands

Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh

Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge 

Prof. Alastair Ager 

Dr. Anna Rowlands 

Dr Saiful Huq Omi

The conference was convened by Refugee Hosts’ Principal Investigator, Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (UCL), and the project’s Co-Investigators, Prof. Alastair Ager(Queen Margaret University), Dr. Anna Rowlands (Durham University) and Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of Birmingham). It marked the start of the fourth and final year of our AHRC-ESRC funded Refugee Hosts project, which began in 2016 and has been investigating local community responses to and experiences of displacement in and from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Categories: Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Uncategorized | 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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Border towns: humanitarian assistance in peri-urban areas (March, 2018)

Humanitarian response in urban areas, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine No. 71.
by Humanitarian Practice Network
March 2018
Humanitarian crises are increasingly affecting urban areas either directly, through civil conflict, hazards such as flooding or earthquakes, urban violence or outbreaks of disease, or indirectly, through hosting people fleeing these threats. The humanitarian sector has been slow to understand how the challenges and opportunities of working in urban spaces necessitate changes in how they operate. For agencies used to working in rural contexts, the dynamism of the city, with its reliance on markets, complex systems and intricate logistics, can be a daunting challenge. Huge, diverse and mobile populations complicate needs assessments, and close coordination with other, often unfamiliar, actors is necessary.
But what precisely is different about doing humanitarian assistance in urban settings? Alyoscia D’Onofrio reflects on this question in his lead article. John Twigg and Irina Mosel emphasise that engaging with and supporting informal actors is key to achieving greater accountability in urban areas, while Leah Campbell and Wale Osofisan both highlight the need for context-relevant responses. Samer Saliba describes the International Rescue Committee (IRC)’s experience in developing partnerships with municipalities, David Sanderson and Pamela Sitko outline ten principles for enacting area-based approaches in urban post-disaster recovery and Chris Pain and Hanne Vrebos discuss Concern’s area-based programme in Port-au-Prince. Ruta Nimkar and Mathias Devi Nielsen look at a new programming approach in urban centres in Afghanistan to address the needs of the long-term displaced. Learning from an urban earthquake simulation exercise in Dhaka is the focus of articles by Charles Kelly and Herma Majoor and Larissa Pelham, who conclude that, to maximise the usefulness of such exercises, more advance training, engagement and preparation is needed. In their article, Jonathan Parkinson, Tim Forster and Esther Shaylor underscore the benefits of using market analysis to support humanitarian WASH programming in urban areas. The edition ends with an article by Estella Carpi and Camillo Boano analysing the potential unintended consequences of the increasing urbanisation of humanitarian response, focusing on border regions neighbouring Syria.

My article with Prof. Camillo Boano can be found here:

https://odihpn.org/magazine/border-towns-humanitarian-assistance-in-peri-urban-areas/

 

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

Humanitarian Pedagogies of Transit (September 2017)

syrian-children-going-to-school-in-turkey

(Syrian refugee children at school in Turkey. Photo credit: worldbulletin.net)

http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2017/09/26/humanitarian-pedagogies-of-transit/

Despite the traditionally temporary character of their interventions, humanitarian agencies providing ad hoc services in crisis-affected areas are increasingly viewing education as a necessity. As such, education has been progressively integrated into the standard humanitarian toolkit. Delivering formal education in crises, however, remains an enormous challenge. On the one hand, development aid does not provide adequate support to countries in long-term crises, and on the other, humanitarian aid generally does not prioritize education. Among displaced communities, education often loses its own acknowledged potential to bring refugees closer to the civic and political fabric of host countries. In early 2015, I observed this challenge first-hand while visiting Za‘atari and Mrajeeb el-Fhood refugee camps in northern Jordan, which are currently home to approximately 142,000 Syrian refugees (UNHCR 2017). In this context, looking at schooling curricula and materials offers interesting research avenues.

One of the most basic educational challenges in refugee settings is that of school dropouts. In 2012, approximately 121 million children were out of school worldwide, of whom 33.8 million were in conflict-affected countries and 6.2 million in Arab states (UNESCO 2015). School dropout rates are often attributed to the daily pressures that make child labor a necessity for many refugee families. However, refugee children face a number of other important barriers in accessing formal education. These barriers may be physical (military checkpoints), bureaucratic (the need to provide documentary evidence of previous schooling), economic (cost of transportation) or linguistic (not speaking the language of formal education in a host country). Moreover, an underappreciated factor affecting dropout rates is the quality of camp schools. Finally, refugees very often initially view displacement as short-lived and think that children can wait to return home to resume formal studies. This short-term approach affects decisions regarding what kind of education refugee children should receive.

From an anthropological perspective, what is interesting is the manner in which school curricula change following displacement and the re-establishment of social networks in new places.

In tackling school dropout rates, international NGOs have increasingly provided education to supplement that officially offered by host states. On a visit to Za‘atari, I spoke with a Syrian woman and a Jordanian teacher who explained that the dropout rate from formal schools financed by NGOs and UN agencies was high; informal NGO education programs had been much more successful than formal classes, even though NGOs did not provide official certificates (cf. HRW 2016). These views are supported by wider data indicating that in Jordan’s Syrian refugee camps children leave school in order to attend informal training seen as more engaging (UNICEF and REACH 2014).

Given this “humanitarianization” of education, the “emergency education” model may reduce our understanding of education to a simple humanitarian toolkit item. Instead, in both home and host states, schooling has myriad consequences. In particular, it contributes to shaping new curricula and ideas, which in turn lead to the emergence of specific political subjectivities and communities (Kenyon-Lischer 2005), which crystallize as a spontaneous response to the provision of various care services. For instance, in Za‘atari, humanitarian assistance—reliable health services, lifesaving vaccines and, sometimes, daily meals—is being provided to children in humanitarian educational spaces. Furthermore, NGOs also use these spaces as hubs to distribute aid to the community (INEE 2011).

From an anthropological perspective, what is interesting is the manner in which school curricula change following displacement and the re-establishment of social networks in new places. The humanitarian system is now one of the main actors providing refugee education and it has been crucial to the emergence of a “pedagogical culture of transit.” In refugee settings, temporary school programs become permanent (in)formal forms of “emergency education”—often delivered through psychosocial support programs—and they shape refugees’ socio-political and civic interaction with their surrounding space. This raises the issue of where camps are located and the extent to which they are segregated from local communities. For instance, Mrajeeb el-Fhood is in an extremely isolated desert location, distant from potential sources of livelihood and critical infrastructure.

These examples point to an important divide between refugee communities and institutional schooling.

I would like to suggest that anthropology has a crucial role to play in investigating the extent to which “emergency education” has been devised as a tool to integrate refugees into the local population or merely as a stopgap measure tailored to refugees as individuals in transit. Throughout my interviews with Syrian refugees in Za‘atari and Mrajeeb el-Fhood, their lack of enthusiasm towards schooling services was evident. Among many other factors, this seemed to play a large role in family decisions to alternately remain in the camps, move within Jordan, or leave the Middle East altogether. For example, most of the children I met in Za‘atari stated that they wanted to return to Syria: in a family of eight children, none was attending school, and four had dropped out two years earlier. Children’s unwillingness to stay in school was certainly related to the ease with which they could access it. However, it also had to do with the perceived low quality of “emergency education” in Jordan—a decisive factor in family decision-making regarding migration. This low quality was largely defined politically; that is, Syrian children felt the education they were receiving did not enable a reconstruction of Syrian history and memory. As Mara’, a nine year old girl from Dara‘a, recounted, “I don’t like schools here. There are 50 pupils in a class, and we don’t learn anything about Syria. No politics, no history … I ended up here, and I don’t know why!” Indeed, all students reported that they were required to follow the Jordanian curriculum. Siham, a 14 year old girl from Eastern Ghouta similarly stated, “I dropped out a year ago. I was wasting my time … I don’t feel the desire any longer to go to school here. The teachers don’t know where I come from.” In a parallel case, a Palestinian refugee I interviewed in Amman argued that values of Palestinian nationhood were promoted principally via NGO education rather than through formal UN schools operating in Palestinian refugee camps. These examples point to an important divide between refugee communities and institutional schooling.

Does such education “of transit” help generate socio-cultural resilience for refugees facing increasingly protracted displacement? Beyond the formation of new collective identities, how do young refugees envision their future within such schools founded on humanitarian goals?

What I call “emergency education” has become integral to emergency relief in diverse crisis-affected zones. On the one hand, some humanitarian donors and teachers use education as a tool to consolidate a specific regional identity. For example, Bahraini, Qatari, and Saudi schools have been established in Za‘atari. Arab Gulf–funded humanitarian services have been strongly associated with the politicization of aid and with the opportunistic formation of new political and social subjectivities (Al-Mezaini 2017). On the other hand, global North humanitarian educational programs are believed to aim ideally to neutralize refugees as political subjects, in accordance with humanitarian principles and security agendas traditionally upheld by a “global liberal governance” (Duffield 2008). In a global context of increasing hostility to migrants, NGOs and UN agencies are concerned less with refugees’ educational aspirations, and more with whether education in crisis settings contributes to social stability in host countries (UNHCR 2015).

In fact, in the Middle East, education has often been thought as a strategy to solidify social control and maintain political order, rather than one to achieve the Western ideal of education as critical to the development of independent political awareness. Likewise, the international emphasis of “emergency education” has often been on integrating refugees into host communities (EU Commission 2016) to achieve social cohesion. In contrast, I argue that in the Middle East, refugee and government schools, as well as other educational programs, have been important (though sometimes unintentional) spaces of political and cultural socialization despite decades of political oppression explicitly aimed at creating and preserving the constituencies of ruling regimes. That is, individual socialization at school occurs through various pathways, some of which are independent from the political reasons behind their establishment.

New concepts of “humanitarian education” are thus emerging that require us to critically unpack humanitarian actions and values beyond their ostensible neutrality. The needs and aspirations of refugees should be the driving force behind building a school in emergencies. In this regard, I ask: Does such education “of transit” help generate socio-cultural resilience for refugees facing increasingly protracted displacement? Beyond the formation of new collective identities, how do young refugees envision their future within such schools founded on humanitarian goals?

My preliminary research on “emergency education” looks beyond what role schooling plays in conflict and in peace building—alternately a victim of attacks or complicit with the perpetrators (Pherali 2016). Instead, it asks what the implications are of a “pedagogy of transit”—one conceived of as a short-term endeavor in which schools are a pre-resettlement educational experience that, at times, becomes permanent.

Estella Carpi is a postdoctoral research associate at University College London and Humanitarian Affairs Adviser at Save the Children UK. Holding a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Sydney, she is primarily concerned with social responses to conflict and to crisis management.

Categories: Jordan, Middle East, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The dire conditions of Syrian refugees in Wadi Khaled (Lebanon)

Originally published on The Majalla after my first trip to that remote North-Eastern strip of land called Wadi Khaled in Lebanon…

Forgotten Guests of Lebanon

According to the last UNHCR report on June 28th, there are almost 30,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but only 24,000 are registered as such and receive assistance.
Syrians_ref in Lebanon

According to the last UNHCR report on June 28th, there are almost 30,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but only 24,000 are registered as such and receive assistance. The Syrian refugees and some Lebanese humanitarian organizations supporting them claim 10,000 of them are concentrated in Wadi Khaled, a narrow North-Eastern valley slipping into the ravaged Syrian province of Homs.

Wadi Khaled is populated by poor peasants, who were severely hit by the Syrian uprising, as they used to rely on trade with Syrian neighboring villages. Power supplies are dramatically limited to two hours per day, thus curtailing also the availability of drinkable water pulled from electric wells. “Locals are even poorer than us!” cries out 58 year old Sabaah, a radiant grandmother from the Syrian village of Talkalakh. She is taking care of her three little nephews and paying $100 rent for a desolate two-room flat. “I recently underwent open-heart surgery and I need to pay $100 for the required medicine,” complains Sabaah, “we used to rely on contacts across the Syrian border to receive it, but the intensified clashes made this impossible.” In Wadi Khaled there are pharmacies and four clinics, but the closest hospital is in Tripoli, a trip which could take up to two hours for dirt roads and military checkpoints.

50 year old Ali Hazzuri is a portly butcher from Talkalakh, who pays $150 to live in a stone cattle shed with his family. Guiding me to another room to drink some tea, Ali wears a sardonic smile as he points at the toilet’s sewage flooding their garden. His wife Najda and his friend Ahmad, a taxi driver from Baba ‘Amro (Homs), lament the unbearable Lebanese cost of living: “Our expenses amount to nearly $300 per month, in this country we pay 2000 LBP ($1.5) for a bread loaf, which cost us 500 LBP ($0.3) before the revolution in Syria!”.

The most desperate case I encountered was that of 40 year old Hassan Hussein Bayut, a black-bearded tattooed man from Baba ‘Amro, who lives in a tumbledown overheated garage with his wife Nuhad and their five children. Despite being unemployed, he has to pay 100.000 LBP ($75) per month for his “accommodation” and hasn’t been able to pay the rent for the last five months. His Lebanese landlord wants to turn the garage into a car wash and threatens to throw his belongings in the streets. “Where do I get the money from? I have to pay $100 in medicines and milk for my sons every week,” explains Hassan in a quiet tone, “and I didn’t receive the UNHCR monthly box of food supplies for four months.”

Hassan’s house in Bab ‘Amro was burned to the ground and he lost trace of his brother in Syria six months ago. Like all other Syrians, Hassan is stuck in Wadi Khaled, considered a “guest (Dayf)” by the pro-Syrian Lebanese Government, rather than a refugee (laji). The Lebanese army is deployed around the valley and Syrians risk being deported to their country if caught at a checkpoint. “The Lebanese troops are monitoring us,” says Mohammad from Talkalakh, “and if the Syrian army breaks in to kill us, they wouldn’t intervene.”

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

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