Since 2011, international humanitarian agencies have addressed Syrian displacement in the countries neighbouring war-affected Syria. Many of these programmes aim to put in place strategies to enhance the economic self-sufficiency and enfranchisement of refugees in the labour markets of the receiving societies.
Indeed, since the late 1990s, the global refugee regime has shifted from a ‘care and maintenance’ approach to refugee support towards ‘self-reliance’ and ‘resilient livelihoods’ in humanitarian programming. This approach focuses on urban environments where refugees are expected to provide for themselves, even when locals are economically vulnerable and often unable to achieve self-sufficiency.
Despite these expectations, few livelihood programmes designed by international humanitarian agencies acknowledge or build on pre-existing networks of mutual support and assistance woven by refugees and local residents. A better understanding of these networks offers a means to rethink the presumed individual nature of livelihoods in exile.
A study I conducted of car-sharing practices in Halba, capital of Akkar Governorate in northern Lebanon, reveals that these networks were often overlooked because of flawed understandings among humanitarian actors of how social groups live, cope, and thrive in crisis-stricken settings. As a result, refugees are often thought of and addressed as newcomers who barely know the host culture and economy. However, Syrian refugees migrating to Lebanon following the large-scale conflict were primarily neighbours or previous seasonal migrants doing menial labour – and even historical subjects of the same country until 1920.
Halba, capital of Akkar Governorate, northern Lebanon. Photo credits: Estella Carpi.
In Lebanon, refugees (laji’un) are not officially recognized as such but only as displaced people (nazihun), since the country is not a signatory to the 1950 Geneva Refugee Convention and its protocols. Therefore, the search for and management of resources are generally more difficult for refugees in the region, particulary given that they generally have weaker support networks to draw on than the locals. Nonetheless, Syrian refugees and poor Lebanese citizens face the same costs of living, and many of the poorest locals receive virtually the same salary.
Car-sharing and collective tactics of survival
This research shows how long-standing networks of support and assistance point to a local economy of self-reliance strategies that are disentangled from national identity categories, and instead encompass both host and refugee communities. My findings on the everyday practice of car-sharing in a hamlet demonstrate that refugees build their own sustainability by developing networks with those worse-off local families who are unable to afford the purchase and maintenance of private cars. Private cars are an asset in Akkar because public transport in the region is insufficient and expensive with respect to the local purchasing power.
Wa’el, a Syrian refugee living in the small village of western Akkar, shares the cost of car maintenance and fuel with his Lebanese neigbour who, in turn, inherited the old car from his father. Likewise, two Syrian refugee families and a Lebanese family living in Halba chipped in to purchase a car. Many informal tented settlements where refugees live, moreover, are located far away from the main road where people can access pubic transport.
Owning a car provides both refugees and locals with more job opportunities as they thereby can accept jobs in other villages or even opt for jobs which imply some physical mobility (e.g. drivers and delivery services). Furthermore, owning a car enables people in Akkar to sustain their livelihoods more independently, as they can access cheaper shops and markets, which are not necessarily located in their neighbourhood or village. In this way, refugees play a proactive role in sharing their economic lives to mutual benefit.
Parallel Humanitarian Strategies of Livelihoods Creation
However, in Lebanon, international livelihood programmes, implemented by international NGOs and United Nations agencies, tend not to capitalize on pre-existing multi-scale mechanisms of self-reliance, implementing instead standardized parallel strategies aimed at enhancing local and refugee livelihoods. By doing so, humanitarian agencies treat different demographic groups as though they were different national groups that need to be reconciled, while disregarding their similarities and shared history.
The economic life of refugees should not be regarded as an outcome only able to be stimulated by external humanitarian actors, but instead as a set of practices that are generated by multilateral intergroup relationships. In Lebanon and elsewhere, international humanitarian programmes devote insufficient attention and resources to supporting such local arrangements, and instead implement programmes on the basis of individual skills and ability to cope. These limitations contribute to the stymied success of livelihood programmes, which should not be attributed solely to the structural constraints of the economic market in operation in North Lebanon.
Socio-economic practices like car-sharing are collective by definition, and therefore confront the humanitarian tendency of thinking labour skills as merely individual. Examining coping strategies and their historical development could enable the effective assessment of real-world social ‘memberships’ and their primary needs.
My study challenges the humanitarian construction of stereotypical and inaccurate identities in their designs for beneficiaries. Humanitarian assistance regimes based on demographic and other largely arbitrary identity categories to determine the eligibility of refugees only encourages claimants to misrepresent themselves in order to qualify for basic necessities and even rights. I highlight the importance of moving beyond rigid conceptualizations of the refugee–host binary. Instead, this research develops a deeper, practice-based understanding of how social identities interrelate through shared practices – an approach that focuses on what people actually do rather than misleading characterizations based on national identities.
Keeping the Faith? Examining the Roles of Faith and Secularism in Syrian Diaspora Organizations in Lebanon (February 2020)
The “Diaspora Organisations in International Affairs” book, edited by Dennis Dijkzeul and Margit Fauser is now out! Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and I contributed with the chapter Keeping the Faith? Examining the Roles of Faith and Secularism in Syrian Diaspora Organizations in Lebanon. Here below our abstract.
For more details on the other contributions: https://www.routledge.com/Diaspora-Organizations-in-International-Affairs-1st-Edition/Dijkzeul-Fauser/p/book/9781138589131
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Syrian diaspora organisations (Dos) in Lebanon have been providing diverse forms of support, relief and assistance to Syrian refugees. Whether in areas which are difficult for international providers to access, or in major towns and cities where international actors including the UN, INGOs and state actors have been providing assistance, Syrian Diaspora Organisations (DO)s have played a vital role in providing support and relief to their Syrian fellows. At times, these DO initiatives have been actively funded by international donors or developed in formal partnership with UN agencies and INGOs, while in other contexts they take place on the margins of (or at times in ways that directly challenge) formal humanitarian aid structures.
Against this backdrop, and based on long-standing research vis-à-vis local, national and international responses to displacement from Syria within Lebanon, this chapter examines the diverse roles that faith and secularism play in the initiatives developed by Syrian diaspora organisations based in Lebanon, exploring how and with what effect faith, religion, secularism (and secularist frameworks) relate to Syrian DOs’ relationships with different local, national and international actors, including Syrian refugees, members of host populations and diverse UN Agencies, NGOs and INGOs.
Syrian DOs in Lebanon include organisations established and led by activists, ex-protesters, established Syrian migrant workers, and religious leaders who have ‘become’ relief providers since the crisis broke out. On the one hand, by drawing on interviews with members of a range of Syrian DOs in Lebanon, this chapter explores the personal and collective reasons behind the act of establishing these organisations. On the other hand, it will investigate the social roles played by secular and faith-based DO members who engage in relief work, and their contextual relationship with their international and secular counterparts. This is particularly important in light of the strong financial and political support that a core group of popular secular(ist) Syrian DOs have received from international donors/agencies. In contrast, faith-based diaspora organisations have often been viewed by members of the international community (both in the context of Syria and more broadly) as exiled communities that do not fulfil key international humanitarian principles such as neutrality, impartiality or universality as they are assumed to prioritise political or sectarian dimensions through providing assistance (only or primarily) to their co-nationals/co-ethnics. This secular-centric interpretation of the partialist nature of faith-motivated assistance remains particularly biased towards diaspora groups that mobilise within the global South, where the source of crisis supposedly lies.
By providing examples from Beirut and from northern Lebanon, this chapter will show how DOs’ configuration and engagement with specific international and local communities have been changing since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria in 2011. By analysing the organisational configuration (including partnership models) and the forms of provision of these secular and faith-based DOs, we are particularly interested in examining how intra-community solidarity is (or is not) built within southern host societies through Syrian DOs’ initiatives – this is a dynamic that has received hardly any attention from scholars examining diaspora transnational endeavours.
With the purpose of investigating the human and social geographies of such secular and faith-based DOs, our chapter aims to draw on lessons from anthropological, sociological, and IR studies, in a bid to construct a deeper understanding of secular and faith-based DO-led aid provision and their social impacts in settings of the global South which geographically (and geopolitically) neighbour new and ongoing crises.
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:
- Disrupting Humanitarian Narratives
- Writing Displacements into Literature
- Hosting, Hospitality and Displacement
- Displacement in/through Film
- The Politics and Ethics of Knowledge Production in Refugee Situations
- Translation, Literature and Precarity
- Locating Faith in Humanitarian Practice and Local Community Response
- Rethinking Community, Rights and Displacement: Theory and practice
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:
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.
Syrian Faith Leaders in Displacement: Neglected Aid Providers? (by Estella Carpi, September 26, 2019)
Featured image: Talbaya, Central Beqa’. The surroundings of an orphanage for Syrian refugee children, built by a Syrian religious leader. (c) E. Carpi, 2019
When we ‘sweep away the professional, intimate, spiritual and even socio-economic past of refugees,’ what impact does this have on our understanding and (non)engagement with forcibly displaced people, including displaced religious leaders? In this post, Dr Estella Carpi, Southern Responses Research Associate, draws on her research with Syrian religious leaders in Lebanon who have worked as key intermediaries to ensure humanitarian aid reaches Syrian refugees. Despite often proving themselves efficient at ‘trans-border relief provision’, the relief work of diaspora religious leaders remains absent from dominant humanitarian discourse. Rather, religious leaders are conceptualised ‘as drivers of either violence, tension, and persecutions, or potential actors of reconciliation.’ However, as Dr Carpi highlights by drawing on her interviews, displaced Syrian religious leaders fulfil multiple roles that change over time and are conceptualised in multiple ways, dependent of historic, political, social and individual circumstances. Without a more nuanced understanding of these roles and how they are conceptualised by members of refugee communities themselves, faith-based humanitarianism will remain absent from dominant humanitarian discourse and faith leaders’ engagement with global humanitarian action infrequent, despite their likely efficacy.
If you found this piece of interest please visit our Introductory Mini-Blog Series, or visit the recommended reading at the end of this post.
Syrian Faith Leaders in Displacement: Neglected Aid Providers?
By Estella Carpi, Southern Responses to Displacement
The Syrian conflict has thus far caused the flight of nearly 5.6 million people who have sought refuge outside of the country, in addition to the internal displacement of more than 7 million people. However, even in the studies which have endeavored to emphasize the complexities of exiled lives, hardly any attention has been paid to the diverse backgrounds of the displaced, whose professions and social positions within their society of origin tend to be ignored. As a result of marginalizing the nuances and heterogeneities of the lives of the displaced, some of the Syrian faith leaders (rijal din) who fled the conflict-ridden country were also overlooked. Such a tendency to sweep away the professional, intimate, spiritual and even socio-economic pastof refugees is part of a global politics of generalization and de-individualization of forced migrants worldwide, which shifts the focus onto an un-nuanced present. This omission has ended up overshadowing the complex character of alternative models of care and protection that such religious leaders have been able to put in place in crisis-affected contexts.
This blog draws on the research I have been conducting within the framework of the Southern-led humanitarian responses to displacement from Syria project, with the aim of documenting the humanitarian responses of Syrian religious leaders and authorities. In Spring 2018 and throughout 2019 I met religious leaders in Lebanon who acted as key intermediaries in aid provision between displaced communities – residing inside or outside of the Syrian borders – and external donors, especially funders from the Arab Gulf. While it is easy to find enthusiasm, commitment and nostalgia in the way they tell their own stories of aid provision, their acts of assistance and protection have seemingly been neglected in the official humanitarian discourse. However, overall, secular and religious diaspora organizations have proven to be more efficient than international actors in trans-border relief provision thanks to their privileged networks and quicker access to local beneficiaries.[i]
As in the case of other conflicts, ranging from Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, during the war in Syria, which followed a large-scale popular uprising in spring 2011, religious leaders have been considered to be drivers of either violence, tension, and persecutions, or potential actors of reconciliation. In this vein, religious leadership tends to be associated with security and stability. Especially in the case of Sunni Muslim authorities (Ulema), regional and global interest is raised – and funding is made readily available – when security issues come to the fore. Indeed, security related affairs in the Middle East region have only been related to the sectarian character of society.
During my Lebanon field trips from 2011 onwards, I registered widespread local discontent or even resentment toward religious leaders, who have at times been deemed to be complicit with the perpetrators. From an historical perspective, Sunni Islam has also been primarily associated with communities which cause security matters, which only the secularist policies of the Syrian Ba‘th party, risen to power in 1963, can keep under control. Nowadays, in recaptured areas, Bashar al-Asad’s regime has tended to work through trusted local religious figures or institutions rather than impose top-down control.
During the current conflict, expressions of Sunni Islam effectively became radicalized in rebel-held areas. However, local and family structures have often resisted this. Once some of the extremist groups inspired by particular interpretations of Islam became stronger in their territories, some local families, Imams and preachers, no longer felt safe and left the war-torn country to seek refuge elsewhere. For instance, a Syrian ‘alim’ (singular of Ulema) who relocated to the Great Beirut area recounted that, in the Maarrat an-Nu‘man area where he used to live,
“the Jabhat an-Nusra group gained many followers among the Syrians: we used to be friends with some of them. I, instead, tried to curb Nusra’s influence as a rajul din, and that exposed my dad to their threats”.
During displacement, faith leaders themselves received threats, even from their own community members. As a consequence, especially those who used to hold less political influence in Syria, often had to drop their previous faith guidance and pastoral activities and reshape their social roles within the countries of asylum or resettlement. The decreasing international funding for assistance provision over the last four years, notably the money coming from Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, also ended up marginalizing their spiritual role within displaced communities.
The Ulema I met relocated to different locations of Lebanon. All of them used to serve as preachers (delivering the Friday khutba) or imams in small size mosques in central and northern Syria. As a Lebanese representative from Dar al-Fatwa (Lebanon’s Highest Sunni Muslim Religious Authority) in Sidon confirmed in an interview (April 2019), it is unlikely for Syrian Ulema to hold official permission to serve as imams and preachers in Lebanon, but it is not the law per se which prevents their appointment. Rather, he explained, the
“sector is full and that is the reason why they do not manage to continue their mission here in Lebanon.”
In contrast, according to a Syrian ‘alim’, permits are no longer issued by Dar al-Fatwa to Syrian Ulema as the relocation of Syrian religious leadership to Lebanon goes hand in hand with the history of tough migration policies enforced after 2015. The majority of those I met had not benefited from any official permission to serve as preachers or imams inside Syria, but they would embrace their spiritual mission with the consent of the elder religious leaders in their hometowns and, quite often, after pursuing Islamic Studies. As with the Shiite religious leaders displaced by the American invasion of Iraq from 2003 and resettled in Sunni Muslim-majority countries, Syrian faith leaders are unlikely to continue their official service in the country of ‘refugeehood’.
In the attempt to resume the past, the way in which these Ulema defined their previous socio-spiritual role in Syrian society can be summarized as threefold: wajaha (which contextually stands for “moral standing”), wasata (“mediation”, mostly between welfare providers, private donors and local communities, or dispute parties) and fatawi (“religious statements” that discipline private and public behaviors). Once the uprising started in 2011, they affirmed their re-imagined role mainly as twofold. First, participation in the revolution, which involves both religious conscientization against the exploitation of religion by the Asad regime, Da‘esh, or Haiy’at Tahrir ash-Sham; and the political work of those faith leaders who had also studied the principles and theories of politics.
Second, participation in relief and financial assistance to the displaced communities. As an ‘alim’ affirmed during our interview in winter 2019, their lack of legal protection makes it more difficult to receive money from outside, as counter-terrorism laws nowadays tend to prevent endowments (awqaf), as they are believed to be a source of terrorism and violence. Syrian nationals in Lebanon are also not allowed to open a bank account, and therefore receive money in cash.
Another ‘alim recounted in March 2019:
“In 2013 I managed to send nearly two million dollars to Syrian families in need with the support of friends, relatives and acquaintances. I could no longer do that now.”
Some Ulema however managed to preserve their social role outside of Syria, such as registering marriages, and also actively participating in weddings, funerals and the mediating individual conflicts.
Financial resources are therefore an important factor for the religious leaders’ capacity to preserve and reconfigure their spiritual role within displaced communities outside of Syria. The financial disenfranchisement that most of them underwent throughout displacement reflects a form of historical continuity with the Syrian state’s control over religious endowments:
“At times the khatib and imam also needed to clean the mosque in Syria. I used to receive 100 USD per month, but it could go up to 300 or 400 USD… it really depended on the circumstances and your reputation. In most cases the salary did not make our ends meet at the end of the month, so we used to look for alternative sources of income.”
Indeed, as scholars have confirmed, longstanding state repression and control in Syria encouraged under-resourced religious leaders to build up their own financial independence.
While religion is still securitized in the international discourse, international humanitarian agencies increasingly involve local faith leaders, especially in the countries of the “Global South”, in order to build rapid and safe access to local and refugee populations. Even though this does not generally happen yet at the level of official programming, local faith leaders are capable to influence long-lasting beliefs, convictions and cultural habits that, in the view of the international community, may contribute to harmful attitudes, values and practices and hamper community development. With the establishment of the “localization of aid agenda” after the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, it is an increasing conviction that faith leaders can become agents of change rather than being barriers to community development. In this framework, however, refugee faith leaders have been mobilised to a far lesser extent by local or international organisations, which are indeed cognisant of how religious leadership intertwines with host-refugee stability on several levels.
While the involvement of refugee faith leaders seems to be infrequent in global humanitarianism, their contribution to aid provision and protection is long-standing, being far older than the present conflict. For instance, a faith leader from Daraa arrived in Lebanon fifteen years ago, fleeing the persecution of the Syrian government which had just withdrawn its troops from Lebanese territory, and therefore ceasing what has been called the Syrian “protection” of Lebanon (1976-2005):
“When I was in Syria, I used to help, but the needs of the displaced were not massive: the majority were Palestinians -quite integrated with Syrian society- and Iraqis, who, in all honesty, owned way more money than myself […]. When I arrived in Lebanon, I started providing assistance to the needy to a modest extent. At that time, my aim was remaining safe. After 2011, Syrians started arriving in large numbers into the Beqaa Valley, and I decided to open a dar al-aytam (“orphanage”) for Syrian orphans”.
During my visit to the orphanage, I met a Syrian woman with two children whose tent had been swept away by a snow storm, and who was also living at the dar al-aytam on a temporary basis. The ‘alim’ added:
“Here we rely on volunteers, and we host up to 35 children and adolescents […]. We don’t need much funding to make things work: we just want to survive/live [bedna na‘iysh kaffaf]. Some families are surprised and are like ‘How can you handle this with no resources!’, and I always respond that all of this comes from God”.
In the context of the Southern Responses to Displacement project, unraveling the models of assistance that Syrian faith leaders have put in place within and for displaced communities is therefore an important attempt to acknowledge the nuances and complexities of refugee experiences as well as forms of refugee-to-refugee humanitarianism.
If you found this piece of interest please visit our Introductory Mini Blog Series or visit the recommended readings below:
Carpi, E. (2018) Does Faith-Based Aid Provision Always Localise Aid?
Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2018) Faith-Based Humanitarianism
Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) Refugee-Refugee Humanitarianism
[i] For more details, read: Carpi, E. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (forthcoming) “Keeping the Faith? Examining the Roles of Faith and Secularism in Syrian Diaspora Organizations in Lebanon”. In Dijzkeul, D. and Fauser, M. Diaspora Organizations in International Affairs. London: Routledge.
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:
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
lo spettro dei rifugiati sulla crisi libanese
Scritto da info 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.