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Abstract

This article draws on research with and about refugees from across the Middle East and North Africa and examines the current Syrian refugee crisis through the tropes of visibility and invisibility. Adopting a deconstructive framework, it purposefully centralizes what has previously been assigned a peripheral position throughout the ever-expanding �archive of knowledge� (following Foucault) vis-�-vis particular refugee situations and critically interrogates how, why, and with what effect only certain bodies, identity markers, and models of humanitarian response become hypervisible in the European public sphere. The article starts by tracing the roles of visibility and invisibility in constituting the �ideal refugee� (and the concomitant figure of the �a-refugee�), before turning to refugee-refugee humanitarianism as an invisible form of Southern-led (rather than Northern-led or Northern-dominated) responses to displacement from Syria.
457
Repressentations of Displacement
from the Middle East and North Africa
Elena Fiddian- Qasmiyeh
As you walk on the trace
Of those who left before you,
While the moon is faint in the sky,
Say to yourself, if you can:
Absence is the trace of those who disappeared.
Yousif M. Qasmiyeh
Forced migration moves in and out of the public sphere,
with political, media, and civil society attention ebbing and owing across time
and space.1 However, while displacement is increasingly common “one in every
122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum”
(UNHCR 2015b) and also increasingly protracted, with over half of the world’s
refugees (more than 14 million people) having been displaced for over ten years,
the vast majority of contexts of forced migration typically remain invisible in the
global North until moments identied as “crises” arise, puncturing and punctuat-
ing this invisibility. In the contemporary context, and since the summer of 2015
specically, European and North American political discourses, media represen-
Public Culture 28:3  10.1215/08992363-3511586
Copyright 2016 by Duke University Press
This piece draws on research supported by the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social
Research Council (2005 9), the Leverhulme Trust (2011 15), the Oxford University Press Fell Fund
(2012 14), and the Henry Luce Foundation (2014 16). I thank Paladia Ziss and Nell Gabiam for their
research assistance in the United K ingdom and Fra nce, respectively, and Yousif M. Qasmiyeh for his
insightful feedback on an earlier draft of this article.
1. The lines of poetry in the article’s epigraph are quoted from Fiddian- Qasmiyeh and Qasmiyeh
2010: 294.
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tations, and civil society campaigns have become saturated with images of certain
refugees, in particular those from the Middle East.
The current hypervisibility of Middle Eastern refugees in media and political
discourses is, on many levels, understandable given the sheer number of refu-
gees eeing from diverse, intersecting crises and conicts across the Middle
East and farther aeld and also in light of the challenges faced by Northern
states and Northern- led organizations attempting to respond to these processes
of forced migration. However, hypervisibility is itself regionally governed; it is
arguably not the “humanitarian crisis” evolving in the Middle East but rather
Europe’s (self- )position(ing) as a space overwhelmed by the arrival of an esti-
mated 1 million refugees in 2015 that is at the core of this process of hypervisi-
bilization in the European public sphere. In contrast, forced migrants across the
global South remain invisible precisely because they are of no consequence to
Europe. Ultimately, processes of (hyper)visibility have themselves also simulta-
neously been characterized by the reinscription of diverse forms of invisibility
and marginalization.
This article draws on my research with and about refugees from the Middle
East and North Africa both to historicize and to contextualize what I refer to
as intersecting processes of repressentation and footnoting (following Jacques
Derrida) in the study of, and diverse responses to, forced migration (Fiddian-
Qasmiyeh 2010, 2014a, 2016a). In particular, I evoke the concept of repressen-
tation to examine the extent to which certain groups of forced migrants and
certain identity markers (real, imagined, and imposed), on the one hand, and
certain modes of “humanitarian” response to forced migration, on the other, are
centralized and heralded while others are concealed from public view for diverse
reasons and with different effects. The deconstructive framework underpinning
my work as a whole leads me purposefully to centralize what has previously been
assigned a peripheral position throughout the ever- expanding “archive of knowl-
edge” (Foucault 1989: 25) vis- à- vis particular refugee situations and simultane-
ously to critically interrogate how, why, and with what effect only certain bodies,
identity markers, and models of humanitarian response become hypervisible in
the public sphere. I start by tracing the roles of visibility and invisibility in consti-
tuting the “ideal refugee” (and the concomitant gure of the “a- refugee”), before
turning to my ongoing research into refugee- refugee humanitarianism as an
invisible form of Southern- led (rather than Northern- led or Northern- dominated)
responses to displacement from Syria.
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Repressentations and “Ideal Refugees”
Since the beginning of the conict in Syria, Syrians have moved not only within
and across borders but also in and out of favor with different international actors.
Until an individual who had allegedly entered Europe with a Syrian passport was
identied as one of the perpetrators of the November 2015 Paris attacks, Syrian
refugees were in many ways positioned as the “ideal refugees” in Europe: their
requests for asylum were not only “legible” for decision makers, but they were
considered to be both legitimate and priority “candidates” for international pro-
tection. In effect, asylum seekers from Syria in Europe have been “fast- tracked”
due to the hypervisibility of their vulnerability and their worthiness of protection.
Such was the experience of Nabil, whose application for asylum in the United
Kingdom resulted in the granting of protection in less than one month in the sum-
mer of 2013, and Hosam, who was granted refugee status only two months after
applying for asylum in France in 2014 (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2016b; Gabiam and
Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2016). The speed and apparent efciency with which asylum
claims have been processed when submitted by individuals eeing persecution in
Syria is particularly notable when compared with the insecurity that has typically
characterized asylum proceedings, with Middle Eastern asylum seekers in the
United Kingdom often having to wait for up to ten years to have their claims for
refugee status resolved (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh and Qasmiyeh 2010). The temporality
of insecurity faced by asylum seekers in Europe is based not only on their point of
origin but also on the geopolitical context in which their cases are being reviewed
(ibid .).
At the same time as Nabil’s and Hosams asylum claims were processed so rap-
idly, a hierarchy of recognition and worth has emerged, with other refugees having
been rendered “bad refugees” or even what I denominate as “a- refugees,” whose
very existence is denied or who are not considered to be worthy of humanitarian
or political support (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2015a: 176). While Syrians were priori-
tized for registration on the Greek island of Lesbos and their onward migration
to the Greek mainland was facilitated by the authorities, Iraqis and Afghans were
situated as “second- tier refugees” destined to wait longer and receive less humani-
tarian assistance than their Syrian counterparts (Domokos and Kingsley 2015). By
late 2015, Western and Eastern European states were deporting asylum seekers
who were neither from Syria nor from Iraq or Afghanistan, refusing to allow them
entry into their countries and returning them to Greece. Throughout those pro-
cesses, other refugees from across the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast
Asia, and farther aeld have been rendered invisible “as” refugees deserving of
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protection. Indeed, this is not a historical anomaly, since groups including Pales-
tinians have often been represented as a- refugees.
While applied here to the context of Syrian refugees in Europe, I rst explored
in detail the concept of the ideal refugee as a key gure against whom “other
refugees” are simultaneously compared, and constituted, in my rst book, The
Ideal Refugees (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2014a). This book examined how, why, and to
what effect refugees from the non- self- governing territory of the Western Sahara
(known as Sahrawi refugees), who have been based in refugee camps in Southwest
Algeria since 1975, have systematically been presented by observers from across
the global North as “unique” and “socially superior” to “other refugees” (ibid.).
It was in The Ideal Refugees that I rst developed the analytical framework of
repressentation to examine not only how refugees are represented by others
academics, the media, politicians, and aid agencies but also how refugees rep-
resent both themselves and other refugees and how these processes relate to the
politics of survival. Centralizing the signicance of intersectionality within post-
colonial analyses, I examined the processes through which Sahrawi refugees’
Islamic belief and practice have been rendered invisible, while claims of secular-
ism, democracy, and gender equality have been purposefully highlighted by the
Sahrawis’ political representatives throughout their interactions with diverse audi-
ences from across the global North. Ultimately, I argued that the erasure of Islam
and violence against women and the centralization of secularism, democracy, and
gender equality in the Sahrawi ofcial discourse emerge as discursive strategies
invoked to position the Sahrawis as “the ideal refugees” precisely as a means to
secure both essential humanitarian assistance and political support for the quest
for national self- determination from Northern state and nonstate actors.
An additional dimension that is particularly pertinent in the contemporary ref-
ugee situation in the Middle East and Europe alike pertains to the strategies that
may be mobilized by refugees to secure legal status by aligning themselves with
the gure of the “ideal refugee.” Indeed, refugees are not merely “affected by”
policies and politics, nor do they merely “have” lived experiences that can be doc-
umented, recognized, and analyzed by different stakeholders. Rather, Yousif M.
Qasmiyeh and I draw on Augusto Boal (1992) to argue that refugees are “spect-
actors” who not only observe the structures that frame their lives but “who resist,
negotiate and enact a number of discourses and counter- discourses, thereby
embodying processes of individual and collective transformation” (Fiddian-
Qasmiyeh and Qasmiyeh 2010: 295). Such a focus does not intend to romanticize
or celebrate refugees’ agency or to argue that all refugees have equal elds of
vision or of action (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2011). Indeed, the hypervisibility of refu-
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gees from the Middle East and North Africa has often emerged due to the securi-
tization of asylum seekers in general and Muslim refugees in particular, in which
refugees’ agency has been perceived, and represented, as threatening in nature.
In the context of refugees from the Middle East, including refugees eeing
the conicts across Syria, hypervisibility and agency are not benign terms, since
they have frequently been the framework through which refugees have been rep-
resented as threats, including of terrorism (Kingsley 2015) and of patriarchal vio-
lence against women (Hoffmann et al. 2016). As Derrida (2000b: 57) notes, “The
blessing of visibility and daylight is also what the police and politics demand.”
However, it is precisely against the backdrop of the securitization of asylum
seekers, Islamophobia, and the constitution of “Muslim others” as quintessen-
tially patriarchal and “barbaric” that refugees have at times developed a range of
representational strategies to secure humanitarian, political, and legal support,
including precisely by disavowing their religious beliefs (Akram 2000; Fiddian-
Qasmiyeh 2014a) or by centralizing their minority (religious, gendered, or sexual-
ity) status “as” victims of the archetypal Muslim other (Akram 2000) to meet the
expectations and preferences of aid providers and decision makers (Ticktin 2005;
Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2015c).
While developed as a means of analyzing the power relations between refu-
gees, their political representatives, and Northern aid providers in the case study
of the Sahrawi refugee camps, the concepts of the ideal refugee and repressenta-
tion are traveling concepts (following Said 1983), which can help us understand
how, why, and to what effect refugees from the Middle East and North Africa
attempt to present themselves as deserving of protection in the contemporary refu-
gee situation. In contexts of marginalization, hostility, and overt violence, refugees
may variously present themselves as members of the moment’s “ideal” refugee
group or attempt to blur or magnify identity markers to ensure their physical, and
existential, survival.
For instance, the erasure of particular identity markers combined with the mag-
nication of other features identied as being prioritized by the international com-
munity can be seen in the cases of non- Syrian asylum seekers who have taken on
the persona of the Syrian refugee in the hope that this will expedite the granting
of protection, even when their “real” asylum case may clearly meet the grounds
for being granted refugee status under the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status
of Refugees (on the latter, see also Sandvik 2011).
In the context of the Syrian refugee situation in Europe, such “performances”
have led to the increasing usage of “dialect testing” to lter out “real” Syrians
from those asylum seekers presenting themselves as such to access registration
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systems, humanitarian assistance, or refugee status (UK Government 2015).
As observed by Derrida (2000b: 91), “Language resists all mobilities because it
moves about with me,” and yet the question remains: “Is language in possession,
ever a possessing or possessed possession?” (Derrida 1998: 17). In spite of this
potential paradox, European policy makers have mobilized this process of linguis-
tic accompaniment to determine the “true” origins of the asylum seeker.
While ofcially used as a means of rejecting or supporting claims of belonging
to well- documented persecuted groups (Naysmith 2015) in spite of the extensive
documentation on this practice’s unreliability (e.g., Green 2015), dialects have also
often been used as a means of waging war. In the context of the Lebanese civil
war, for instance, key shibboleths were used to differentiate Palestinian refugees
from Lebanese citizens, with those “mispronouncing” the shibboleths being read-
ily identied and persecuted accordingly.
The instrumentalization of dialect testing as part of immigration and asylum
procedures in Europe (e.g., UK Government 2015), however, is based on a number
of key assumptions that are anathema to many refugees’ lived experiences and,
indeed, to the ethnic and national heterogeneity of societies in the Middle East and
North Africa (and elsewhere). Major challenges include the extent to which moth-
ers and fathers, or broader family members, may speak different dialects within
the same household and the extent to which children may develop their own hybrid
dialect as a result (Qasmiyeh 2013, 2016). So too is this the case of children who
have studied outside of the Middle East, to return speaking neither their mother
tongue nor the language of their formal education uently (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh
2015c: 48, 63). Among those displaced by the Syrian conict and seeking interna-
tional protection are people who speak not one hyperaudible dialect but a range of
dialects with diverse accents precisely due to this heterogeneity, which has itself
been the cause of persecution in the past.
Overlapping Displacements
The contemporary displacement scenario is characterized not only by increas-
ingly protracted displacement but also by overlapping displacements (Fiddian-
Qasmiyeh 2012, 2015c). That is to say that individuals, families, and communi-
ties displaced by the Syrian conict have often been displaced internally and
internationally on one or more occasions in the past. While largely remaining
on the margins of media, political, and academic attention, the Syrian conict
has displaced not only Syrian citizens but also Palestinians, Kurds, and Iraqis (et
alia) who were living in Syria as refugees and stateless people at the outbreak of
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the civil war and who have subsequently been displaced both within and from
Syria (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2015b, 2016b; Fiddian- Qasmiyeh and Qasmiyeh 2016;
Gabiam and Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2016).
I do not intend to argue that Palestinians and other non- Syrian nationals dis-
placed from Syria are resolutely invisible in the global North, since numerous
counterexamples prove the contrary: in particular, the images of the siege of the
Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus in 2013 and of Aylan Kurdi’s
body lying on a Turkish beach in 2015 have already been recognized as emblem-
atic images of the Syrian conict that, at the time, prompted a paradigm shift in
the global North’s political, humanitarian, and empathic responses to the over-
lapping conicts and crises occurring in and emanating from the Middle East
(Gabiam and Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2016). In effect, when Palestinian refugees ee-
ing the siege of Yarmouk have reached Europe, they have often been recognized
as being in need of international protection as exemplied, in fact, by the cases
cited above of Nabil and Hosam, who were granted asylum in the United King-
dom and France, respectively, as Palestinians raised in Yarmouk refugee camp
in Syr ia.
Nonetheless, these dening moments remain temporary “snapshots” punctur-
ing and punctuating longer- standing processes of the invisibility of those over-
lapping groups of displaced people who have remained in their region of origin,
sharing (and contesting) spaces with citizens and other refugees alike in contexts
characterized by what Derrida so astutely conceptualizes as “hostipitality” (Der-
rida, 2000a, 2000b; Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2015a, 2015c; Fiddian- Qasmiyeh and Qas-
miyeh 2016).
Indeed, in spite of the predominance of media accounts pertaining to the refu-
gee crisis in Europe and declarations that “the European project” itself is at risk
by virtue of the mass arrival of refugees in and across the European space, the vast
majority of refugees from Syria continue to be hosted in neighboring countries, as
is the case worldwide (86 percent of all displaced people remain within the global
South [UNHCR 2015a]). And apart from emerging during unique moments of cri-
sis, both displaced people in the global South and the diverse responses developed
by state and nonstate actors in the global South have remained on the margins of
academic, political, and policy accounts of forced migration.
South- South Humanitarianism
Academics increasingly recognize the existence of multiple humanitarianisms,
including “humanitarianisms of Europe, of Africa, of the global, and of the local”
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(Kennedy 2004: xv), and yet humanitarian action not borne of the Northern-
dominated and highly institutionalized international regime has remained largely
neglected in academia (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh and Pacitto 2015; Fiddian- Qasmiyeh
2015c).
Academics and practitioners alike have long argued that humanitarianism (as
ideology and as practice) reproduces, rather than disrupts, Northern colonial ties
of exploitation and control over the South (Dufeld 2007). Postcolonial and criti-
cal studies of humanitarianism have long critiqued Northern actors’ motivations
behind, and models of intervening in, situations of conict and displacement. Inter
alia, they have highlighted the neocolonial power imbalances between Northern
donors and Southern recipients, the hegemonic representations of the needy and
desperate “other,” and the inherent paternalism of protection scenarios in which
Northern actors are positioned as the only forces able to save “them” (e.g., Raja-
man 2002; Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2014b).
In this context, when Southern actors’ responses to conict- induced displace-
ment have been analyzed, academics and policy observers have often expressed
concerns that such responses may be motivated by ideological and faith- based
priorities, rather than adhering to the “international” humanitarian principles of
neutrality, universality, and impartiality (see Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2011; Fiddian-
Qasmiyeh and Ager 2013; Ager, Fiddian- Qasmiyeh, and Ager 2015; Fiddian-
Qasmiyeh and Pacitto 2015). Throughout such debates, the humanitarian dimen-
sion of Southern actors’ responses to processes of forced migration has been not
only questioned but often automatically discredited.
In contrast, my analysis of the genealogy and contemporary manifestations of
South- South humanitarianism starts from the premise that critically analyzing the
power relations underpinning Southern responses to conict- induced displace-
ment is essential in order to avoid either prematurely idealizing these responses as
egalitarian and empowering processes that challenge neocolonial humanitarian
interventions or demonizing them a priori through the application of securitization
frameworks that have arguably prompted much of the academic and policy focus
on faith- based humanitarianism (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2011, 2015c).
To better understand the motivations, nature, and impacts of Southern- led
initiatives to displacement from Syria, my research aims to centralize refugees’
own experiences of and perspectives on initiatives and programs designed and
implemented by “Southern” actors in support of refugees from Syria. By bringing
refugees’ voices to the forefront, my work continues to strive not only to examine
refugees’ lived experiences of displacement and receiving aid but also to shed
light on refugees’ understandings of humanitarianism and the extent to which
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they consider that diverse Southern- led responses to conict- induced displace-
ment can or should be conceptualized as “humanitarian” programs. Such an
approach is particularly signicant in order to transcend debates regarding the
desirability or tensions of “alternative” forms of humanitarianism that, until now,
have been monopolized by Northern academic and policy perspectives (Fiddian-
Qasmiyeh 2015c). Furthermore, bringing refugees’ voices to the fore also requires
us to explore the agency of refugees as not only recipients but also providers of
assistance, by examining underresearched processes of “refugee- refugee humani-
tarianism.” Critically assessing the implications of these processes is particularly
signicant given the increasingly protracted, and often overlapping, nature of
conict- induced displacement in the Middle East.
Refugee- Refugee Humanitarianism and Hostipitality
Commentators have argued that civil society groups, in spite of their invisibility
in media and political representations projected from and to Europe, are in fact
the most signicant actors supporting refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey
(see, e.g., IRIN 2012; Gatten and Alabaster 2012). These initiatives have included
Lebanese, Jordanian, and Turkish citizens providing food and shelter to refugees
(IRIN 2012) and local faith- based organizations delivering aid and providing
spiritual support to refugees in Jordan (El- Nakib and Ager 2015), but also pro-
tracted Palestinian refugees offering support to “new” refugees seeking sanctuary
in Lebanon (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2015b; Fiddian- Qasmiyeh and Qasmiyeh 2016).
In many ways, the refugee- led initiatives developed in response to existing
and new refugee situations challenge widely held (although equally widely con-
tested) assumptions that refugees are passive victims in need of care from out-
siders (Harrell- Bond 1986; Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2014a, 2015b). While Palestinian
refugees’ very existence has often been denied and they have been positioned as
the quintessential a- refugees (see above), the example of “established” Palestinian
refugees offering humanitarian support to “new” refugees situates Palestinians as
active providers of support, rather than as dependent recipients. Equally, it reects
the extent to which refugee camps can become “shared spaces,” spaces to which
new refugees can head in search of safety (Qasmiyeh and Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2013;
Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2015b). However, far from idealizing these responses, this
example simultaneously raises key questions vis- à- vis the power imbalances and
processes of exclusion and overt hostility that may characterize local responses
to conict and also regarding the sustainability of such refugee- led responses in
contexts of widespread, and overlapping, precariousness and violence.
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Derrida’s notion of hostipitality is particularly pertinent in elucidating, as well
as problematizing, the relationship between welcoming and rejecting neighbors in
times of conict and peace alike. Hospitality a “quasi- synonym of ‘welcome
(Derrida 1999: 45) is never absolute; rather, it is always “parasitized by its oppo-
site, ‘hostility,’ the undesirable guest . . . which it harbors as the self- contradiction
in its own body” (Derrida 2000a: 3). Hospitality inherently bears its own opposi-
tion (and opposite), the ever- present possibility of hostility toward the other who,
at one time, has been welcomed at the threshold. The possibility of rejection and
overt violence is always already there, and a neighbor can only ever welcome
another neighbor in a conditional way: to offer welcome is always already to have
the power to delimit the space or place that is being offered to the other. As such,
whether we are the host or the guest in asylum, we do not know what hospitality
is it is ultimately unknowable and also unachievable (ibid.: 4): “Perhaps no one
welcomed is ever completely welcome” (ibid.: 6). In effect, Palestinians whether
the hosts or the guests in this case study have never “known” what it is to “be
“completely welcome[d]” in the Middle East (Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2015c: 109).
“We Arrived in the Camp, Not in Lebanon”
Baddawi is a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon that was established
in 1955 and while estimates vary widely was home to between twenty- ve
thousand and forty thousand Palestinians before the outbreak of the Syrian con-
ict. Like other Palestinian camps across Lebanon, Baddawi is beyond Leba-
nese jurisdiction and has long been characterized by violence and lawlessness.
However, while the Palestinian camps are commonly referred to as “islands of
insecurity” (Sayigh 2000), Baddawi has also become a space of protection and
assistance for thousands of “new” refugees from Syria since 2011.2 These new
refugees include Syrian nationals who have ed violence and persecution in their
country, but also Syrian Palestinians, Kurds, and Iraqis who have been displaced
from refugee camps and cities across that country. While they may be categorized
as new arrivals in Lebanon and Jordan when compared with these “established”
refugee communities, refugees from Syria are now ofcially categorized as pro-
tracted refugees, and indeed for thousands of Palestinians and Iraqis, this is the
2. This is not the rst time that Palestinian refugees in Baddawi have hosted new refugees, hav-
ing provided sanctuary to an additional fteen thousand Palestinians displaced from nea rby Nahr
el- Bared refugee ca mp when that ca mp was destroyed during the ghting between Fatah al- Islam
and the Lebanese ar my in 2007. Ten thousand Palestinians from Nahr el- Ba red camp remained in
Baddawi by 2009. See Qasmiyeh and Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2013 and Qasmiyeh 2016.
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second, third, or fourth time that they and their families have been displaced by
conict.
During a eld trip I took in the summer of 2015, many of my interviewees in
Baddawi camp reiterated that when they ed Syria they “arrived in the camp” and
just “passed through Lebanon.” Having crossed the Syria- Lebanon border, they
were physically on Lebanese territory and yet explained that they had traveled
directly to, and arrived in, Baddawi camp, where established residents and local
organizations offered them shelter, food, and clothes. In many ways, the camp
has superseded the (hypervisible) Lebanese state, with many refugees from Syria
explicitly stating that, from the very onset of their journeys, they had identied
Baddawi as their intended destination. Indeed, in spite of the extreme poverty
and ad hoc clashes that take place between the Palestinian factions that compete
to assert their presence or control different parts of the camp, Baddawi contin-
ues to be perceived by many new refugees as safer than any of the spaces avail-
able outside of the existing Palestinian camps. The Palestinian refugee camps are
thus simultaneously “islands of insecurity” and “islands” that are in many ways
separated from national Lebanese policies vis- à- vis new refugees, whether these
national policies offer support or (as is increasingly the case) restrictions on their
presence in Lebanon.
Refugee- Refugee Solidarity and Hierarchies of Inclusion and Exclusion
In many ways, arriving in the camp whether Baddawi or other Palestinian
camps in Lebanon has reected the emergence of a new form of solidarity: soli-
darity between old and new refugees. Established refugees in Baddawi camp and
new refugees often have a great deal in common, providing strong foundations
for this form of refugee- refugee support: inter alia, they share the legal and politi-
cal status of being refugees and an embodied understanding of the nature and
impacts of violence, dispossession, and displacement. Sharing the increasingly
cramped space of Baddawi refugee camp, in many ways, has been an opportunity
to form part of the broader refugee nation, a space of solidarity in which they
can following Jean- Luc Nancy (2000: 4) “be with” other refugees, rather than
arriving as outsiders to a Lebanese city.
However, refugees in Baddawi are not positioned equally, nor have they been
equally welcomed or had equal access to the services and resources available.
Ultimately, “togetherness and being- together are not equivalent” (ibid.: 60), and
a new hierarchy of refugee- ness has emerged, even though this hierarchy is dif-
ferent from that reected in and reconstituted by European media representations
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and state policies. In Baddawi, established residents describe “other” refugees
“as” refugees, clearly differentiating between the camps’ natives (the original,
authentic refugees) and the newcomers (somehow inauthentic and challenging the
rights, and space, of established refugees). Indeed, this differentiation between the
refugee self and other parallels increasing tensions between established and new
refugees, not only over the limited space in the camps, but also over increasingly
limited resources and job opportunities there.
Baddawi camp has become a space in which both of the United Nations’ refu-
gee agencies are present: the “global refugee agency,” the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), provides assistance and protection to all
refugees from Syria apart from Palestinians (who remain invisible in UNHCR sta-
tistics and programs [Fiddian- Qasmiyeh 2016b]), while the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency (UNRWA) has a mandate to provide support only to Palestin-
ian refugees, including both established and new Palestinian refugees in the camp.
Following the UNHCR’s arrival in the camps, camp residents have transformed
UNHCR into a verb: the camps have been “UNHCR- ized.” Through this process,
Palestinians who had originally worked for the UNRWA the main employer in
the camps have shifted, when possible, to UNHCR positions, which are more
highly paid than UNRWA roles. Established Palestinian refugees who used to pro-
vide help to other Palestinians in the camp through the UNRWA are now helping
Syrian refugees through the UNHCR. Simultaneously, Palestinians are becoming
increasingly aware that the UNRWA itself is a feeble and frail body unable to cope
with the weight of their presence and existence, rights, and needs for the present
and the future. They are thus coming to terms with the inescapable disappearance
of this body, which is being overshadowed and smothered by the UNHCR.
With Baddawi camp’s already limited services and infrastructure severely
underresourced, established camp residents and local organizations are increas-
ingly running out of resources to support new refugees and, indeed, their own
immediate families. Just as antagonism between refugees and citizens around the
world has been well documented, and as non- Syrian refugees become increasingly
frustrated by the unequal treatment of asylum seekers across Europe and North
America, so too are insecurities and inequalities becoming increasingly visible
in Baddawi camp among and between new and established groups of refugees.
Concluding Thoughts
In this highly complex and underresourced crisis, refugee- refugee humanitarian-
ism while relegated to the margins continues to ll a signicant gap, provid-
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469
ing material, emotional, and spiritual support to many of those who have been
displaced by the Syrian conict and remain within their region of origin. Such
support is highly valued by many new refugees, and yet local, refugee- to- refugee
assistance, by neighbors who are simultaneously identied as part of the refugee
self but also the refugee other, is becoming increasingly unsustainable as time
passes. From the initial sense of sorority and fraternity that underpinned the “wel-
coming” of new refugees by Palestinians in Baddawi camp, established refugees
have increasingly questioned the short- , medium- , and long- term implications of
hosting new refugees and of the UNHCR- ization of the camps. As established
residents have refocused on their own situations, hospitality has been increasingly
replaced by a sense of detachment from new refugees’ needs; ultimately, this has
shifted to a response that has embodied, at best, the “unwelcoming” of new refu-
gees and, at worst, overt hostility and violence.
Across the Middle East and Europe alike, solidarity, welcome, and hospitality
have been interspersed with and superseded by exclusion, violence, and hostility
toward refugees. In spite of the hypervisibility of refugees from Syria in the Euro-
pean and North American public spheres whether framed as objects of pity or
fear the vast majority of refugees (who primarily remain in the global South)
and the vast majority of Southern- led responses to displacement have remained
invisible. The tropes of visibility and invisibility have provided the framework
guiding this article, which has aimed to examine the ways in which refugees from
the Middle East and North Africa have been represented to and by different stake-
holders, including the ways in which refugees represent themselves to neighbors,
aid providers, and decision makers. In so doing, it has been my intention neither
to idealize nor to demonize refugees but rather to centralize the ways in which
refugees negotiate the politics of survival and of solidarity in contexts of overlap-
ping and seemingly ever- expanding precariousness and hostipitality. Today, as in
the past, it is equally the case that refugees’ “existence is exposed and exposing”
(Nancy 2000: 17), while simultaneously, “absence is the trace of those who disap-
peared” (Qasmiyeh, in Fiddian- Qasmiyeh and Qasmiyeh 2010: 294).
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Elena Fiddian- Qasmiyeh is a lecturer in human geography, a codirector of the Migration
Research Unit, and the coordinator of the Refuge in a Moving World research network,
University College London. Her research examines the intersections between gender,
religion, and forced migration, with a focus on the Middle East. Her recent publications
include The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam, and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival (2014) and
South- South Educational Migration, Humanitarianism, and Development (2015). She is a
coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (2014).
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... By discussing issues of pain and (im)mobility, yoga and Islamic faith, the chapter will interrogate and destabilise essentialising representations of Muslim refugee women, which often inform (uninformed) public narratives and policy. In doing this, the chapter will also complicate the nexus of body, citizenship and religion through which Muslim women are portrayed as oppressed by, and as the embodiment of, discriminatory "backward" traditions (see Fiddian- DOI: 10.4324/9780429341045-10 Review Copy -Not for Redistribution File Use Subject to Terms & Conditions of PDF Licence Agreement (PLA) Qasmiyeh, 2016;Rana, 2018;Farooq Samie, 2018). The chapter will first address the wider historical and political contexts relevant to the participants' experiences, and will then present the theoretical framework and methodological approach before discussing the research findings. ...
... Since the "long summer of migration" of 2015 the European media has consistently offered sensationalist images of a perceived refugee crisis and its accompanying vocabulary. Political discourses and subsequent immigration policies in Europe have been presenting skewed pictures of the sheer overwhelming numbers of people seeking sanctuary on the continent (Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2016;Szczepanik, 2018). In 2015, Sweden was one of the few European nations that maintained open borders for people seeking asylum, receiving almost 163,000 asylum applications, 1 the largest per capita inflow of asylum seekers ever recorded in a country of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2 (OECD, 2017). ...
... This research employed an intersectional lens to illuminate how the participants' lived experiences of trauma-sensitive yoga courses reflected and responded to the overlapping domains, such as media and public narratives and resettlement policies. It is through these domains that Muslim refugee women in Sweden are othered as traumatised refugees, oppressed Muslim women and hypervisible others (Pittaway and Bartolomei, 2001;Pittaway and Pittaway, 2004;Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2016;Farooq Samie, 2018;Dağtaş, 2018). Considered together, these intersecting representations compound the participants' positions, opportunities and possible future trajectories of resettlement in Sweden. ...
Chapter
This chapter contributes to critical perspectives that address the intersection of leisure, gender and religion in contexts of forced migration. It does so by addressing the experiences of a group of Syrian Muslim refugee women attending women-only yoga courses in their country of resettlement, Sweden. These courses were part of a Civic Orientation programme that combined the prescription of therapeutic yoga and educational activities, aimed at transforming them into integrated, employable Swedish citizens. The participants’ embodied experiences of yoga represent an entry point for capturing the diversity and complexity of navigating forced migration and resettlement. The research that underpins the chapter integrates phenomenological and intersectional approaches. It involves 22 months of ethnographic research and seeks to centre participants’ lived experiences of both trauma-sensitive yoga and, more broadly, forced migration and resettlement. The chapter aims to complicate existing assumptions and discourses about the female Muslim body—in contexts of forced migration—as docile, oppressed and a vulnerable object of moral compassion. Through a focus on pain, (im)mobility, yoga and Islamic faith, the chapter offers insights of how participants re-appropriated the secular and self-development-oriented space of trauma-sensitive yoga. It shows how the participants’ engagements and re-appropriations of yoga complicates rigid dichotomous understandings of East/West, here/there and secular/religious.
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Thesis
Following the so-called refugee crisis unfolding on the Greek islands in 2015, a multitude of citizen-led agencies emerged to mitigate or contest the EU’s policies of securitisation and containment. This dissertation explores the trajectory of one of these initiatives: a Norwegian humanitarian volunteer organisation Dråpen i Havet (A Drop in the Ocean, DiH). Established by a mother-of-five with no prior experience in humanitarian or social work, DiH aspires to “make it easy” for ordinary people to help refugees in Greece, but has undergone a process of partial professionalisation, leading to larger responsibilities inside and outside Greek refugee camps. The organisation also tries to scale up their acts of care and hospitality to the Norwegian state and to influence co-nationals who do not share their humanitarian sensibilities. The dissertation is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Greece and Norway. Chapter 1 discusses the emergence of a new humanitarian geography and the rise of “Fortress Europe.” Chapter 2 and 3 trace DiH’s trajectory from spontaneous volunteering to “NGOization” and explore the organisation’s shifting and contested efforts to “fill humanitarian gaps” on Europe’s southern border. Chapters 4 and 5 examine DiH’s widespread appeal amongst Norwegian citizens and the organisation’s vision of volunteering as a transformative experience. These chapters also explore volunteers’ pathways to help refugees in Greece and ambivalent experiences of returning home and negotiating different worlds and relationships. Chapter 6 analyses DiH’s political turn and efforts to witness and mobilise for more inclusive asylum policies and positive public orientations towards refugees in Norway. The conclusion discusses the redemptive potential of volunteering. Taken together, the chapters challenge enduring representations of humanitarian actors and volunteers as “rootless cosmopolitans” or “transnationals” motivated by either selfish or altruistic concerns to help distant strangers. Conversely, the dissertation shows that DiH staff and volunteers felt deeply ashamed by Norwegian affluence and their government’s restrictive asylum policies and increasingly worried over the moral health and future of the Norwegian state and society. The dissertation argues that DiH staff and volunteers can be understood as “cosmopolitan nationalists,” called to help as indignant and ashamed Norwegian citizens and mobilising against what they perceive as an illicit, inward-looking nationalism. Drawing on feminist and anthropological work on the politics of affect, the dissertation analyses shame (skam) as both culturally and politically contingent, expressed on personal and collective levels and simultaneously on behalf of and against the nation. Contrary to popular and scholarly assumptions, DiH staff and volunteers experience shame as largely productive and self-affirming. However, the dissertation argues that its political force is hampered by its reliance upon (and reproduction of) a sanitised and romanticising national narrative. While primarily a contribution to the study of humanitarianism, nationalism and border politics, the dissertation addresses anthropological and philosophical debates on ethics, affect, cosmopolitanism and liberalism. It further provides windows into changing and increasingly fragmented and hostile humanitarian and political landscapes on the fringes of Europe. Analysing volunteers’ post-utopian and redemptive aspirations, the dissertation identifies “sticky attachments” to national and humanitarian frames and imaginaries yet also some cracks and openings.
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... In overlapping displacement situation, the relationships between displaced people, the hosts and the sociomaterial elements that form part of the urban space are constantly changing due to the unpredictability of everyday life (Sanyal, 2014a(Sanyal, , 2018. In an extreme case, the spaces of arrival and return overlap with each other such that the hosts also become the hosted alongside other internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees (Boano & Astolfo, 2020;Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2016). In this vicious cycle of displacement, there are varied forms of uncertainties as the new relationships are established and the old ones are dissolved or reassembled. ...
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Since over a decade of conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin region, different measures have been adopted to regulate the mobility of displaced persons in border cities. Mubi—like other transit sites—is both a place of care and control, of incentivization and eviction and of inclusion and exclusion. To nuance these contradictions, I argue that we might have to pay attention to arrival practices in transit sites, particularly the encounter with infrastructures, which are intertwined and profoundly co-constitutive of the displaced persons’ realities. In transit sites, arrival is practised and lived temporally and relationally among the displaced persons, despite the conditions of exile and immobility. Urban infrastructures (such as marketplaces, transit camps and living rooms) transform and enact the strategy adopted by the displaced persons to navigate daily life and to ‘move on’ from conditions of exile and confinement. Moving on, in this sense, is a strategy to overcome the disruption of the temporality of arrival practices from the Nigerian state regulation of mobility through incentivization and encampment policies. I demonstrate that both incentivization and encampment aim towards a common goal, which is to render displaced persons invisible in urban centres while becoming a raw material for capital production. The regulation enables a new form of unplanned spaces to emerge that are hyper-visible and super-precarious at the urban margins. This paper calls for a critical perspective on humanitarian urbanism in the Global South.
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This article discusses the new asylum laws implemented in Germany from 2015 to 2020 and places them in the wider context of the bordering process developed in Europe to control migrants’ mobility since the year 2011. ‘Asylum packages’ and the Integration Act combine a restriction of asylum rights with measures to quickly channel refugees into the German labor market. Focusing on a specific regulation that aims at integrated rejected asylum-seekers through vocational training programs—the Ausbildungsduldung—this article highlights the contradictions from the attempts to meet the German economic needs and the efforts to enforce migration control. Moreover, this work highlights how the moral economy of deservingness, which underpins the practices of confinement and selection of the migrant population, influences the new laws. Ultimately, the asylum realm is deprived of being the source of the right to stay, whose conditionality became anchored to the needs of the German economy.
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In the last decade, the number of forcibly displaced people increased dramatically globally. In Africa, conflict has been one of the primary sources of forced displacement. Very few studies have examined the micro economic impacts of forced displacement on household welfare outcomes in host communities, especially on food security. In this study, we investigate how the inflow of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) impacts on household-level food security outcomes in Nigeria, a country that has experienced significant displacements due to the Boko Haram insurgency, farmer-herder conflicts and other communal conflicts. To uncover the hypothesized effects, we use an Instrumental Variable (IV) approach, where a spatially weighted IDP outflow variable is used as an instrument for the main independent variable. We find that IDP influx negatively impacts the household level food security conditions in host communities. We specifically uncover differential impacts of displacement drivers such as armed conflicts, natural disasters and communal violence. The results are consistent across alternate model specifications and sensitivity analyses.
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Tania El Khoury’s audience-of-one performance piece As Far as My Fingertips Take Me and Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s play The Jungle, produced and developed by Good Chance, are twenty-first-century productions that foreground the medial affordances of performance art and drama to foreground Western audiences’ relationships and responses to refugees. I propose a taxonomy of the strategies used in these two works as a model for analyzing theatre and performance about refugees. These strategies are classified in terms of the responses they seek to elicit from the audience, and my analysis explores some of the tactics used to achieve these goals. Remedial strategies counter harmful stereotypes about refugees; transformative strategies challenge and reshape basic conceptions of self, other, nation, and citizenship; and ethotic strategies reorient the audience to consider their relationship with refugees, particularly with respect to their disparate identity positions, mutual responsibility, and interdependence. Fingertips and The Jungle are substantially different artworks but are able to achieve similar results by utilizing the different affordances of their respective mediums. Thus, the taxonomy of strategies provides a more systematic and precise way of analyzing how refugee drama and performance achieve their goals. It avoids being overly prescriptive in how these goals should be achieved and instead recognizes how exploiting different tactics and medial affordances can advocate for refugees and other migrants.
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What does it means to be Palestinian in the diaspora? This collection of 100 personal reflections on being Palestinian is the first book of its kind. Reflecting on Palestinian identity as it is experienced at the individual level, issues of identity, exile, refugee status, nostalgia, belonging and alienation are at the heart of the book. The contributors speak in many voices, exploring the richness and diversity of identity construction among Palestinians in the diaspora.
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Abstract: This chapter engages an emerging body of literature which explores the multidimensional connections between refugee camps and cities. In contrast with the existing literature, which is primarily written by external observers and analysts, this chapter centralises subjective experiences and perceptions of both camps and cities from diverse perspectives over time and space. It especially critiques the denomination of camps as ‘non-symbolized and abstract spaces’ and their supposed failure to integrate ‘sacrificial’ and ‘ritual moments’. [...] Far from an official historiography of the Palestinian or other camps, this chapter therefore invites further conversations between differently-situated individuals to explore the interconnectivities between diverse types of camps and forms of city-space. It centralises subjective accounts constituted and reconstituted at a critical distance and incorporating comparative experiences which facilitate a sharper and more multi-faceted understanding of these spaces and diverse dynamics. The nature of Palestinian refugee camps is thus addressed through a reflection on the position of the individual and the collectivity in relation to the construction and reconstruction of ‘the camp’ at home and away. The diverse traces and symbolisms embodied in such camp-like spaces are illuminated, as are the ways in which refugees, and those bearing the signs of ‘refugeeness’, negotiate their belonging to a medium which is both abstract and yet ever-present.
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Selected as “The Best of 2013” by the Editors-in-Chief of The Oxonian Review
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In this provocative and timely book, David Kennedy explores what can go awry when we put our humanitarian yearnings into action on a global scale--and what we can do in response. Rooted in Kennedy's own experience in numerous humanitarian efforts, the book examines campaigns for human rights, refugee protection, economic development, and for humanitarian limits to the conduct of war. It takes us from the jails of Uruguay to the corridors of the United Nations, from the founding of a non-governmental organization dedicated to the liberation of East Timor to work aboard an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Kennedy shares the satisfactions of international humanitarian engagement--but also the disappointments of a faith betrayed. With humanitarianism's new power comes knowledge that even the most well-intentioned projects can create as many problems as they solve. Kennedy develops a checklist of the unforeseen consequences, blind spots, and biases of humanitarian work--from focusing too much on rules and too little on results to the ambiguities of waging war in the name of human rights. He explores the mix of altruism, self-doubt, self-congratulation, and simple disorientation that accompany efforts to bring humanitarian commitments to foreign settings. Writing for all those who wish that "globalization" could be more humane, Kennedy urges us to think and work more pragmatically.