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Listen to panel 18 of the RSC's Refugee Voices conference, which took place 24–25 March at St. Anne's College, Oxford

Coping strategies among self-settled Syrians in Lebanon | Cathrine Thorleifsson


Almost three years into the Syrian conflict, Lebanon has received the largest number of Syrian refugees. Lacking refugee camps, the refugees self-settle across the country where they depend on UNHCR, local charities and their own livelihood strategies for survival.

Based on qualitative fieldwork in the Sunni-village of Bebnine, located between Tripoli and the northern Syrian border, this presentation explores how displaced Syrians adjust to their new circumstances under the threat and actuality of violence.

Cathrine Thorleifsson has a PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics. She is a senior researcher at the Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies in Oslo, Norway. Her book Nationalism and the Politics of Fear in Israel: Race and Identity on the Border with Lebanon will be published in March 2014.

Constructions of ‘refugees’ through cultural expression: Syrian refugees in Lebanon | Dina Jane Kiwan


Whilst human rights discourses suggest that the cosmopolitanisation of international law benefits non-citizens, others have argued that it is only through being fully recognised as a member of the political community, that we become ‘human’ and can claim our ‘human rights’.

This presentation explores these arguments using an analysis of two forms of cultural expression – a documentary film, ‘Not Who We Are’ (2013), and an art exhibition held in Beirut, ‘Syri-Arts’ – to examine how Syrian and Syrian–Palestinian refugees in Lebanon experience and construct understandings of their changing identities. 

Dina Kiwan is Associate Professor at the American University of Beirut. Educated at the Universities of Oxford, Harvard and London, she was previously Senior Lecturer in Citizenship Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Co-Director of the International Centre for Education for Democratic Citizenship (ICEDC). 

Listening to the voices of Syrian women refugees in Jordan: ethnographies of displacement and emplacement | Ruba Al-Akash and Karen Boswall


Please note, four short films were shown during this presentation. You can watch them here.

In the border town of Irbid, in Northern Jordan, five refugee camps host more than quarter of a million refugees, the majority of whom are women. Outside of the camps, the population of the towns and villages along the border have doubled since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, bringing the number of refugees in this border area of Jordan to over half a million.

Al-Akash and Boswall present an ethnographic exploration of the real desires and needs of these Syrian refugee women. Looking into their life stories and narratives, Al-Akash and Boswall offer rich, new anthropological perspectives on the issue of forced migration, and on people’s ability to adapt and cope in new and challenging socio-cultural environments.

Ruba Al-Akash is a social anthropologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture and Design at Jordan University of Science and Technology. Karen Boswall is a British film-maker, radio producer and visual anthropologist.

'Khidan li-Adhan… walls have ears' even in the diaspora: Syrians in London | Veronica Ferreri


This presentation investigates the emergence of a new Syrian diasporic subjectivity, and the cultural mechanisms through which Syrians in London conceived and ‘experienced’ the al-Assad regime in the diaspora.

The aim of this analysis is to trace the role of memories and emotions in relation to political power and displacement. Thus, Ferreri argues that remembrances and emotions can be conceptualised as a site where the regime’s power was reproduced and maintained but, at the same time, contested. 

Veronica Ferreri is a MPhil/PhD student at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her PhD research represents an attempt to cast light on the relationship between Syrian refugees and the Syrian state, exploring the process of political subjectivisation when state structures and institutions crumble.

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