Collective identities amid war and displacement: Syrians and Syrian refugees imagine their country
This article is interested in Syrian and Syrian refugees’ ties of belonging to their country in times of war and displacement. By looking at individuals, the paper follows a micro-level approach to research societal ties of belonging to a country that has slipped into war. It argues that during conflicts, the meaning and boundaries of national identity are grasped in individuals' re-imagination of their country in either more “civic” or “ethnic” terms. As a result of this process, national identity may gain an inclusive, civic meaning based on the idea of citizenship or a more exclusive content based on the narrower confines of ethnicity and sect. Empirically, 100 Syrians and 100 Syrian refugees provided their vision of a future Syrian state in online interviews. The findings show that the majority of respondents’ visions of Syria follows a civic rationale, with most survey participants linking their belonging to a future Syria with the broader ideas of citizenship, political rights and participation, rather than identifying the country in ethnic/sectarian terms. Combined with the theories, these results offer a glimpse into the societal formation of a new Syrian “we” amid an ongoing war and continuing waves of displacement.