MESA Banner
The Refugee Crisis and the making of the ‘New Syria’
Based on field research among the refugee population in Lebanon (Beirut and its suburbs, Tripoli, Wadi Khaled, Akkar), Jordan (Amman, Irbid), and Turkey (Istanbul) during June through August 2012 and again from September through November 2013 this article explores how Syrian refugees are pursuing alternative political visions after their displacement and thereby shaping the ‘new Syria.’ Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey are not just host countries for about 2 million Syrians, they are sites where the ‘new and future Syria’ are being conceptualized. Many of the initial leaders of the non-violent demonstrations which launched the March 2011 Syrian Uprising turned to relief when the uprising became militarized. When conditions became too violent, they left to neighboring countries and helped launch civil society and relief operations there. In the cities, towns and refugee sites within those countries lie new worlds that revolve around the category of ‘the refugee.’ However these are worlds with their own symbols, political visions and alliances, economic networks, and intellectual production. They are locations where Syrians are trying to make sense of the confusion, uncertainty and instability of the moment while venturing in their project of creating the vision of future Syria. It is led or shaped by Syrians who are themselves displaced, even registered refugees but with distinct backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, education levels, and visions for a future Syria. They exist as grant managers, teachers, accountants, psychosocial therapists, workshop leaders, lawyers, day laborers, and dependent refugees. The field research includes participant observation and interviews with Syrian activists and civil society organizations, local and international relief workers as well as citizens and activists from the host countries. In addition the article combines this micro bottom-up approach with macro analyses of top-down economic recovery plans and other post-conflict reconstruction visions including ones produced by the Friends of Syria, Legatum Institute, ESCWA, and Clingendael Institute of International Relations. Drawing on the fields of post-conflict recovery, refugee and forced migration studies, and previous research on Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, I focus on how the host countries are becoming a host for a proliferation of a Syrian ‘civil society’ that is both shaped by the host context as well as the intellectual debates surrounding the Syrian uprising as well as trying to shape competing visions of national identity and future Syria.
Geographic Area
The Levant
Sub Area
19th-21st Centuries