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Ordering the Syrian Displacement: Dispossession and the Power of Documents

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The Cambridge Migration Society is glad to present the Michaelmas 2016 Graduate Migration Research Seminar Series.

The GMRSS offers PhD, MPhil and Masters students currently engaged in research on migration an opportunity to present their work, get feedback and meet other graduate colleagues working on similar issues.

Presenters are from various fields and disciplines, and similarly, and we welcome attendees from across the University.

For details of presenters, please see below:

Title: Ordering the Syrian Displacement: Dispossession and the Power of Documents

Speaker: Veronica Ferreri, PhD candidate, SOAS

Abstract: This paper traces the trajectories of displacement of a Qusayri Syrian community living in an informal camp, whose members define themselves as mutasharrid [dispossessed]. I explore the making of al-tasharrud [dispossession] as central to this community’s experience of citizenship/subjection after the expulsion of its members from their homes in Rif Qusayr to Lebanon in the aftermath of a counterinsurgency campaign compounded by al-Assad regime and Hezbollah in the spring of 2013. I investigate how this community reconstructs its social and political order through the creation of an informal camp and a school, as well as the meanings the community members attribute to these institutions.

By looking at these social processes, the paper scrutinizes how Qusayri Syrians’ construction of the self is tied to al-Assad regime’s modes of order-making in times of crisis which divide citizens into different categories: fully-recognized citizens, wanted citizens, and unwanted subjects. The paper shows how these categories are produced through citizens’ encounters with state authorities, such as check-points, border posts, and bureaucratic apparatuses. These categories are in turn reproduced by the Lebanese authorities through official documents, which become material manifestations of the boundaries between legality and illegality. The analysis of these encounters with state authorities both in Syria and Lebanon offers a comparison with the life of the community and the tactics it develops in order to overcome the legal precariousness its members inhabit that is characterized by informality and illegality. In this context, I focus on the production of (unofficial) documents, such as school certificates, civilian records, and school evaluations within the camp in order to demonstrate how these tactics become a medium for ordering and making the lives of the members of the community accountable.

About Veronica: Veronica Ferreri is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant in the department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS , University of London. She was a Bucerius PhD fellow for the programme Trajectories of Change and junior research fellow at the Orient-Institut Beirut. Her research investigates entangled experiences of displacement and citizenship amongst Syrians in Lebanon focusing on legal identities, bureaucratic practices and official documents between Lebanon and Syria. Veronica holds a Master’s degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies from the Venice’s University Ca’ Foscari and an MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies from SOAS .

This talk is part of the Cambridge Migration Society series.

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