[P4810] Refugees from Syria: State Policies, Humanitarian Aid, and the Lived Experience of Exile

Created by Wendy Pearlman
Monday, 11/20/17 10:30am


What explains host state and international aid policies toward refugees from Syria, and how do these policies shape the lived experiences of exile?

This interdisciplinary panel brings together anthropologists and political scientists to discuss original research scrutinizing policies directed toward refugees and how displaced Syrians and Palestinian-Syrians navigate the contexts structured by those policies.

Focusing on the Turkish case, one paper examines state decision-making and another probes refugees’ community building. Adding Lebanon and Germany to the conversation, two other papers explore the nexus of state interventions and refugees’ initiatives. The collection encourages us to consider the new questions and insights that arise when state-oriented and society-centered analyses are considered in tandem.

The first paper examines the causes and consequences of Turkey’s formalization of “temporary protection” status for Syrian refugees. Comparing this legal regime to Turkey’s responses to previous refugee crises, the author demonstrates how states’ refusal to recognize certain populations as asylum-seekers or refugees grants policymakers leeway to maneuver around international and domestic pressures.

The second paper compares observations from fieldwork with Syrian refugees in Turkey and Germany. It argues that, in Germany, strong state intervention in refugee integration has a leveling effect on refugees’ pre-existing class differences. In Turkey, by contrast, a relatively unregulated environment compounds refugees’ socio-economic differences, enabling those with greater resources to carve pathways to wealth and comfort, while providing others with little protection from impoverishment or exploitation.

The third paper explores how humanitarian aid shapes the intertwined development of associations and self-governance among Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon. Based on ethnography in the Bekaa valley, it examines a particular incident -- a destructive electrical fire that precipitated a major influx of humanitarian resources -- and evaluates how the effects of that event in expanding NGO work and institutionalizing governance structures in an informal camp.

The final paper presents field research in an Istanbul-based community center that was founded by a Palestinian from Syria’s Yarmouk camp and endeavors to provide a sense of home to both Syrian and Palestinian refugees from Syria. The paper considers how the center shapes possibilities for Syro-Palestinian solidarity, highlighting commonalities and differences in their experiences and destabilizing dominant humanitarian and political assumptions about refugees.

In dialogue with each other, these papers open a rich conversation on how politics, humanitarianism, and refugees’ own agency interact to generate the possibilities and constraints that shape refugees’ new lives.


Pol Science




Rochelle Anne Davis

(Georgetown University)
Rochelle Davis is an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology in the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Her research focuses on refugees and conflict, primarily Palestinian,...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Wendy Pearlman

(Northwestern University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Nell Gabiam

(Iowa State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Lamis Abdelaaty

(Syracuse University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Daniel Masterson

(Yale Univeresity)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;