A Century of Human Displacement and Dispossession: Europe and the Middle East, 1919-2019

Post-WWI treaties not only carved nation-states out of two great empires in Europe and the Middle East but also authorized these nascent states to displace and dispossess populations in the name of peace and order. These two regions have witnessed, over the course of a century, recurrent invocation of this prerogative by states, supplemented by the erratic movements of peoples that permeated the global history of human displacement and dispossession. The Syrian refugee crisis marks yet another tragic episode in this century-long history. Much like earlier protracted cases of massive displacement, it is beset with pain and suffering of women, men and children who experience an existential limbo with a destroyed past, no future and a precarious present. Their precarity lingers-on as the international public discourse continues to view them predominantly through the prism of securitization. Be that as it may, it is now widely acknowledged that both global and local refugee regimes have failed to effectively manage “the most dramatic humanitarian crisis,” galvanizing in turn the precarity of the displaced.  The countries of the Middle East such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, which have received the lion’s share of the Syrian refugee population and already covered with refugees of diverse backgrounds, are now particularly strained by the cost of their engagement, while the impact of the influx on their societies and economies becomes increasingly more visible. European countries also experience an impact as the ultra-right wing political parties are on the rise. All those countries in the Middle East and Europe are locked in a search for a new set of institutions, policies and practices to facilitate the solution of the problem and minimize the negative externalities of the refugee phenomena upon their societies. Although several international organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and UNESCO implemented their normative agendas to assist the national regimes, the latter has been generally left to their own devices in their handling of the refugee matters. There is increasing realization that there is need for more cooperation and collaboration on international level and certainly a necessity to develop an interpretive framework for a holistic approach to human displacement and dispossession. The refugee pact recently adopted by the UN General Assembly and approved by 181 countries with the exception of the United States and Hungary should be seen as an attempt at this direction. Whether it is possible to form a common vision on a global level and especially between the countries of the Middle East and Europe for the current and prospective challenges is the question that provides the leitmotiv of this conference project.

The Syrian refugee phenomenon provides a good opportunity to take stock of the history of human displacement and dispossession at local, national and international levels and put in dialogue multiple lanes of scholarship developed in Europe and the Middle East on the Syrian refugee case and other instances of massive displacements and dispossession in these regions. In pursuit of this goal, the conference is intended to provide a platform for a critical discussion of the workings of the global system while assessing the role of the national refugee regimes, instruments, policies and practices. The conference pays particular attention to the intellectual debates and discussions on the population transfers and refugee phenomena from the end of WWI to the present and aims to trail the evolution of national and international refugee systems over a full century.  As it pursues those macro goals, the conference aims to bring to the fore individual, familial and collective experiences of persecution, internment and mass displacement in diverse contexts. One of the prime goals of the conference is to provide a setting for scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds to reflect on earlier experiences as well as on the most recent ones including but not limited to the Syrian refugee crisis. The practitioners from the field will enrich this dialogue through their personal observations and engagements. In brief, the conference seeks to lay the foundation for a more balanced regional and international discussion on human displacement and dispossession in the past century.

The conference committee welcomes proposals across disciplines of migration studies, refugee studies, history, politics, sociology, anthropology and other relevant scholarly fields. Please send titles and abstracts of maximum 300 words and short bios for papers lasting 20 minutes to the conference coordinators, Onur Yildirim at oy03@aub.edu.lb or Bachar el-Halabi at be17@aub.edu.lb. The conference participants will be provided with an economy fare airline ticket and accommodation for the duration of the conference along with taxi transfers from and to the Hariri Airport. The language of the conference is English.

Abstract Submission Deadline: 07 March 2019

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