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Dignity and Humiliation: Identity Formation among Syrian Refugees

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Since 2011 half of Syria’s population has been forced to flee its homes. Much research has focused on the macro-level challenges and post-conflict reconstruction plans. In this article, I focus on the micro-level by examining the dialectic of “humiliation” and “dignity” as a dynamic that shapes and transforms Syrian refugees’ identities through sustained interaction, and sometimes through struggle, with others, who can be pro-regime or pro-opposition Syrians, or pro-refugees or anti-refugees in hosting countries. Methodologically, I use an interpretive approach which focuses on context-specific meanings and their relation to power, seeking multifaceted understandings of refugees’ lived-experience. This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork and ordinary language interviews conducted in the United States, and semi-structured, open-ended interviews with Syrians in Germany and Turkey. I show that researching participants’ meaning-making in their own settings reveals the dynamics of humiliation and dignity as dialectically interwoven in specific situational contexts and shaped by refugees’ lived-experience in both the country of origin (in the past) and the hosting country (in the present).

Affiliations: 1: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, basileus.zeno@gmail.com

10.1163/18763375-00903006
/content/journals/10.1163/18763375-00903006
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/content/journals/10.1163/18763375-00903006
2017-11-11
2018-09-22

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