Research Initiatives

Research Initiatives

Awarded Projects

Mobility, Displacement, and Forced Migration in the Middle East

1. A Story Worth Telling: Omani-Zanzibari Identity at the Intersection of Ethnic Cleansing and Forced Migration
    Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf

Over the centuries, Omani people established significant maritime networks across the Indian Ocean and the East African littoral. Although commonly associated with the official transfer of the Capital from Muscat to Zanzibar by Sayyid Sultan in 1832, many Omanis refer to a migratory pattern that spanned centuries. These migrations both before and after of the settlement of Al-Busaidi dynasty in the Zanzibar archipelago lie at the heart of the creation of a distinctly Omani-Swahili identity and political subjectivity.

This project tells the story of how the forced migration of Omanis to Muscat after the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964 affected their Swahili identity. On January 12, 1964, hundreds of Africans attacked Unguja, the seat of the Omani empire armed with machetes, automatic rifles and guns. Within a few hours of this attack, the Sultan and other Omani-Zanzibari fled the Island following the massacre and rape of Arabs. The objective of the project is to examine the effects of forced migration on Omani-Zanzibaris in Muscat. I ask three main research questions: How did they think of themselves politically? How did they think of themselves socio-culturally? How do they think of themselves linguistically? The project will continue a multi-sited ethnography in Muscat and Zanzibar. It will gather personal narratives to elucidate the base theme of this research on the trajectory of Swahili identities in Oman and the extent to which they have been modulated by their forced migratory experience from Zanzibar. I will conduct archival research on the geopolitical representation of the Zanzibar revolution/genocide as established in the British National Archives. I will review various manuscripts in Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat related to the return migration of Omani-Zanzibaris.

 

2. From Mobility to Refuge: Exploring the Multi-layered Patterns of Syrian Refuge and   Mobility in the Northern Bekaa, Lebanon. The Case of the Dayr al-Ahmar District
Leïla Vignal, University of Oxford; and Emma Aubin-Boltanski, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France

This project aims to illuminate the dynamics and the patterns of the Syrian refuge in Syria’s neighboring countries. In particular, it concerns itself, on the one hand, with putting the current forced displacement of Syrians into the larger theoretical framework of migration and mobility and, on the other, with connecting the current forms of the Syrian displacement and refugeism to a longer history of crossborder mobility, transnational connections, and migration in the Middle East. It will be based on in-depth fieldwork in the Dayr al-Ahmar region, in the North of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (muhafaza of Baalbek-Hermel).

The research aims to explore the transformations brought about by the Syrian conflict in this area previously characterized by mobility and transnational networks connected to Syria. The ways in which the Syrian families are allowed to settle, under which conditions, and in which area of the territory of the villages seem to obey specific logics that our research aims to explore. This area offers interesting insights into the deployment of the new territoriality of the economies of war and refugeism, from the resilient black market of cheap products in which Syrians play an important role, to the contributions of the Syrian workers to the Lebanese economy, or to the fuelling of the Syrian war and Lebanese groups that are party to war, for instance with the reactivation of drug production and its transnational networks and markets.

 

3. Local Markets and Crisis Responses in Border Cities: The Cases of Lebanon and Turkey
Estella Carpi, University College London and Save the Children; Andrea Rigon, University College London; and Fernando Espada, Save the Children.

The nearly six-year old Syrian political crisis has been producing a large number of refugees fleeing into the border towns of Gaziantep (Southern Turkey) and Halba (Northern Lebanon). As a consequence, these two urban settings have been reconfigured through new social networks formed by Syrian refugee newcomers, older date Syrian migrants, and citizen residents. In this framework, the sizeable presence of the international humanitarian apparatus assisting the refugees in border towns is changing local consumption cultures and leisure activities. Humanitarianism is here to be interpreted as a neoliberal force transforming local cultures and human geography in official states of emergency.

In these increasingly hybrid social settings, the transformation of local, international, and refugee socio-cultural practices—traditions, habits, and public behavioral codes—is under-researched while able to unearth how the urban patterns of Gaziantep and Halba are presently changing. The qualitative exploration of fluid leisure and consumption cultures in international humanitarian settings will therefore be explored in order to elucidate institutional and human components of border urban change. This research aims to investigate how everyday practices change within and between local, migrant, and refugee communities in times of emergency and in response to neoliberal humanitarian policies and emerging cultures of everyday life arrangement.

 

4. Internal Displacement, (Re)-configuration of Gender Identity and Potential Link to Radicalization: The Case of Syrian Refugees in Jordan
Aitemad Muhanna-Matar, London School of Economics Middle East Centre

With shortage of humanitarian aid provided to Syrian refugees in Jordan, many families have developed severe, as well as socially and culturally degrading, coping mechanisms to survive, including withdrawing children from school and sending them to work; early marriage for girls; and survival sex by adult women. These humiliating aspects of coping cause, and are partly caused by, a crisis of gender identity—both men and women are unable to fulfill their gender roles with dignity. This research attempts to explore how the degrading aspects of gender reconfiguration for family survival are emotionally and morally accommodated, and/or resisted, by both men and women, and if they trigger vulnerable men and women to radicalize, as a means of moral restoration based on Islamic ideology? Most gender literature on Syrian refugees focuses on the material aspect of coping, with insufficient attention given to the subjective effects of displacement and its resulting humanitarian crisis on gender identity and its reconfiguration.

 

5. Mobility, Displacement, and Forced Migration in Libya and Tunisia
Ricardo René Larémont, State University of New York at Binghamton; and Mostafa O. Attir, The Libyan Academy for Graduate Studies, Tripoli, Libya

This research project will examine mobility, displacement, and forced migration in Libya and Tunisia. Though significant work in recent years has studied the impact of trans-Mediterranean migration on Europe, little to no research has examined its effects on North Africa. This landmark study therefore seeks to address this lacuna by establishing foundational knowledge about the array of African and Middle Eastern migrants who have arrived in Libya and Tunisia. Though some of these migrants may attempt the dangerous crossing to Europe, many more choose—or are forced—to remain in these points of departure. In order to address the humanitarian tragedy and security risks that are currently unfolding in the region, then, both researchers and policymakers alike need to understand these migrants, their experiences, and the communities they have formed. Our project will use semi-structured, individual interviews and focus groups to obtain data regarding migrants’ motives for migration, aspirations, and living conditions in Libya and Tunisia. This data will, in turn, be published in academic and public policy articles and, eventually, the publication that will be produced by CIRS. This fieldwork is the initial phase of a long-term project that will have a wide-ranging impact on scholarly analyses and public policy regarding this issue.