Below you can listen to two soundscapes recorded during Prof. Alastair Ager’s recent fieldtrip to Hamra, a vibrant neighbourhood in Beirut which is home to a dynamic commercial and social scene in addition to many refugees from Syria. Such soundscapes offer an invaluable entry point to engage in a multi-sensory analysis of the social, economic and political dynamics which characterise spaces inhabited, shared and contested by and with different groups of people, including citizens, refugees, business people and tourists. Examining the roles that soundscapes can play in helping us better – or at least differently – understand key ‘spaces of encounter’ between diverse hosting and refugee communities in Lebanon and elsewhere is an important part of our project’s creative and interdisciplinary approach. Listen to more sounsdcapes by visiting our creative archive as well as our Representations of Displacement blog series.
By Professor Alastair Ager, Refugee Hosts Co-I, Queen Margaret University
A walk through the streets of Hamra brings a diverse cacophony into earshot: a Syrian woman begging at the side of the road, birds in the trees, the conversation of passers-by – in Arabic and English – on their way to the Lebanese- and Syrian-owned shops, music from the cafes, construction workers welding marks the continuing redevelopment of the area – all punctuated by traffic horns and exhausts. Timescales and perspectives clash as we return to hear the woman still begging, the birds still singing and an ambulance rushing to nearby hospital – one of the most modern and well-equipped in the Middle East.
Hamra brings together shop and restaurant workers, business people, tourists, youths planning a night out and refugees to articulate a bustling, cosmopolitan urban soundscape.
Featured Image: a street in Hamra (Creative Commons)