The Third Voice and Third Eye in our Photo-Poetic Reflections

by Yousif M. Qasmiyeh (University of Oxford) and Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (Refugee Hosts)

A shared surname both reflects and itself has produced diverse forms of creative intimacies in a range of research and non-research encounters. In a series of photo-poetic reflections published as part of Refugee Hosts, we have worked together as differently positioned individuals: a poet and translator born in a Palestinian refugee camp, and who lived and worked in a variety of camps in Lebanon before arriving in the United Kingdom, and a social science scholar born in Spain, working within (and at times against) the field of refugee studies and with experience of conducting research in and about refugee camps and urban hosting contexts in the Middle East and North Africa, the Caribbean and Europe.

Rather than systematically presenting our voices or perspectives as separate and distant interpretive positions, however, it is precisely the long-standing shared and intimate connection and attachment with each others’ experiences, interpretations and re-interpretations of such matters which has at times led to the explicit development of a third voice – in writing – and a third eye and third gaze – in photography and reflecting on and through the visual.

In spatial terms, we could depict this as a multidirectional and fluid movement between space A and space B into the constitution of space C, a hybrid ‘third space of enunciation,’ following Bhabha. Bhabha refers to the Third Space as a ‘contradictory and ambivalent space of enunciation’ (2006: 156) arguing that ‘it is in this space that we will find those words with which we can speak of Ourselves and Others. And by exploring this hybridity, this ‘Third Space’, we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves’ (ibid: 157).

It is this intense personal and academic interconnectivity, and the recognition of the processes of mutual influence underpinning both our individual and conjoined perspectives, which has at times led to the development of this third voice and third eye, which neither negate nor confirm our respective views. Challenging the ideal-typical framework which renders legible the researched:researcher’s position of insider:outsider,[1] the third voice/eye aims neither to dilute nor to artificially amplify the divergences and similarities of our perspectives.

As a result, and perhaps as a direct reflection of the increasingly fluid ways in which both camps/cities, and normative and symbolic practices and identities are conceptualised, at times in our pieces we have presented a clearly identifiable speaker/writer/photographer whose experiences and views are immediately recognisable as ‘their own’, while at other times the authors’ voices, perspectives and gazes are blurred.

These and other forms of analysis and writing will be explored in further detail over the coming months, as Refugee Hosts continues [here] to reflect on questions including ‘who are we’, ‘who are we to one another’, what is the relationship between the academic:personal:political, and what does it mean to ‘analyse’ processes that are ‘research’ and yet are more than ‘research’ alone.


This is an updated and extended version of an extract of our co-authored piece: Qasmiyeh, Y. M and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2013) “Refugee Camps and Cities in Conversation,” in J. Garnett and A. Harris (eds.) Rescripting Religion in the City, Ashgate, pp. 131-143.

If you have found this piece of interest, read more from our Reflections from the Field series here.

Featured image: A rainy afternoon in Baddawi refugee camp, North Lebanon. (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2017.

References Cited

Bhabha, H.K.  (2006) ‘Cultural Diversity and Cultural Differences’ in B. Ashcroft, G. Griffiths, and H. Tiffin (eds.) The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Routledge, 2nd Edition, pp. 155-157

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. and Qasmiyeh, Y.M. (2010) ‘Asylum-Seekers and Refugees from the Middle East and North Africa: Negotiating politics, religion and identity in the UK,’ Journal of Refugee Studies, 23(3): 294-314.

Qasmiyeh, Y. M and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2013) “Refugee Camps and Cities in Conversation,” in J. Garnett and A. Harris (eds.) Rescripting Religion in the City, Ashgate, pp. 131-143.


[1] In earlier collaborative work (Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Qasmiyeh, 2010: 300-301), we have addressed the researcher’s insider-outsider position in more detail, and presented ‘an invitation for future research to invite refugees and asylum-seekers to become co-researchers rather than simply ‘participants’ and ‘interviewees’’ (ibid: 301). Here and in Qasmiyeh and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (2013), we transcend this denomination of ‘co-researchers’ through the alternative rhetorical voice and invocation of Bhabha’s Third Space of enunciation and representation (op cit).


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