This month, Refugee Hosts’ PI Prof. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, members of our research team in Jordan, Rahmeh Abu Shweimeh and Sura Al-Mahasis, and Refugee Hosts’ Co-I Prof. Alastair Ager attended the Mobilising Global Voices 2019: Perspectives from the Global South Conference at the Houses of Parliament. The event was organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the International Development Committee (IDC) and brought together AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) projects to share research insights and findings on three areas:
- forced displacement
- building resilience to climate change
- global inclusion and diversity within policy-making and research collaboration.
Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Rahmeh Abu Shweimeh and Sura Al-Mahasis presented important insights from the project’s research on the roles played by members of local communities ‘hosting’ refugees from Syria. After introducing the project’s collaborative and participatory approach to the co-production of knowledge, they drew on research from across our field sites in Lebanon and Jordan to emphasise the need for us to acknowledge the complexities of everyday lives in displacement and the diverse ways that people affected by displacement navigate the encounter between different groups of refugees and hosts, including hosts who are themselves refugees.
The team stressed that it is important both to examine the roles played by citizens in supporting refugees, and the ways in which refugees themselves act to support the needs and rights of different groups of displaced people. For instance, they traced the ways that many Palestinians in Baddawi refugee camp in North Lebanon have responded to the arrival of people displaced from Syria, for instance by collecting donations and preparing iftar food baskets during Ramadan, in a process that Prof. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh has conceptualised as a form of ‘refugee-refugee humanitarianism‘.
Noting the roles played by refugees themselves in responding to displacement, the team stressed that diverse structures and barriers on local, national and international levels often prevent people from living meaningful lives. For instance, international responses to displacement from Syria have often created and/or reinforced divisions and resentment between different groups of refugees (see here) – this highlights that tensions and competition over resources are often instigated, rather than reduced, through international policies and programmes.
Drawing on examples from our ongoing research, the team argued that interdisciplinary, collaborative and creative methods are essential to trace the narratives and conceptualisations of those affected by and responding to displacement, narratives and conceptualisations that may explicitly resist the concepts and responses designed and imposed by international actors (see here on our project’s approach to disrupting the humanitarian narrative).
In this vein, the team stressed the dangers of one-directional approaches that claim to be committed to introducing mechanisms to ’empower’ the ‘voices’ of conflict-affected peoples. Yousif M. Qasmiyeh’s recent piece, “To embroider the voice with its own needle” is particularly relevant in this regard:
To embroider the voice with its own needle: an act proposed to problematise the notion of the voice; something that cannot be given (to anyone) since it must firmly belong to everyone from the beginning.
Indeed, noting the title of the conference – Mobilising Global Voices – Prof. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh also stressed that it is essential to challenge the instrumentalisation of ‘global voices’ to meet externally-established aims (see here), and to continue resisting the unequal power structures that prevent certain people and voices from being heard. This includes resisting immigration regimes that prevent people affected by displacement and researchers from the Global South from attending and speaking in their own right, including at events such as the AHRC-IDC Conference itself: the visa applications of numerous researchers invited to speak at the Mobilising Global Voices Conference, including members of the Refugee Hosts team who have refugee backgrounds, were denied by the British Authorities.
By presenting insights from our creative workshops in Lebanon and Jordan, the Refugee Hosts team sought to demonstrate the relevance of such an approach to wider policy and practitioner audiences, using the model of the creative workshops in particular as an effective method for understanding the complex dynamics of refugee hosting, refugee-refugee relationality, everyday lives in and responses to displacement, and ways of disrupting humanitarian narratives which reproduce diverse forms of epistemic violence (see here and here).
Along with colleagues from other AHRC-funded interdisciplinary projects from around the world, the team provided insights into how arts and humanities research in international development can contribute to international development policy-making and practice, and to Parliamentary Select Committees. This was followed by a training workshop, organised by AHRC and Parliament, that aimed to equip researchers from the Global South with knowledge on how to engage the UK Parliament and other national parliaments with arts and humanities based research.
The following Refugee Hosts pieces reflect in further detail on a number of the points summarised above:
Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2018) Representations of Displacement Series Introduction: Disrupting Humanitarian Narratives?
Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) The localisation of aid and Southern-led responses to displacement.
Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2016) Refugee-refugee relationality: Hospitality and ‘being with’ refugees.
Greatrick, A. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) The roles of performance and creative writing workshops in refugee-related research.
Qasmiyeh, Y. M. (2019) “To embroider the voice with its own needle.”
Featured image: Sunset in Amman, Jordan (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, October 2018