(c) Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Irbid camp, Jordan. October 2018

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Reflections from ‘the Field’: Introduction to the Series

by Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Refugee Hosts PI, UCL

As part of our new Reflections from ‘the Field‘ blog series, we will be sharing vignettes from our team members’ ‘fieldnotes,’ extracts from interview transcripts, reflections from the participatory research workshops and creative writing workshops we have hosted in Lebanon and Jordan, and new photo-essays from and about the ‘fieldsites’ where our research has been taking place.

We will also be posting extracts from articles, chapters and books that our research team are producing as part of and drawing on our project. These include the introduction to the inaugural issue of the new Migration and Society Journal (co-edited by Dr Mette Berg and Refugee Hosts PI Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh) on ‘Hospitality and Hostility Towards Migrants’, and an extract from the introduction to the book, Refugee Imaginaries: Contemporary Research Across the Humanities (co-edited by Refugee Hosts’ Co-I Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge).

In many ways, this new blog series marks the arrival of a particular temporal marker in our project: our 4-year AHRC-ESRC funded research project has now entered its third year, and, according to our GANTT Chart, this corresponds to our project’s ‘data analysis phase.’ Indeed, between September 2016 (when our project started) and November 2018, most of our fieldwork in Lebanon and Jordan has been completed by the members of our research team in the Middle East, and our project management process invites us to recall our individual and collective attention to the ‘project aims’ and ‘project outputs’ that we are due to meet and produce by the end of our project’s life-cycle: September 2020.

However, the denomination of ‘Year 3’ as our ‘data analysis’ year belies, of course, the fact that the Refugee Hosts team has been engaging in ‘analysis’ since, and indeed before, day one of our project in September 2016.

As such, on and beyond our project team members have published words, images, sounds and voices that reflect our individual, joint and collective explorations of the encounters that underpin our project. Whether through Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh’s photo-essays, soundscapes and articles on Baddawi and Beirut; Lyndsey Stonebridge’s conceptualisations of poetry as a host and articles on the roles of the humanities in refugee research; Alastair Ager’s reflections on UNHCR’s engagement with faith and displacement and the roles of communities in welcoming and supporting young refugees; Anna Rowland’s reflections on the roles of religion, faith, spirituality and theology in conceptualising and responding to displacement, and on her and Aydan Greatrick’s interviews and observations in Istanbul and Ankara; Yousif M Qasmiyeh’s poetic reflections on and through Baddawi refugee camp and his translation of Arabic poetry addressing themes of displacement; and our team-authored reflections of the roles of local faith communities in responding to displacement in Lebanon, we have been analysing a range of materials and processes through diverse epistemological, ontological, methodological and (inter)disciplinary frames.

Indeed, in addition to engaging in diverse public-facing conversations around the world (including in Amman, Beirut, Berlin, Geneva, London and New York), it is equally the case that off-stage and off-screen, we have conversed and debated within and across our research team, engaging in inter-disciplinary (and at times ‘un-disciplined’) encounters which have encouraged reconceptualisations and reconfigurations in productive and critical manners.

With this in mind, this new series aims to go beyond the remit of sharing insights into the research processes – ‘data collection,’ ‘analysis’ and ‘dissemination’ – that underpin our Refugee Hosts project. Instead, or in addition to this process, we aim to reflect on what it means to ‘analyse,’ ‘engage with’ and ‘respond to’ processes that are ‘research’ and yet are more than ‘research’ alone.

As such, we will also be reflecting on the relationship between the academic, the personal and the political throughout complex encounters between diversely positioned people; and the ways that our ‘fieldsites’ themselves are encountered and intersect with one another.

Key questions explored in the Reflections from ‘the Field’ series thus not only include ‘who and what have we encountered in our research’, but also ‘who are we,’ ‘who are we to one another’ (see here and here), and ‘where, and when, are we’ across diverse fields of thought, practice and (in)action.

Refugees ask other refugees, who are we to come to you and who are you to come to us? Nobody answers. Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds share the camp, the same-different camp, the camp of a camp. They have all come to re-originate the beginning with their own hands and feet.

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, Writing the Camp

In effect, recalling the words of our Writer-in-Residence, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh reminds us that it is impossible to demarcate a clear beginning, middle and end either of displacement (irrespective of humanitarian and state discourses and policies) or of refugee-research (irrespective of what a project GANTT chart might indicate): they are ‘always-already-in-the-middle’, overlapping, re-originating, in-becoming.

We look forward to continuing to explore such processes via Refugee Hosts’ new Reflections from ‘the Field’ blog series, and to welcoming submissions from members of our community of conversation who wish to join us on this journey.

To contribute to our community of conversation as part of this blog series and more broadly, see here.


Recent posts on our blog that touch on some of these themes include: 

Ager, A. (2017) ‘Sounds from Hamra, Lebanon’

Berg, M. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2018) ‘Hospitality and Hostility towards Migrants: Global Perspectives—An Introduction

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) ‘Shadows and Echoes in/of Displacement: Temporalities, spatialities and materialities of displacement

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) ‘Representations of Displacement Series: Introduction’

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena, and Yousif M. Qasmiyeh. 2018. ‘Refugee Neighbours and Hostipitality: Exploring the Complexities of Refugee-Refugee Humanitarianism’

Greatrick, A. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) ‘The Roles of Performance and Creative Writing in Refugee-Related Research’

Greatrick, A. (2018) ‘Hearing Marginalisation and Agency in Istanbul: Sounds from Istiklal Street

Harsch, L. (2018) ‘Historical Photos of Hamra, Beirut’

Qasmiyeh, L. (2018) ‘Necessarily, the Camp is the Border

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. (2016) ‘Writing the Camp’

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2018) ‘There will always be a vendor before and after the picture

Refugee Hosts (2018) ‘Local Faith Community Responses to Displacement in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey: Emerging Evidence and New Approaches

Rowlands, A. (2018) ‘Turkey – Crossroads for the Displaced

Rowlands, A. (2017) ‘Beyond the Secular-Religious Divide: Adopting a Theological Lens

Stonebridge, L. (2018) ‘Refugee Hosts,’ lecture at the Centre for the Study of Social Difference Anniversary Symposium (watch from minute 14″)

Stonebridge, L. (2018) ‘Undoing the Meaning of the World: Creation and Decreation in Contemporary Refugee Studies

Stonebridge, L. (2016) ‘Poetry as a Host’