One of our project’s aims has been to disrupt mainstream humanitarian narratives which have traditionally represented, and therefore constituted, refugees as individual suffering victims, passive recipients of aid and/or as unique ‘ideal’ refugees who are truly worthy of international sympathy, assistance, and protection. By disrupting these and other established narratives and representational strategies, we have ultimately aimed to document, trace and examine alternative ways of seeing, knowing, feeling, listening to, writing, reading, drawing, conceptualising, and otherwise responding to displacement.

Our collaborative blog series, Representations of Displacement, explores the many ways of engaging with questions of refugee and local community representation, including a broad set of voices and perspectives by contributors who include scholars, writers and artists. In addition to contributions to our photography gallery, soundscapes, and poetry.

Our research has advanced what Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh conceptualises as a ‘Spaces and Places, not Faces’ approach (outlined in more detail here). This approach recognises an over-reliance on visual and specifically face-oriented modes of representing displacement both within academia and humanitarian communications, and invites us to consider the different means of representing displacement, focusing in particular on structural, spatialised processes, in contrast to a highly individualised, de-contextualising focus on individual faces.  

Representations of displacement have significant consequences on how refugees and local communities are engaged with and responded to by diverse state and humanitarian actors, as well as how their needs and aspirations are understood, articulated and supported (or not supported). A focus on representation also invites us to more fully consider the implications of how, why and with what effect knowledge is produced about communities affected by displacement. You can read further considerations on this theme in Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh’s ‘Invisible (at) night: space, time and photography in a refugee camp’ and ‘Shadows and Echoes in/of Displacement: Temporalities, spatialities and materialities of displacement.’ Additionally, specific panels at the Refugee Hosts’ International Conference 2019 focused on themes of representations of displacement, the politics of knowledge production and disrupting humanitarian mainstream narratives. Below, Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh discusses mainstream humanitarian narratives and how these can be critically disrupted. More presentations from this panel can be viewed here.

Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh’s Inaugural Lecture: ‘Refuge in a Moving World: beyond hospitality and hostility’ traced the multiple ways that responses to displacement are enacted by people with personal and family experiences of forced migration, including in their capacity as researchers, writers and artists, and aid providers. In so doing, dominant humanitarian representations of refugees and displaced communities are challenged. You can listen to the podcast and view the lecture slides, here. Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh has also presented on ‘The Ethics and Politics of Representation’ here,

The following are photographs taken by Refugee Hosts PI, Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh in Baddawi refugee camp and the adjacent Jebel al-Baddawi neighbourhood (N. Lebanon), and include photographs of the spaces and infrastructure which has been ‘shared’ and recreated (and at times contested) by the different residents of the camp and neighbourhood: Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds and Lebanese alike. You can read and view Elena’s photo-essays on Baddawi as a ‘refugee hosting’ space here, here and here; her and Yousif M. Qasmiyeh’s reflections on the Baddawi camp cemeteries here; and their photo-poetic reflections on Baddawi camp here. More images can be accessed on the Gallery page.

The following photos were taken in Beirut, including in the neighbourhood of Hamra and during writing workshops co-convened by Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge and Writer in Residence, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, which drew upon historical photographs of Hamra which Refugee Hosts researcher, Leonie Harsch, has written about here. The photographs include different places where donations can be made, and collected, in addition to examples of resisting xenophobic rhetoric through ‘correcting’ graffiti (which our PI, Prof. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh writes about here). You can read more about Bayan Itani’s experiences of conducting research in Hamra here; and listen to soundscapes of Hamra here.

The following are a section of photographs taken in Jordan, including in and around Irbid, Jarash and Zarqaa and Amman. A number of photographs were taken by Refugee Hosts PI, Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, during writing workshops convened by Refugee Hosts’ Writer in Residence, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh with Co-I Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge. In these workshops, archival photographs from Lebanon and Jordan were an important point of reference, stimulating conversation and debate amongst participants. Equally, participants brought items and objects which were particular significance to them – these objects were shared and discussed with the group. You can read more about the workshops here.

The following photos were taken in Turkey, including in Istanbul and Izmir. The photographs focus on everyday spaces of encounter, including on the busy streets of Beyoglu and Fatih (both of which are home to many refugees from Syria, and are also frequented by tourists from across the Middle East), where signs in Arabic and Turkish announce services for residents, tourists and refugees alike; to more hidden sites of sanctuary, such as a church in Istanbul; or sites of transit on the Aegean coast. You can read more about Dr Anna Rowland’s reflections on research in Turkey here; listen to soundscapes of Istanbul here; or see photos by Ufuk Öztürk, including reflections on how communities emerge in sites of transit.

Access our Essential Reading on Representations of Displacement here.

We will be updating this page with more resources and findings in due course.