Working closely with local researchers throughout all stages of the project, the team is completing in-depth ethnographic research with nine local communities across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to observe how the members of these communities have experienced and responded to the arrival of refugees from Syria. Through a total of over 450 interviews and a series of participatory research workshops with local community members and refugees, the project is examining their experiences of providing, seeking, receiving and being excluded from different forms of support. The influences of gender, political opinion, ethnicity and religious identity on these processes will be a particular focus. In turn, interviews with over 100 people who work with local, national and international organisations (including UN agencies) are examining their views of local responses to refugees from Syria. This will help the team identify the extent of national and international support for local community responses for refugees.
The obligation to fit the ‘humanitarian narrative’ frequently results in the silencing of refugee experiences and the framing of refugees as suffering victims; this has long acted as a barrier to understanding refugee communities and their perceptions of diverse encounters. To challenge these assumptions, creative writing workshops with refugees and local communities are offering a critical space for participants to simultaneously document, trace and resist experiences of and responses to displacement. In addition to reflecting on their own journeys and personal encounters, participants are also exploring how their stories connect – in time, style and motif – with those of others, from the present and the past. By presenting these connected stories to a wide range of audiences in the Middle East and the UK, the project aims to challenge the image of the individual suffering refugee with evidence of the creative resistance and resilience of different communities and traditions of refugees and hosts.