This workshop was hosted by the Refugee Hosts International Conference on the 25th October 2019, from 12.00 – 13.30

Chair and Facilitator: Yousif M. Qasmiyeh (Refugee Hosts Writer-in-Residence and University of Oxford)

Prof. Wen-Chin Ouyang (SOAS)

Prof. Matthew Reynolds (University of Oxford)

You can watch the live stream video of the workshop, here:



This workshop explored the poetics and politics of translation in the context of displacement by drawing on texts, fragments and poems produced by displaced people and citizens as part of the Refugee Hosts’ writing workshops convened in camps and cities across the Middle East. It began as a discussion between Prof. Wen-chin Ouyang, Prof. Matthew Reynolds and Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, who will interrogate the intimate, legal and linguistic facets in/of translation and the fragility of languages, in both the origin and in translation, in precarious situations. During the second half of the session conference participants reflected on a number of sample translations from the Refugee Hosts project, providing a space to discuss and debate individual and collective responses to these texts.

Biographies can be found below, in addition to a recommending reading list on Translation, Literature and Precarity

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh is Refugee Hosts’ Writer-in-Residence. He is a poet and translator, and tutor in Arabic at the University of Oxford. In addition to his academic articles and chapters, and his recent contributions to Refugee Hosts – including ‘Writing the Camp’, ‘The Camp is Time’, ‘Refugees are Dialectical Beings Parts One and Two‘, ‘A Sudden Utterance is the Stranger‘ and ‘The Jungle‘, his recent poems include ‘At the Feast of Asylum’ (GeoHumanities, 2016), ‘If this is my face, so be it’ (Modern Poetry in Translation, 2016) and ‘Thresholds’ (Critical Quarterly, 2014).

A long-standing translator of Arabic poetry, his translations of poets including Nazih Abu Afash, Tammam Al-Tillawi, Abd Al-Hadi Al-Said, Rasha Omran and Firas Suleiman have been published, amongst others, in Modern Poetry in Translation and The Oxonian Review. Since 2012, Yousif has regularly led literary translation workshops with student-led PEN and Oxfam groups, resulting in a series of publications in The Oxonian Review and in poetry pamphlets co-edited by these groups, such as ‘Shall I Write About My House? Poetry Reflecting on the Syrian Refugee Crisis’ and ‘Flight: An Anthology of Poetry in Response to the Refugee Crisis’.

Yousif’s poem, ‘If this is my face, so be it’ (Modern Poetry in Translation, 2016), featured in Jenny Holzer’s public light projection artwork at Bispetorv (Aarhus, Denmark) in March 2017 as part of the European Capital of Culture festival, and was exhibited from  May 2017 in a new installation at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2017, his poetry also featured in ‘The Absence of Paths’ as part of the Tunisian Pavilion exhibition at the 2017 Venice Biennale.

For Yousif’s most recent publications and poetry please see here and the recommended reading list below.


Prof. Wen-Chin Ouyang (SOAS)

Wen-chin Ouyang FBA is Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS, University of London. Born in Taiwan and raised in Libya, she completed her BA in Arabic at Tripoli University and PhD in Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University in New York City. She is the author of Literary Criticism in Medieval Arabic-Islamic Culture: The Making of a Tradition (1997), Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel (2012) and Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel (2013). She has also published widely on The Thousand and One Nights, often in comparison with classical and modern Arabic narrative traditions, European and Hollywood cinema, magic realism, and Chinese storytelling. She founded and co-edits Edinburgh Studies in Classical Arabic Literature. She has been the Editor-in-Chief of Middle Eastern Literatures since 2011. She also co-chairs the Editoral Committee of Legenda Studies in Comparative Literature. She was a member of the judging panel for Man Booker International Prize for Fiction 2013-15. A native speaker of Arabic and Chinese, she has been working towards Arabic-Chinese comparative literary and cultural studies, including Silk Road Studies.


Prof. Matthew Reynolds (University of Oxford)

Matthew Reynolds is Professor of English and Comparative Criticism at Oxford and a Fellow of St Anne’s College. Among his books are Translation: A Very Short Introduction (2016), The Poetry of Translation: From Chaucer & Petrarch to Homer & Logue (2011), Likenesses: Translation, Illustration, Interpretation (2013), The Realms of Verse, 1830-1870: English Poetry in a Time of Nation-Building (2001), and the novels Designs for a Happy Home (2009) and The World Was All Before Them (2013). He chairs the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation research centre ( and leads the AHRC-funded Prismatic Translation project (


You can listen to Refugee Hosts’ writer-in-residence, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, in conversation with Adriana X. Jacobs (University of Oxford) on the Staying Alive: Poetry and Crisis podcast series, here.

You can access our Creative Archive here, our Translation and Displacement series here our Translation, Poetry and Displacement Essential Reading list here, and our Contextualising the Localisation of Aid Agenda series here, and you can  visit the recommended reading list below:

Appignanesi, L. (2019) The Dancer’s Tale, as told to Lisa Appignanesi 

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2019)  The Poetics of Undisclosed Care

Harsch, L. (2019) Random Acts of Kindness:  Reflections on Everyday Responses to Displacement in Hamra 

Itani, B. (2019) The Importance of Identity – Reflections from Fieldwork in Hamra, Beirut 

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. (2018) Necessarily the Camp is the Border

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. (2018) The Camp is the Reject of the Reject Par Excellence

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

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. (2017) The Camp is Time

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. (2017) In arrival, feet flutter like dying birds

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2019) The Third Voice and Third Eye in Our Photo-Poetic Reflections 

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

Sheringham, O. (2019) Sharing Stories and the Quiet Politics of Welcome