HAYAATNA BI-NABA’A [OUR LIVES IN NABAA]. Hope, despair and everyday living among displaced Syrian and Syrian Kurdish women in a neighborhood of Beirut

Sofie Bervild Nielsen, Master’s thesis, Visual Anthropology, Aarhus University, 2019.


This thesis paper and thesis product are based on five months of visual anthropological fieldwork conducted with more than 20 displaced Syrian and Syrian Kurdish women in the neighbourhood of Naba’a in the eastern suburbs of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, within Bourj Hammoud – one of the most densely populated areas in the Middle East. After eight years of conflict in Syria, nearly 13 million people from Syria are displaced. More than six million people have fled the crisis internally, more than five million people now live in neighboring countries and about one million displaced people have fled to Europe. Around 1.5 million refugees from Syria reside in Lebanon which makes it the country with the highest number of refugees per capita in the world – with one refugee for every four nationals (SAWA 2019). As the war in Syria rages on, and Syrian refugees in neighboring countries face increasingly restrictive conditions, debates in Lebanon surrounding the return of refugees to Syria have emerged. At the same time European nation states are tightening their asylum regulations and fortifying their external borders with politicians frequently arguing for the necessity of keeping refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries. This thesis seeks to contribute with new perspectives on the ways in which displaced people – in particular women – are dealing with the situation in Syria’s neighbouring countries. With the aid of theories on human agency, hope, waiting, imagination, (im)mobility and social navigation, I analyse these women’s lifeworld; the different ways they attempt to conduct their everyday lives in the present whilst waiting and hoping for change. I show how the women’s lives were characterized by uncertainty, immobility, and continuous attempts to maintain hope for a better future. I discuss the distribution of hope and mobility and how maintaining hope in various ways impacted their lives. The thesis product, “Hayaatna bi-Naba’a”, is a photo film that consists of audiovisual material co-produced by the women from Naba’a. Based on a feedback process with these women, I have put the material into a film that presents an audiovisual analysis of the women’s everyday life in Naba’a. The film and the paper complement each other as the film follows the structure of the paper while various of the 60 Our Lives in Naba’a MA thesis, Visual Anthropology University of Aarhus Student: Sofie Bervild Nielsen (201702000) Supervisor: Christian Suhr Autumn 2019 paper’s analytical points are based on the film’s audiovisual expressions. Both the film and the paper provide insights into the women’s lifeworld. By various means, the paper and product shed light on the women’s everyday practices and their engagement of mobility and hope while “waiting it out” in Naba’a. 

Keywords: displacement, (im)mobility, hope, waiting, crisis, limbo, (non)navigation, imagination, migration, stuckedness, smartphones, visual anthropology, co-produced knowledge, Lebanon, Syria’s neighbouring countries, Syrian refugees, women  

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