A Non-Legal Non-Illegal Condition: The Work of War Across Syria and Lebanon

Thursday, March 21, 2024 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

In January 2015, Lebanese authorities introduced a visa regime, regulating for the first time the entry and stay of Syrians in the country. The new regulations made it more difficult, if not impossible, for Syrians fleeing from the war in Syria to obtain or maintain a residency permit in Lebanon, thus shifting their status from legal to illegal. However, the pervasive fear and sense of entrapment characterising the wake of the new regulations were not felt by every Syrian. For some, the impossibility of obtaining a residency permit was not the result of a legal production of illegality in Lebanon, but the product of political violence in Syria.

In this talk, I retrace the life of a Syrian rural community across the Syrian-Lebanese border to capture the long-lasting ‘legal’ outcomes produced by the violence of war. In Syria, the community endured one of the first – and most brutal – counterinsurgency campaigns led by the al-Assad regime and its allies, aiming to regain control of lost territory. The campaign resulted in the community’s expulsion from its home and its subsequent displacement in Lebanon. The expulsion is also the origin of the community’s loss of legal documents and its inability to retrieve them. By ethnographically exploring how survival in the aftermath of expulsion looks like, I argue that the work of war continues even after the end of the counterinsurgency campaign, producing a new legal predicament across the border: a non-legal, non-illegal condition.

Veronica Ferreri is a Global Marie Curie Fellow at the Department of Humanities in Venice’s University of Ca’ Foscari, and an affiliated researcher at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Waterloo. She works at the intersection of Social Anthropology and Migration Studies, with a focus on exile and displacement, solidarity and vernacular humanitarianism, and bureaucracy and documents. Her work has appeared in Citizenship Studies, Conflict and Society, Allegra Lab and Haus der Kulturen der Welt.