Unravelling a Displaced Future: Syrians Between Emergency and Protracted Crisis in Lebanon

Thursday, March 7, 2024 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

In 2015, Lebanon ended the informal asylum period characterizing the first years of the ‘Syrian refugee crisis.’ Previously, the Lebanese state treated the displacement of Syrians as a humanitarian emergency. Slowly and inevitably, however, the crisis became protracted, pushing the Lebanese state to reject the ‘Syrian presence’, a dictum encapsulated by the visa regime issued in January 2015. For Syrians, these phases, and the Lebanese state’s radical turns, made up a present of uncertainties that constantly redefined how they inhabited displacement.

The fragility of the present also produced different modes of imagining and acting upon the future, even if this future was on hold–especially until 2014–as Syrians could only wait out the crisis. The new regulations unveiled that such waiting was in vain. A future beyond the crisis–of war in Syria and displacement in Lebanon–was out of reach for many who felt compelled to undertake the perilous journey to reach Europe bi-tariq al-bahr (by sea, i.e., by crossing informal borders).

Drawing on my ethnographic fieldwork in Lebanon, this talk captures the unravelling of the future as a project-in-the-making for a liveable life throughout the different tempos characterising the transition from emergency to protracted crisis in which the social becomes intertwined with the legal and the bureaucratic. Indeed, understanding ‘displacement and futurity in relation’ requires us to see how future-making relies on the past and present even in times of crisis. However, I argue that imagining the future in times of crisis is not only about linear time, but a renegotiation of different times and temporality, their hierarchies, and the logics governing each temporal rhythm and different geography.

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Veronica Ferreri is a Global Marie Curie Fellow at the Dept 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 current project – Archives in Times of War – examines the centrality of the archive of legal documents in the life of Syrian families living in Europe. Her work appears in Citizenship Studies, Conflict and Society, Allegra Lab and Haus der Kulturen der Welt.