RUB Research School

Ways and limits of articulating, negotiating, and recognizing refugees' experiences of violence in the context of massive state violence in Syria

The Research Project

Considering protracted armed conflicts such as in Syria, this dissertation focuses on a new group of actors in the research field of transitional justice: international refugees. Syrians in exile find themselves in a complex position between the individual challenges of (1) finding their way in the German arrival society, (2) dealing with and processing (past) individual suffering, and (3) the ongoing concern for family members or friends who remain exposed to (future) experiences of violence and oppression.

While there is already extensive literature on approaches to transitional justice (Simić, 2020), such as truth and reconciliation commissions, criminal tribunals and other strategies for coming to terms with the past, even in this established academic field, the contributions from the diaspora and their involvement are generally underrepresented and have so far been little theorized (Koinova & Karabegović, 2019). Moreover, all these approaches require, almost by definition, an end to violence. However, for internationally displaced persons of protracted conflicts, this is often years away, or, as in ongoing dictatorships, completely unforeseeable. This results in the need to consider (new) strategies to articulate and negotiate their experiences and, ideally, processes to recognize their suffering and the violence they have witnessed.

The doctoral project aims to investigate ways and limits of articulating, negotiating and recognizing these past individual and ongoing collective experiences of violence. It takes a cultural-psychological perspective and draws on diverse types of qualitative data, ultimately intending to develop a typology for dealing with past individual, but ongoing collective experiences of violence exemplified by Syrian refugees living in Germany.

What I need the IRB for

The topic of forced migration out of Syria is inherently international, as the experiences of the heterogeneous Syrian diaspora transcend national borders and require an internationalized research approach. The IRB grants me the flexibility to react to the rapidly changing nature of my research topic and adapt to the pace and spontaneity of the population to engage with.

Further, the IRB enables me to follow the invitation to the Centro de Estudios sobre Genicidio (CEG) in Buenos Aires (Prof. Feierstein). In line with the CEG’s aim to "question some ethnocentric prejudices about the way of analyzing and understanding genocidal social practices" (CEG, 2023), I look forward to getting to know literature, theories, and approaches that go beyond the canonized mainstream research often employed in (English-language) violence research.