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Major AHRC-ESRC Project to examine impact of mass displacement from Syria

Major 4-year AHRC-ESRC Project launched to examine how local communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have experienced and responded to mass displacement from Syria.


Over 4,4 million refugees have sought safety across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey from the on-going Syrian conflict, with local communities, civil society groups, established refugee communities, and faith-based organisations providing essential assistance, solidarity and support to refugees. However, little is known regarding the motivations, nature and impacts of such responses to international refugee flows from conflict.


Led by Dr. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh of University College London (PI) in collaboration with Prof. Alastair Ager of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and Columbia University (Co-I), Dr. Anna Rowlands of Durham University (Co-I) and Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge of University of East Anglia (Co-I), this interdisciplinary and participatory research project is supported by a Large PaCCS Grant (£800,000) awarded by the AHRC-ESRC. It is one of the first grants funded through the UK Government’s new ‘Global Challenges Research Fund.’


The project aims to improve our understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise in local responses to displacement, both for refugees from Syria and for the members of the communities that are hosting them in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.


Working closely with local researchers throughout all stages of the project, the team will complete in-depth ethnographic research with nine local communities across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to observe how the members of these communities have experienced and responded to the arrival of refugees from Syria. Through a total of over 500 interviews and 30 participatory research workshops with local community members and refugees, the project will examine their experiences of providing, seeking, receiving and being excluded from different forms of support. The influences of gender, political opinion, ethnicity and religious identity on these processes will be a particular focus. In turn, interviews with over 100 people who work with local, national and international organisations (including UN agencies) will examine their views of local responses to refugees from Syria. This will help the team identify the extent of national and international support for local community responses for refugees.


The obligation to fit the ‘humanitarian narrative’ frequently results in the silencing of refugee experiences and the framing of refugees as suffering victims; this has long acted as a barrier to understanding refugee communities and their perceptions of diverse encounters. To challenge these assumptions, creative writing workshops with refugees and local communities will offer a critical space for participants to simultaneously document, trace and resist experiences of and responses to displacement. In addition to reflecting on their own journeys and personal encounters, participants will also explore how their stories connect - in time, style and motif - with those of others, from the present and the past.  By presenting these connected stories to a wide range of audiences in the Middle East and the UK, the project aims to challenge the image of the individual suffering refugee with evidence of the creative resistance and resilience of different communities and traditions of refugees and hosts.


This project will reframe debates about the roles and experiences of local communities and refugees in contexts of conflict-induced displacement in the global South. Through an interdisciplinary, participatory research approach, the researchers will develop a more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise when local communities engage in activities designed to enhance the quality of life of displaced populations. In so doing, the research aims to inform the development of policy, practice and service provision at local, national and international levels.


Meeting these aims will be significantly assisted by working closely with a range of project partners and collaborators that include: the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (whose members include Islamic Relief, OXFAM and UNHCR); English-PEN, PEN-International, PEN-Lebanon and PEN-Turkey; and Prof. Dame Marina Warner’s mobile storytelling initiative, Stories in Transit.


For further details contact:

Dr. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, University College London (Principal Investigator):


Prof. Alastair Ager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh:

Dr. Anna Rowlands, Durham University:

Prof. Lyndsey Stonebridge, University of East Anglia:

Follow project updates on @RefugeeHosts and

@UEA_History @UEA_History