Panel 8E

Beyond Vulnerability: The Creative use of Social Capital and Habitus Among Middle Eastern Immigrants and Refugees

11.30 – 13.30
Chair: Dalia Abdelhady, Lund University

Everydayness of Precarity: Negotiations of Survival among Queer Refugees from Iran in Turkey

Eda Hatice Farsakoglu, Lund University

Drawing on an ethnographic fieldwork, this paper examines everyday negotiations of survival among queer refugees from Iran to and through Turkey. The Turkish authorities still maintain the geographical limitation clause of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which implies that Turkey does not grant refugee status to refugee applicants coming from outside Europe. Instead, so-called non-European refugees are allowed to stay in the country conditionally, that is, until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has determined their legal status under the international refugee law and found a ‘durable’ solution. Within that period, they are granted temporary residence permits and obliged to live in pre-determined Anatolian cities as urban refugees but only with a very few accessible rights. In this paper, I apply a queerfeminist intersectional approach first to delineate how and in which ways precarious livelihoods mark everyday life of Iranian queer refugees in this particular spatio-temporal migratory context, and, second, to argue that not every Iranian queer refugee is situated similarly or affected the same way. For their day-to-day survival, some Iranian queer refugees asked for and could gain access to the Turkish informal market, while others are excluded by the market and/or exclude the option of labouring in precarious Turkey. The former group experienced work in Turkey both in terms of emancipation and exploitation at the intersection of multiple relations of power and inequality that include but not restricted to sexuality and race, while the latter group experienced everyday survival in Turkey as a matter of negotiating with new and old forms of dependencies in their relations with family, friends, lovers, non-governmental organizations, and the state. Ultimately, the complex intersections of their precarious immigration status, sexuality, race/ethnicity, gender, and pre-migration class background with the larger cross-cutting logics of Turkish regime (heteropatriarchy, racism and neo-liberal capitalism) affected and inflected everyday negotiations of survival among Iranian queer refugees.

Reconfiguration of Palestinians’ Identities in Sweden: Mobilisation in Diaspora to Survive

Fanny Christou, Lund University

Based on the case study of Palestinians in Sweden, who come from different Middle-Eastern countries and contexts, my paper highlights the ways a diasporic group integrate into a mainstream receiving society to ensure their daily survival in a new setting, mobilise across transnational networks to maintain a collective identity, and sustains a vision of the homeland that ensures the survival of the diaspora itself.  Indeed, negotiating integration across time and space, Palestinians develop transnational solidarity networks that reconfigure their mobilisation in diaspora for socio-political survival. This paper explores the Swedish conditions of migrants’ integration under which particular modes of diasporic mobilisation emerge. Indeed, the different transnational activities of the Palestinians demonstrate the extent to which members of this stateless diaspora engage in the Swedish society in order to overcome obstacles in accessing this new host country.  This paper challenges the utility of Bourdieu’s notions of habitus in examining the experience of the Palestinian migration to interrogate the concept of mobilisation as a way to survive. In fact, the Palestinians share the same sense of belonging to Palestine, but their individual socio-political identities, migration trajectories, backgrounds and capitals contribute to a reconfiguration of the mobilisation in diaspora. The development of translocal connections can be usefully considered using Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus as a heuristic framework for integrating the various dimensions of migrants’ mobilisation. The involvement in the Swedish society of the Palestinian communities connotes a desire to maintain, at distance, a link with the homeland(s). But the reconfiguration of the mobilisation in diaspora is also a way to leave an imprint on the fabric of the Swedish society. To sum up, since 1948, the Palestinian migration across space implies the reconfiguration of collective and individual habitus of survival through the development of a mobilisation in diaspora for socio-political survival, based on transnational processes. A field research in the city of Malmö reflects the role of this Palestinian community in the host country, changing landscape and mixing identities, challenging their habitus and their integration.

The Role of Social Capital in Understanding Refugees’ Incorporation and Adaptability into Host Countries

Dalia Abdelhady, Lund University

Based on a qualitative study, our paper examines narratives of displacement and survival among Syrian refugees in Sweden and Denmark. Initially Sweden received most of the Syrian refugees in 2014 in Europe. It was the first European country to give immediate permanent residence to all Syrian war refugees in 2013. Therefore, many Syrians took the route over the Öresund bridge between Denmark to Sweden. With the implementation of border controls in January 2016, many refugees found themselves forced to stay in Denmark. Our analysis increases the understanding of refugees’ trajectories, everyday life and dynamics of interaction with their host societies. By comparing two different European contexts, we investigate survival strategies through Granovetter’s (1973) sociological work on “The Strength of Weak Ties” in understanding Syrian refugees’ agency and rebuilding meaningful lives in new settings. In his study, Granovetter found that acquaintances (weak ties) rather than close friends (strong ties) are a better source for accessing socioeconomic goods, jobs in particular. When applied to a refugee population, previous research shows that refugees utilise host governments’ services to expand their networks which assist them in gaining knowledge about labour markets. With regards to Syrian refugees in Sweden and Denmark, we focus on these specific questions: How do Syrian refugees benefit from the weak ties they are building in new countries? And, what role do government agencies play in providing such ties and facilitating the adaptability of Syrian refugees? The different socio-cultural contexts in Sweden and Denmark provide different structures for potential networks. How do these different structures impact Syrian refugees’ overall experiences in both countries? And, how do individual characteristics interact with institutional and social mechanisms in adapting to their new situation? Our paper analyses how networks of social capital are shaped by different government policies and how individual outlooks of case officers lead to specific dynamics of interaction that affect the refugee’s views and understanding of their potentiality and career-lives. Ultimately, different encounters with government agencies shape their overall experience of arriving and surviving in a new country and determine whether they find a job in their field.

Secularism, Art, Activism and Social Networks of Syrians in Denmark and Sweden

Josepha Wessels, Lund University

In Sweden, the first Syrians who eventually asked asylum as a refugee, arrived in 2012. Sweden initially received most of the Syrian refugees and was the first country in Europe to give immediate permanent residence to refugees coming from Syria. International charity work to support Syrians started in this year but the larger wave of Syrians three years later, led to a sizeable popular solidarity movement, consolidated in the Swedish and Danish version of “Refugees Welcome” in September 2015. An ever-growing network of volunteers across Denmark and Sweden, responded to the influx of refugees. Many Syrians took the route over the Öresund bridge from Denmark to Sweden. Some of the Syrians who arrived since 2012 continued their society activism and formed social networks across the Öresund, building up resilience networks that operate between the Copenhagen and Malmö region. Syrians started to build relationships with Swedish and Danish civil society activists and have since joined in organising a variety of public events ranging from arts exhibitions, theatrical performances, civil society street demonstrations, developing platforms in the creative industries and organising informal events within a Syrian context. This paper maps out the challenges of these events and how these activities contributed to the resilience and coping strategies of Syrians to adjust to their new lives in the Öresund region. The paper is based on the researchers longterm involvement with Syria and Syrians in Sweden and Denmark and a pilot study carried out between 2016 and 2017 through the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Lund University, Sweden.