Refugee writing, refugee history: Locating the refugee archive in the making of a history of the Syrian war

Paul Long, Dima Saber

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Stemming from Philip Marfleet’s (2007; 2013; 2016) work on the relations between history, memory and displacement, this chapter takes as its point of departure that many major episodes of mass displacement have ‘disappeared’ from official history – from accounts that constitute what the Indian historian Gyanendra Pandey (2001) calls ‘national memory’. The same time, with the rise of new information and communication technologies, and with the democratization of image production and dissemination, new amateur and citizen stories of displacement have emerged, thus challenging dominant mainstream narratives, and constituting new repositories of shared memory across both time and space.

Building on the authors’ mapping of citizen-generated footage from Daraa, the city where the Syrian uprising began in 2011, this chapter attempts to re-situate personal accounts, histories and experiences of refugees themselves as important records of individual and collective social memories. It looks at their alternative digital archives as ‘historical markers of disruptive events’ (Papadopoulos, 2014), thus assessing the effects of digital technologies for rethinking the ways in which our societies remember and commemorate.

Finally, this chapter also locates the Daraa archive as a putative archive of refugee origins in productive and provocative relation to institutional archives, such as the repository of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In so doing, it considers the ethical challenges connected to the political economy of the archive, and to practices of archive creation, preservation and dissemination; from issues of ownership and indeed use of the ‘refugee archive’, to broader concerns of representation of and by the represented themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRefugee Imaginaries Research Across the Humanities
EditorsEmma Cox, Sam Durrant, David Farrier, Lyndsey Stonebridge, Agnes Woolley
Place of PublicationEdingburgh UK
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781474443210, 9781474443227
ISBN (Print)9781474443197
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Migrants
  • Refugee and asylum seeker
  • Archives
  • Syrian war

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