Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, 2022
Serie: ZMO Working Papers 32
This paper presents the main outcomes of a joint research project conducted at ZMO Berlin between March 2018 and July 2021 with funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project analyzed how Syrians remembered their “normal lives” through daily interactions with each other, in neighbourhoods, institutions, or families, as well as routine encounters with the state through the interface of infrastructural provision and bureaucratic practices. Describing three distinct modalities of connection through which incomers of Syrian origin continue to engage with their distant homeland, the paper demonstrates that ‘crisis’ and ‘normality’ are not mutually exclusive states of reality, but can be experienced as overlapping states of being that may shape a given life alternately or simultaneously. Secondly, engaging with efforts to communicate the research findings to a wider public, this paper discusses the communicative “balancing acts” that arise when presenting and discussing the project findings with members of the public in Germany. It is suggested that social and political hierarchies inherent to “integration” contexts may complicate or hinder communication. Thus, opportunities to learn about life in Syria, but also Germany, from the perspective of new citizens, may be obscured and even lost. In conclusion, this paper argues for a perspective that does not essentialize (and generically flatten) people as “refugees” despite the distinct and specific legal and political regimes that shape their condition and set them apart from other categories of migrants. Rather, their experiences must be seen in the context of longer-term trajectories that encompass Syrian and German realities as intertwined and linked in many, often unexpected, ways.