Birgitte Holst - Representations of the Past

After Authoritarianism: How political thinking travels with Syrians to Germany and Denmark

Dr. Birgitte Holst


Focusing on Syrian refugees in Germany and Denmark, the project investigates how memories of life under authoritarian rule in Syria impact subject-formation in new political and social contexts. It does so by exploring how Syrians draw parallels to Syria when they navigate in relation to legal frameworks and authorities in host states.

The project heuristically conceptualizes comparison, exemplification and framing as three key ways in which Syrians activate memories of Syria. In extension of this conceptualization, it examines how specific comparisons shine a new light on what is compared, how examples make it possible to think the general through the particular and how framing enables focus but also limits what comes into view.

The project builds on ethnographic fieldwork among Syrians in Germany and Denmark and aims to develop new knowledge of the processes through which refugees become specific kinds of political subjects in relation to their host communities.

The research is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.