Veronica Ferreri – Representations of the Past

Paper Trails and Dislocated Bureaucracies

Dr. Veronica Ferreri

“a passport is more important than the man who carries it. The man is
a kind of mechanical device for carrying the passport from
country to country.”

Bertolt Brecht, Conversations in Exile


This project aims to examine Syrian official documents and the work of the Syrian bureaucracy to excavate past experiences of citizenship in Syria. In the context of migration and displacement, the significance of official documents becomes prominently visible as they concretely allow people to have a legally-valuable (and recognised) life. Nevertheless, understanding this prominence also requires a critical engagement with the life and journey of these papers across time and borders. Thus, the research intends to look at the historiticy of bureaucratic and legal documents possessed by Syrians living in Berlin and Brandenburg to question the meanings attributed to these papers and the relationship between Syrian state and its citizens.

The project interrogates the ways through which documents are obtained, possessed, retrieved and, sometimes, lost by Syrians to grasp the life (and power) of these documents. What is the relationship between a paper and its holder? How is this relationship shaped by and, simoultaneosly, informs specific experiences of citizenship inside Syria? By answering these questions, the project also aims to unearth the complexities of the state/citizens´s relationships and the modalities through which Syrians navigate(-d) the delicate and arbitrary terrain of bureaucracy. In doing so, the project aims to reflect on the nature of the Syrian bureaucracy—and its archives—and how administrative apparatuses are imbricated with other modalities of state power such as laws, violence, disciplines, and iconography.

This research project is part of the joint project "Normality and Crisis: Memories of Everyday Life in Syria as a Chance for a New Start in Germany".

Results of the Research Project

The results from Veronica Ferreri's project regarding Syrians encounters with the Syrian and German bureaucracy are included in the online exhibition “Anfänge und Erinnerungen: Verbindungen und Begengnungen Zwischen Syrien und Deutschland“ as part of part of the joint project "Normality and Crisis: Memories of Everyday Life in Syria as a Chance for a New Start in Germany". Among them is also the film below.



Veronica Ferreri. Forthcoming. The Invisible Hard Work of Retrieving Papers: Syrians and the Paradoxes of Integration in Germany.

Veronica Ferreri argues that the lawful production of legality in Germany can only be achieved through legally ambiguous, if not so-called illegal, practices in Syria.

Veronica Ferreri. 2022. The wondrous life of legal documents. Transformations and continuities in the encounter of Syrian papers with German bureaucracy. ZMO Working Paper.

The article, as part of the research project, reflects in the limits of studying German asylum and integration from within.