Paper Trails and Dislocated Bureaucracies
“a passport is more important than the man who carries it. The man is
just 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".