Speaking Back to a World of Checkpoints: Oral History as a Decolonizing Tool in the Study of Palestinian Refugees from Syria in Lebanon


DOI: 10.12738/mejrs.2017.2.1.0110

Year: 2017 Vol: 2 Number: 1


This article questions the validity of conventional notions of borders as fixed territorial areas. Through oral history as a method and critique, I examine the narratives of eight persons who are Palestinian stateless refugees from Syrian who have escaped to neighboring Lebanon since 2011. Oral history has a methodological strength that allows access to narratives of past and present events, some of which link the mass eviction of people from Palestine in 1948 – known as Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe), to the currentday Syrian crisis, which is perceived by Palestinians from Syria as a new and ongoing Nakba (al Nakba al mustamirrah in Arabic). The narrators of this often experience border crossing as a pervasive part of their reality one that can be described as “social death,” a result of the limitations imposed by borders on the lives of stateless people. I argue that the accounts presented speak back to a world of borders whilst challenging the nation-state driven order of borders as fixed spaces. Through strategies of self-reflexivity, shared authority and maintaining relations, I open a discussion of how to use privilege, for example the privilege of possessing a European passport, and having the recourses to document experiences across geographical areas, as a way of speaking back to a world of checkpoints whilst advocating a process of research decolonization.

Palestinians of Syria, Statelessness, Borders, Oral history, Al-Nakba, Forced migration

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