Sectarianism and Identity Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan

13 February 2018 15:00 to 17:00

University of Sussex, Arts C, Room C333

The Jordanian government asserts that over one million Syrian refugees reside in the country, sharing with the populace many concerns about this large influx and settlement of “foreigners.” However, such anxieties are defined in terms of economic impact and security threats. The vital role played by vernacular politics, discourses of inclusion and exclusion, and sectarian histories for Syrian subjectivities are often considered unimportant when examining possibilities for integration or coexistence of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Based on ethnographic research and participation in women’s religion classes in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan in 2014, in this lecture, Sarah Tobin will argue that while sectarian outlooks and perspectives may not in and of themselves appear to divide the majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan from the majority of Jordanian residents, the sectarian orientations and localized histories of Syrian refugees have an understudied potential to create new forms of divisiveness in Jordanian society. To dismiss any concerns raised, Jordanians reinforce the idea that sectarian discourses, in an objectified sense, are not welcome in Jordan and that they are even—as a few asserted—“against Islam.” These differing national experiences with vernacular politics expressed in sectarian terms prompt Jordanians to reinforce the narrative that Jordan is free of such divisions and will continue to remain so.

Sarah Tobin’s work explores transformations in religious and economic life, identity construction, and personal piety. She also examines the intersections with gender, Islamic authority and normative Islam, public ethics, and Islamic authenticity. Ethnographically, her work has focused to a large degree on Islamic piety in the economy, especially Islamic Banking and Finance and in times of economic shifts, such as during Ramadan, in contested fields of consumption such as the hijab, and the Arab Spring. 

This lecture is hosted by CBRL in partnership wtih the department of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. 

This event is free to attend, no booking or registration required - please note that seating is unreserved. 

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