Debts of Displacement: Syrian Refugee Farmworkers at the Lebanese-Syrian Border


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




The tiny state of Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. Yet, contrary to the dominant image of deracinated refugees in unfamiliar territory, significant numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are former labor migrants. Based on eighteen months of ethnographic research in the Lebanese-Syrian borderlands, this dissertation traces “debts of displacement” that have emerged from Syrian farmworkers’ loss of seasonal mobility during the Syrian war. This unique case of migrants-turned-refugees demonstrates that displacement encompasses more than the traumatic event of wartime uprooting. Displacement is, rather, an ongoing process embedded in debts across generations, bound by histories of agrarian labor, wealth distribution, and forms of interdependence on both sides of the border.