Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Anthropology

Advisor

Gary Wilder

Committee Members

Mandana Limbert

Jonathan Shannon

Subject Categories

Social and Cultural Anthropology

Keywords

Mobility, Refugees, Temporality, Global South cities, Mediterranean, Middle East

Abstract

This dissertation is a study of two distinct groups — Syrian refugees fleeing war and heading for Europe and young Egyptian artists and intellectuals living in post-revolution Alexandria, Egypt. Based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork, including participant observation and semi-structured interviews, this project shows how the experience of living in permanent transience is a condition of both groups struggling to make Alexandria feel like home. The recent influx of Syrian refugees into Alexandria has had a significant impact on this Mediterranean coastal city, as it has become both the scene of emergent social and economic relations, and a crucial node of a larger network of (im)mobilities that encompasses it. A confluence of factors that include large-scale displacement and the promise of asylum inside Europe’s fast-closing borders – materializing amid Alexandria’s post-revolution development and revitalization projects, have produced a space of permanent transience.

This study includes an introduction to the changing urban geography of Alexandria, written as a “guide” to the city, and four chapters on Alexandria’s highly contested and divided local intellectual scene, the transitory way in which Syrians engage with their urban environment, a detailed account of two Syrian women who struggle for stability through marriage and travel, and an account of the downtown cultural scene in the post-revolution era. By studying the diverse sets of people that experience the city in a transitory way, both long term residents and recent migrants, I conclude that this yearning for stability while waiting in transit is not an experience that is exceptional to refugees or Alexandria, but rather the condition of a world where people increasingly live in states of permanent transience.

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