Date of Degree
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Mobility, Refugees, Temporality, Global South cities, Mediterranean, Middle East
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.
Schindler, Alexandra K., "Living in Permanent Transience: An Ethnography of Contemporary Alexandria" (2021). CUNY Academic Works.
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