Middle-Aged Syrian Women’s Contributions to Family Livelihoods
during Protracted Displacement in Jordan
Dina Sidhva, Ann-Christin Zuntz, Ruba al Akash, Ayat Nashwan, and Areej Al-Majali
This article explores the intersections of generational and gender dynamics with
humanitarian governance in Jordan that cause shifts in the division of labour
within displaced families. Drawing on life history interviews and focus group
discussions with seventeen Syrian women in Jordan in spring 2019, we explore the
monetary and non-monetary contributions of middle-aged females to the
livelihoods of refugee households. Older women’s paid and unpaid labour
holds together dispersed families whose fathers have been killed or
incapacitated, or remain in Syria or in the Gulf. In doing so, many women draw
on their pre-war experience of living with – or rather apart from
– migrant husbands. Increased economic and social responsibilities
coincide with a phase in our interviewees’ lifecycle in which they
traditionally acquire greater authority as elders, especially as mothers-in-law.
While power inequalities between older and younger Syrian women are not new,
they have been exacerbated by the loss of resources in displacement. Our
insights offer a counterpoint to humanitarian attempts at increasing
refugees’ ‘self-reliance’ through small-scale
entrepreneurship. For now, culturally appropriate and practically feasible jobs
for middle-aged women are found in their living rooms. Supportive humanitarian
action should allow them to upscale their businesses and address power dynamics
Over the past 25 years, the humanitarian sector has become increasingly dominated
by numbers. This has been reflected in the growth of academic work that explores
this relationship between humanitarianism and quantification. The most recent
contribution to this literature is Joël Glasman’s
Humanitarianism and the Quantification of Humanitarian
Needs. Through his empirical and theoretical contributions, Glasman
draws our attention to the different ways that academics approach this topic.
These four strands structure the literature review: knowledge – the
technical difficulties in quantifying phenomena; governance – how numbers
help humanitarian organisations manage the sector; effects – the impact
that quantification has had on the sector as a whole; meaning – the
importance of rhetoric, discourse, representation and communication when it
comes to understanding the quantitative. As part of the review, the essay also
identifies how academics can better engage with each of the four strands.
Evidence-based advocacy is all the rage in humanitarian action. It is premised on
rational thinking, which posits that factual evidence can limit subjective bias
in humanitarians’ call for change. Data has come to be a cornerstone of
this turn towards reason, aggregating human stories in numbers and percentages,
which when reaching an elusive threshold is expected to persuade decision-makers
to act. This article claims that the prominence of data and facts comes at the
cost of understanding people’s concerns and aspirations, and reveals an
increasingly emotions-scarce and morally depleted humanitarian enterprise.
Examining Médecins Sans Frontières concept of
témoignage, the article argues that the pull between
reason and emotion crystallises a more profound tension between the need for a
professional and technical humanitarianism as opposed to a political and morally
charged one. It concludes that the prism of solidarity can help reinvigorate
humanitarian advocacy helping reconcile reason with emotion, combining practices
of advocacy with those of activism, in turn creating the foundations of a more
The Tomašica mass grave and the trial of Ratko Mladić
This article focuses on the judicial consideration of the scientific analysis of the Tomašica mass grave, in the Prijedor municipality of Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Often referred to as the largest mass grave in Europe since the Second World War, this grave was fully discovered in September 2013 and the scientific evidence gathered was included in the prosecution of Ratko Mladić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Based on the exhaustive analysis of all the publicly available trial transcripts, this article presents how the Tomašica evidence proved symptomatic of the way in which forensic sciences and international criminal justice intertwine and of the impact of the former over the latter on the admissibility of evidence, the conduct of proceedings and the qualification of the crimes perpetrated.
The display of human remains is a controversial issue in many contemporary societies, with many museums globally removing them from display. However, their place in genocide memorials is also contested. Objections towards the display of remains are based strongly in the social sciences and humanities, predicated on assumptions made regarding the relationship between respect, identification and personhood. As remains are displayed scientifically and anonymously, it is often argued that the personhood of the remains is denied, thereby rendering the person ‘within’ the remains invisible. In this article I argue that the link between identification and personhood is, in some contexts, tenuous at best. Further, in the context of Cambodia, I suggest that such analyses ignore the ways that local communities and Cambodians choose to interact with human remains in their memorials. In such contexts, the display of the remains is central to restoring their personhood and dignity.
Sacralisation and militarisation in the remembrance of the ‘cursed soldiers’
Marije Hristova and Monika Żychlińska
Between 2012 and 2017, at the Ł-section of Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery, or ‘Łączka’, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance exhumed a mass grave containing the remains of post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. Being referred to as the ‘cursed soldiers’, these fighters have become key figures in post-2015 Polish memory politics. In this article we focus on the role of the volunteers at these exhumations in the production of the ‘cursed soldiers’ memory. Following the idea of community archaeology as a civil society-building practice, the observed processes of sacralisation and militarisation show how the exhumations create a community of memory that promotes the core values of the currently governing national-conservative PiS party. We found that tropes related to forensic research and typically identified with cosmopolitan memory paradigms are used within a generally nationalist and antagonistic memory framework.
Debates on the relevance of repatriation of indigenous human remains are water under the bridge today. Yet, a genuine will for dialogue to work through colonial violence is found lacking in the European public sphere. Looking at local remembrance of the Majimaji War (1905–7) in the south of Tanzania and a German–Tanzanian theatre production, it seems that the spectre of colonial headhunting stands at the heart of claims for repatriation and acknowledgement of this anti-colonial movement. The missing head of Ngoni leader Songea Mbano haunts the future of German–Tanzanian relations in heritage and culture. By staging the act of post-mortem dismemberment and foregrounding the perspective of descendants, the theatre production Maji Maji Flava offers an honest proposal for dealing with stories of sheer colonial violence in transnational memory.