Until recently Syria was known as a state of openness for the many waves of forced migrants that came from the Balkans and other neighboring countries over the 19th and 20th century and took shelter in Syria. The mass influx of peoples into Syria over the last 150 years, including Circassians, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, Armenian, Assyrians, Albanians, Kosovars, Palestinians and Lebanese and Iraqis, created a modern nation of great cultural hybridity. In the past 10 years, however, Syrians have sought refuge and sanctuary all over the world, associating Syria with a state of refugees rather than a state of refuge. This lecture examines the history of Syria – Bilad-al-Sham – from the late Ottoman Empire until today’s war. Understanding Syria’s openness and the ways in which the country’s population has been displaced is highly relevant today more than ever.
Professor Dawn Chatty is a social anthropologist whose focus is on the Middle East, particularly in nomadic pastoral tribes and young refugees. She is both an academic anthropologist and a practitioner. Dawn Chatty has taught in universities in the United States, Lebanon, Syria and Oman, and has worked with various development agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, FAO and IFAD. Her research interests include forced migration and development issues such as conservation induced displacement, tribal resettlement, modern technology, gender and development. She is professor emerita at the University of Oxford’s Department of International Development.