Syria in the mirror: the politics of belonging to Syria from Syrian diasporas in Armenia and Australia
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 00:50 authored by Marisa Della Gatta
With the escalation of the conflict in Syria, since 2011, religious and ethnic groups have been increasingly politicised on the basis of identity. By studying Syrian immigrant communities in Armenia and Australia, this thesis explores Syrian diasporic transnationalism, testing how politicisation of identities in Syria permeate and condition what being Syrian means in exile. The focus is on the relationship between formulations of Syrian identity at the political level, before and after the outbreak of the conflict, and those of diasporic Syrian-ness. It is argued that Syria represents a case in which communal disunity is used to equate to political dissent, and where mobilisation around religious and/or ethnic identity is a result of social, political and economic disadvantage in periods of political crisis. The Syrian diasporas in the two countries chosen for the case studies, Armenia and Australia, give shape to a simplified reproduction of the politics of belonging at stake in the Syrian homeland. This thesis contributes new empirical knowledge about the political dimension of multi-layered Syrian identity. The analysis of Syrian diasporic political identity draws on interviews with Syrian-born representatives of Syrian immigrant associations, and 84 interview-based surveys with representatives, members, and independent Syrian respondents. What emerges from an integration of empirical results, theories and secondary sources is that with the sectarianisation of the conflict, the explicit use of ethno-religious identity in political debates has a social impact on diaspora. The nature of the influence is mixed: it has led both to divisions amongst Syrian To frame the complexity and ambiguity of Syrian identity re-constructions, this thesis adopts a post-structuralist constructivist approach, which does not see group attachments and national cohesion as intrinsically dichotomous. On the contrary, this study demonstrates the need to understand under what circumstances the sub-loyalties can provide a solid basis for national cohesion. The results can help evaluate the effects of national crises of identity away from the state-centred perspective that has dominated Syrian studies.