Refugees, Migration and the Tightening Borders in the Middle East. A Perspective From Biographical Research on the Re‐Figuration of Spaces and Cross‐Cultural Comparison

  • Johannes Becker Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Keywords: figurational sociology, biographical research, sociology of space, re-figuration of spaces, cross-cultural comparison, family memory, migration, translocality, Syria, Jordan


With its diachronic focus on socio-historical processes and life and family histories, sociological biographical research can analyse the emergence of new spatial figurations. It does so from the perspective of the experiences of individuals in their changing belonging to different groupings at different times. In this article, I investigate changing (meanings of) spaces in the Bilad ash-Sham region (roughly today's Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and parts of Jordan and Syria). I discuss how the process of the formation of nation-state borders and citizenship in the twentieth century transformed translocal relations into transnational networks, combined spatial diffusion with (forced) emplacement in nation-states, and initiated accelerating national closure processes. At the family level, the growing relevance of citizenship and borders in the region came about with knowledge of, and family dialogue about, border crossing, and the increasing spatial diffusion of the family, as well as intrafamilial discussions on the "value" of different nation-states. These processes affected all families in the Bilad ash-Sham region to a varying extent. They constitute a type of figuration of space that influenced the gradual formation of societies within the framework of nation-states defined by colonial rulers. As an example, I will discuss the regional family history of a Syrian refugee in Amman, Jordan.


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Author Biography

Johannes Becker, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Dr. Johannes BECKER is a research fellow at the Center of Methods in Social Sciences, University of Göttingen, and coordinator of the research project "Dynamic Figurations of Refugees, Migrants, and Long-Time Residents in Jordan Since 1946", sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

The Refiguration of Spaces and Cross-Cultural Comparison I