Our Book of the Month choice for June

The SSL ‘Book of the Month’ feature highlights a book in our collection that has been chosen by one of our Subject Consultants. This may be a recent addition to our stock or an existing item that we would like to share with you.


Syria: the making and unmaking of a refuge state

Dawn Chatty

Oxford University Press, 2018


HV640.5.S97. CHA 2018





The Book of the Month for June has been selected by Sarah Rhodes, Subject Consultant for International Development, Forced Migration, African and Commonwealth Studies.

It was chosen to tie in with Refugee Week (18-24 June).

Book Overview

The dispossession and forced migration of nearly 50 per cent of Syria’s population has produced the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. This new book places the current displacement within the context of the widespread migrations that have indelibly marked the region throughout the last 150 years. Syria itself has harboured millions from its neighbouring lands, and Syrian society has been shaped by these diasporas. Dawn Chatty explores how modern Syria came to be a refuge state, focusing first on the major forced migrations into Syria of Circassians, Armenians, Kurds, Palestinians, and Iraqis. Drawing heavily on individual narratives and stories of integration, adaptation, and compromise, she shows that a local cosmopolitanism came to be seen as intrinsic to Syrian society. She examines the current outflow of people from Syria to neighbouring states as individuals and families seek survival with dignity, arguing that though the future remains uncertain, the resilience and strength of Syrian society both displaced internally within Syria and externally across borders bodes well for successful return and reintegration. If there is any hope to be found in the Syrian civil war, it is in this history.


‘A very timely and insightful book. Tracing the arc of migration to and from Syria in the last 150 years. Dawn Chatty offers a layered portrait of a modern nation whose cultural hybridity was until recently the source of its openness.’   

Nasser Rabat, Aga Khan Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

‘Passionate and erudite, combining the intimacy of the anthropological eye with a broad historical sweep, Dawn Chatty tells the two-century story of Syria as a place of refuge. Beginning with Sultan Abdul Hamid’s creation of the muhajireen quarter of Damascus as a refuge for Muslims from Crete, Chatty further exposes the often-forgotten forced migrations of Muslims from the Balkans, Crimea, and the Caucasus; the story continues with the Armenians, Kurds, then the Palestinians and Iraqis. The last chapter recounts the tragedy of how Syrians have now become refugees from their own country.’ 

Raymond Hinnebusch, Professor, School of International Relations, University of St Andrews

‘Today half of the Syrian population is internally displaced or have fled, or left, for mainly neighbouring countries but also further afield. In this crisis we risk disregarding the rich humanitarian history of the country. Dawn Chatty’s timely book is devoted to that history when Bilad ash-Sham in the late Ottoman period, and Syria since World War I, received and welcomed refugees and uprooted people from within, as well as from without, the region. Based on long-term anthropological engagement in the region and with the people she writes about, this book is a very important contribution to regional ethnography and history and to the development of refugee studies.’ 

Annika Rabo, Professor of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Where can I find it?

We have one loanable copy which is available to borrow from our open shelves. We also have one copy which is for library use only. This second copy is currently on display on top of our New Books Display Area (located around the corner from our Library Issue Desk). You are welcome to remove it from the display and take a look at it. The shelfmark for the title is HV640.5.S97. CHA 2018


What would your SSL Book of the Month be? Do you have a favourite book in our collection? If so, we would love to know what it is. Add a comment below or email us.

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