MARWA BAKABAS, "No Space for Life – No Space for Death: Looking at the Refugee Slot and How the Physical Body of the Refugee Has Been Deprived of a Place in the World"



Today, when we hear about refugees, we usually think about people who migrated due to war or disaster. However, refugees are also being born and dying in haphazardly constructed spaces. Being born in a host or temporary country does not provide you any more rights or security than other refugees and dying doesn’t make your physical body any freer from the discrimination in a geographical space. “Refugee is a new kind of human being” and this includes the physical body. 

The world is an earthly state for human existence. The world is the inhabitance of earth of the human race. So, what are the rights of a human to be in this world as a refugee? An individual’s sense of belonging and existence of the world is an emotional and political symbol which shines light on the reality of living in refugee camps or informal settlements. This is an experience of being a citizen beyond the national level but the principle of physical existence and its limitations. The experience of being stateless defines the situated body. Whether it is crossing the sea, the land, officially recognized or not, there is no social space that can offer dignified acceptance. 

Through ethnographic research I build on the concept of the “space of death” and how it has been politically and socially constructed. I challenge the role of the physical space during the refugee experience by exploring how bodies, both alive and deceased, have become social sites in and of this world. The objective of this research is to texturize the value of life using examples and narratives through the experiences of refugee migration in both Greece and Lebanon. 



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Contributed date

February 5, 2020 - 12:20pm

Critical Commentary

Marwa Bakabas is a 1st Year PhD Student in Sociocultural Anthropology, Michigan State University. She received her MA in Anthropology from the American University of Beirut. Her research interests include public & applied anthropology, space of refuge, violence, memory, space of death, borders, identity politics, ageing population, and humanitarianism. Her current Research Project is titled “Violence, Forced Migration, Exile: Trauma in the Arab World and in Germany”