Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 April 2016
During the Iraqi refugee crisis of 2007–10, international humanitarian organizations appeared for the first time in the Syrian domestic arena. These aid providers interpreted the position of Iraqi refugees in Syria according to a liberal conception of state–citizen relations that did not accord with the Syrian government's actual approach to Iraqis. Guided by this liberal frame, humanitarian organizations introduced biopolitical programs into the Syrian domestic context. Through new forms of population management, they solicited forms of behavior from Iraqis that were different from those required by Syrian state authorities. Drawing on the concept of biopower and using ethnographic material drawn from long-term research in Damascus in 2009–10, this article sheds light on an important political development in Syria shortly before the outbreak of social unrest and on the social changes that international humanitarian aid may transport.
Author's note: I thank the Council for British Research in the Levant and the Central Research Fund of the University of London for supporting the research conducted for this article. I also thank Alex Veit for his comments on an earlier draft and Laleh Khalili for her continuing guidance and intellectual and moral support. Further, I am grateful for the thoughtful commentary provided by three anonymous IJMES reviewers.
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