Gendering Citizenship as Enacted: Women Refugees in Lebanon


As recent scholarly work has demonstrated, citizenship may not be perceived as confined within a nation-state, but as a notion that points at the rights that one claims as bare life, stripped of any dignity or rights. Among displaced Syrians in Lebanon, enactments of citizenship are acts that defy their predicament as tolerated but not accepted in the country.

When the humanitarian system fails to cater to refugee needs, the defiance that refugees may direct at this system is the only possible protest from subjects acting on the background of the lack of rights. Are enactments of citizenship practicing rights that you do not enjoy gender-specific practices? This question is pressing, given the claim of women’s vulnerability as refugees, and given women’s second-class citizenship in Syria and in Lebanon, as well as in the Arab region, or even beyond it.

Nevertheless, citizenship as enacted, or the act of claiming rights itself, has hitherto lacked a theoretical exploration of how gender is shaping the possibility and modality of enactments of citizenship. In this paper, I propose that certain strategies forged by Syrian refugee women who have settled in Lebanon in their interaction with local NGOs, allow the contours of enacted citizenship as a gendered practice to emerge. The aim is to demonstrate that the full variety of enactments of citizenship only comes into view when the gender of the enactor is given due analytical attention.

The discussion is divided into three parts; the interaction of Syrian refugees with the humanitarian sector in Lebanon; Syrian refugee women’s new position as breadwinners in Lebanon; and finally, the phenomena of Syrian refugee women’s acquirement of Lebanese marriage partners as a highly gendered enactment of citizenship. For displaced Syrian women, enacted citizenship does not represent a circumvention of their predicament; instead, these acts demonstrate how these women adapt and survive in a sexist and patriarchal society while existing in an insecure limbo.

Author: Dr. Connie Carøe Christiansen

Publication Date: 2019

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