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Vol 2 No 3: December issue

When wounds travel

  • Omar Dewachi
May 4, 2015
December 9, 2015


This article explores trauma as a form of ‘social wound’, entrenched in the intersections of local histories and social experiences of violence and displacement. Building on ethnographic accounts of displacement of Iraqis in Lebanon in the wake of the US occupation of Iraq (2003–2011), I ask: what happens when wounds travel across different social worlds and local histories of violence? The account presented tells the story of Hussein, an Iraqi refugee who escaped Iraq during the height of sectarian violence (2006–2007) and claimed asylum status as a torture victim in Lebanon. For displaced people like Hussein, the experiences of violence and uprooting were amplified by the uncertainties of everyday life in Beirut. His case shows that the selective sorting of refugees around questions of vulnerability and victimhood weaves further tensions into the social fabric of displaced peoples and their host communities. In contexts of layered histories of war, violence, displacement, and humanitarian interventions, which characterize much of the Middle East, wounds constitute the interstitial tissue of the social; they are what brings people together and what sets them apart. An ethnography of such ‘travelling wounds’ might account for the complex ways that discourses of trauma and histories of violence unravel in everyday encounters.

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