A Creative Ethnography of Syrian and Palestinian Refugee Children in Beirut

The LIVED Beirut Project, funded by a British Academy grant (SG152525), aims at better understanding Syrian and Palestinian refugee youths’ emotional lives, whilst also providing them with educational, vocational and transferrable skills through participatory and creative workshops and the production of an ethnographic documentary

Creative Workshop Ambitions: Exploring emotional ties to family, friends and places

LIVED will organise three sets of creative workshops with the same group of children (ages 8 to 16) at 6-month intervals from June 2016-May 2017. Through the use of photo-voice and video diaries, the workshops aim to facilitate self-expression and exploration, while creating a platform for these young people to share their stories and give voice to their experiences. These workshops also aim to foster creative, technical and transferrable skills, such as teamwork, communication skills and self-confidence.

The first phase of workshops was delivered in June 2016 in collaboration with our local aid partners in Beirut, and this primarily involved photo-voice workshops and creative mapping/artwork of the young people’s significant others. The first phase was successful both in developing partnerships and collaborations with the local refugee aid organisations which will act as our partners throughout this project, and in providing our youth participants the opportunity to share their stories of personal relationships and intimacies.

The second phase is currently planned for December 2016, and this will involve collaboration among the young people in the ongoing production of photo-voice and video diaries (in which the participants communicate their experiences of displacement) towards the creation of a visual story based on the mapping they did in Phase 1.

Phase 3 is then planned for May 2017, and will involve community-based photo-voice, as well as the facilitation of further creative workshops (see below), which the team is currently designing to enable a longer involvement with this group of young people.

As a result of these creative workshops, we will construct a mobile exhibition of the work produced with the aim of communicating and raising awareness of the everyday experiences and emotional lives of displaced youth, which is often lost in media portrayals and public discourse(s) surrounding refugees and displacement, with the broader intention to foster empathic connections and identification with experiences that remain distanced. More information about this mobile exhibition will be shared on this website at the end of 2017.

Documentary: Shedding a light on the youth's relationships in displacement

In parallel with these creative workshops, LIVED will also produce a short documentary on the young people’s lived experiences of displacement, revealing their stories, relationships and emotional attachments to people and places. The aim is to shed a light on the impact of displacement on their family relationships and friendships in a way that is meaningful and humanises the current 'refugee crisis'. As with 'Learning to Swim', this documentary will be used for educational purposes in classrooms and in other venues for public engagement.

Future Plans and Long-Term Involvement

LIVED is currently working on a grant proposal for a project that would extend our involvement with the same group of young people in Beirut through the facilitation of a diverse creative workshops. In addition to the photography and filmmaking workshops, we have discussed with our local partners the possibility of designing music (music, beats and hip hop) and arts (visual arts, mural and graffiti) workshops. As with our current project, these workshops have been designed to develop individual technical/vocational skills, as well as useful and transferable skills for the youth to engage with in non-formal education setting.