Imagining life otherwise: Aspirations towards a second chance among young Syrian adults in Amman
Emilie Lund Mortensen (Aarhus University)
Paper short abstract:
With a point of departure in experiences of being incapable of moving towards becoming the men they aspired for before the war among Syrian youth in Jordan, I argue for an understanding of becoming in exile as a process of moral re-orientation, formative of aspirations and lives in radical ways.
Paper long abstract:
Through an ethnographic exploration of life stories and examples of struggles to live well among young upper middleclass Syrian men in exile in Jordan, in this paper I draw attention to the generative potential of displacement as a site of moral transformations (Mattingly 2014, see also Greenhouse 2002; Nordstrom 1997; Vigh 2006, 2008) formative of aspirations and perceptions of ways of living well. Being displaced from their families, social networks and life trajectories in Syria, in Amman the young men suffer from the experience of radical discrepancy between ways of being in Syria and in exile the Jordanian capital. Following Parish (2008), I suggest that these experiences of suffering result from the loss of selves that are no longer possible because of shifts in their existential beings. However, in Amman the young men respond to the situation by of developing their abilities to catch and cultivate "chances", locally understood as openings towards the future, and promises of something better. Hence, everyday work of catching chances is inherently practices of initiation and transformation of aspirations. Based on these observations, I argue for an understanding of becoming in exile as an ongoing process of moral re-orientation, that is learning to see new goods under radically changed circumstances (Murdoch 1970; Mattingly 2014). In a social and political environment largely characterized by unpredictability, I show how aspirations are taking multiple and fluctuating shapes as creative responses to suffering and experimentation with multiple ways of living well simultaneously.
Virtuous (im)mobilities: the good life and its discrepancies