1st Edition

Hybrid Political Order and the Politics of Uncertainty Refugee Governance in Lebanon

By Nora Stel Copyright 2020
    264 Pages
    by Routledge

    264 Pages
    by Routledge

    Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees per capita worldwide and is central to European policies of outsourcing migration management. Hybrid Political Order and the Politics of Uncertainty is the first book to critically and comprehensively explore the parallels between the country’s engagement with the recent Syrian refugee influx and the more protracted Palestinian presence.

    Drawing on fieldwork, qualitative case-studies, and critical policy analysis, it questions the dominant idea that the haphazardness, inconsistency, and fragmentation of refugee governance are only the result of forced displacement or host state fragility and the related capacity problems. It demonstrates that the endemic ambiguity that determines refugee governance also results from a lack of political will to create coherent and comprehensive rules of engagement to address refugee ‘crises.’

    Building on emerging literatures in the fields of critical refugee studies, hybrid governance, and ignorance studies, it proposes an innovative conceptual framework to capture the spatial, temporal, and procedural dimensions of the uncertainty that refugees face and to tease out the strategic components of the reproduction and extension of such informality, liminality, and exceptionalism. In developing the notion of a ‘politics of uncertainty,’ ambiguity is explored as a component of a governmentality that enables the control, exploitation, and expulsion of refugees.

    Introduction Chapter of this book is available for free in PDF format as Open Access from the individual product page at www.routledge.com. It has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

    Introduction: Institutional Ambiguity and the Politics of Uncertainty: A New Perspective on Refugee Governance

    1. The Lebanese State: Twilight Institutions and the Making of Hybrid Order

    2. The Governance of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: No-Policy-Policy and Formal Informality

    3. Governing Syrian ‘Informal Tented Settlements’ in Lebanon: Co-opted Shawishes, Elusive Permissions, and the Specter of Eviction

    4. The Governance Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: Permanent Temporariness and the State of Exception

    5. Governing Lebanon’s Palestinian ‘Gatherings:’ Forsaken Settlements, Disowned Committees, and Looming Displacement

    6. Knowledge and Power Revisited: The Politics of Uncertainty as Maintaining, Feigning, and Imposing ‘Ignorance’

    Reflections and Contributions – Critically Studying Refugeeness, Governance, and Strategic Ambiguity in Lebanon and Beyond


    Dr. Nora Stel is Assistant Professor in Conflict Studies at the Center for International Conflict Analysis and Management of the Department of Political Science at Radboud University Nijmegen. She studies the politics of knowledge and in/formality in the governance of and by displaced people. 

    'Hybrid Political Order and the Politics of Uncertainty is the first comprehensive analysis of how institutional ambiguity shapes refugee governance. Nora Stel offers a nuanced reading of the proliferating modes of uncertainty that emerge both strategically and tactically at the intersection of local, national, and international governance in Lebanon. The book explores the other side of knowledge, its institutional production and its effects on subjectivity. It is a key text for those interested in what ignorance studies can offer to refugee studies.'

    – Claudia Aradau, Professor of International Politics at King’s College London

    'Stel’s book navigates the alleyways of uncertainty that mold the lives of Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Through case studies in a country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, the book tackles often misconstrued notions of ambiguity and informality in refugee policy and research. It distinctly shows how institutional ambiguity is deliberately used as an instrument to hold refugees in a state of exceptionalism and constant temporariness. The book is a remarkable addition to the field of critical refugee studies.'

    – Nasser Yassin, Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut

    'In this important book, Nora Stel provides a novel analysis of Lebanon’s multi-layered refugee governance that moves beyond simplistic notions of a "weak-state." Combining first-hand research among Palestinian and Syrian refugees with critical readings of extant scholarship and policy, her keen analysis not only details how ambiguity is strategically employed in all levels of the state bureaucracy, but the costs to those subject to it. The book thereby represents a highly original perspective on refugee governance in Lebanon and beyond.'

    – Are Knudsen, Senior Researcher at the Christian Michelsen Institute

    'Hybrid Political Order and the Politics of Uncertainty provocatively and persuasively demonstrates how informality, liminality, and exceptionalism in Lebanese refugee governance is everything but accidental. Those continuing to view the country’s institutional bedlam and injustices as "state failure" will have a hard time confronting Stel’s lucid analysis. Theoretically sophisticated and informed by deep knowledge of Lebanon’s intricate politics, the book flags the significance of intraelite collaboration in disciplining both refugees and citizens. This has profound implications for understanding the Lebanese state.'

    – Reinoud Leenders, Reader in International Relations and Middle East Studies at King’s College London

    'With this theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich book, Nora Stel makes a profound contribution to our understanding not only of refugee governance in Lebanon, but of institutional ambiguity and the politics of uncertainty. With eloquence and analytic intensity, Stel conceptualizes how marginalised spaces both make and are made by deliberate forms of ignorance, offering tremendous insights and inspiration to scholars working across multiple fields.'

    – Tom Slater, Reader in Urban Geography at the University of Edinburgh

    'Zooming in on Lebanon, this book has profound theoretical implications for our understanding of the causes of institutional ambiguity in the lives of refugees. Through her detailed desk review, ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, Stel points to the reasons why such institutional ambiguity emerges, whom it benefits and how it is navigated. The book thereby offers a much-needed perspective in today’s world of systematic denial of rights behind the veil of uncertainty as a general mode of governance of populations.'

    Katarzyna Grabska, Assistant Professor in Displacement Studies at the Institute of Social Studies