Refugee Encounters at the Turkish-Syrian Border: Antakya at the Crossroads, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Refugee Encounters at the Turkish-Syrian Border

Antakya at the Crossroads, 1st Edition

By Şule Can


192 pages | 19 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138393400
pub: 2019-12-01
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The Turkish-Syrian borderlands host almost half of the Syrian refugees, with an estimated 1.5 million people arriving in the area following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. This book investigates the ongoing negotiations of ethnicity, religion and state at the border, as refugees struggle to settle and to navigate their encounters with the Turkish state and with different sectarian groups.

In particular, the book explores the situation in Antakya, the site of the ancient city of Antioch, the "cradle of civilizations", and now populated by diverse populations of Arab Alawites, Christians and Sunni-Turks. The book demonstrates that urban refugee encounters at the margins of the state reveal larger concerns that encompass state practices and regional politics. Overall, the book shows how and why displacement in the Middle East is intertwined with negotiations of identity, politics and state. Faced with an environment of everyday oppression, refugees negotiate their own urban space and "refugee" status, challenging, resisting and sometimes confirming sectarian boundaries.

This book’s detailed analysis will be of interest to anthropologists, geographers, sociologists, historians, and middle eastern studies scholars who are working on questions of displacement, cultural boundaries and the politics of Civil War in border regions.


"Border towns are often zones of transition in which foreigners challenge the authority of the country of arrival and also places in which state formation and local ethnic and religious identities are being negotiated. In this insightful book, the anthropologist Sule Can carefully explores how the multiplicity of ethnic and religious groups, brought to the Turkish border town of Antakya following the civil war in Syria, is being inserted into dominant discourses and practices." - Jan Rath, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

"This well-researched ethnography goes beyond the lexicon of ‘crisis’ to explore negotiations of identity among Syrian refugees living in an urban periphery along the Turkish-Syrian border. Its multifaceted and nuanced analysis makes an important contribution to border studies and advances our understanding of the long Syrian war." - Kristin V. Monroe, University of Kentucky, United States of America

"With its ethnographic focus on urban encounters between Syrian refugees, state actors, and Alawite citizens in Turkey’s border town Antakya, this book offers a fresh look into sectarianism, ethnoreligious boundaries, and displacement in the contemporary Middle East—and beyond. A must read for scholars of migration, borders, and refugee lives." - Secil Dagtas, University of Waterloo, Canada

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: War, Displacement and Encounters at the Border 2. Fragile Diversities: Antakya (Hatay) as a Border City 3. Refugee Encounters: Border Regime and Syrianness 4. Urban Encounters: Negotiating State, Identity and Labor 5. Encounters of the Political: Cultural Revival after 2011 6. Conclusion Index

About the Author

Sule Can is Instructor and Dissertation Writing Fellow at Binghampton University, USA, and Academic Chair and Executive Board Member for the Institute for the Middle Eastern Arab Peoples, Turkey

About the Series

Routledge Borderlands Studies

Routledge Borderlands Studies

Borderlands are spaces of transition between cultures, societies and states. Often, like in the case of the US and Mexico, they are understood as static territorial lines and buffer zones, subservient to the development of states and state territories. However, borderlands can also be fluid and ambiguous spaces, moulded by processes of economic and political integration or shifting geopolitical dividing lines. Moreover, borderlands cultures can be found far from borders, in cities, multicultural neighbourhoods and diasporic communities. They also exist as both future-oriented geographical imaginations and imaginaries with profound historical roots. Today, globalisation, integration and new transnational forms of communication change the complex interrelationships between state, society, space and borders. Consequently, borderlands become more and more places in their own right, reflecting broader supranational patterns of political, economic and social change.

With this series we encourage inter- and multidisciplinary investigation on borders and borderlands throughout the world. We engage with the political, social and historical richness of borderlands, reflecting their unique (geo)political and cultural significance in contexts of colonial rule, nation-building and integration. The Series will explore, among other things, shifting social and political relations and place-related identities that emerge in borderlands, as well as cross-border interaction and the historical memories of every-day life at borders. With this series, we will both contribute to the rich tradition of North American and European borderlands studies and provide a forum for new growing interest in research on borderlands in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

To submit proposals, please contact the series editors, or Routledge’s Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd (

Series Editors:

James W. Scott, Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland

Ilkka Liikanen, Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / World / Middle Eastern
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries