My book Hybrid Political Order and the Politics of Uncertainty: Refugee Governance in Lebanon will be published by Routledge in July 2020

Lebanon has the highest per capita number of refugees worldwide. The country’s Syrian refugees have long faced a ‘no-policy-policy’ that prevented the establishment of official refugee camps and refused to give them formal refugee status. The subsequent stringent entry and residency regime has left over seventy percent of Syrian refugees without legal residency status. This situation of imposed informality and systematic unpredictability in some ways reproduces the position of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees. With reference to an increasingly illusory ‘right to return,’ these have faced seven decades of ‘permanent temporariness’ in what is often called a perpetual ‘state of exception.’

Drawing on extensive fieldwork, qualitative case-studies, and critical policy analysis, this book questions the dominant idea that the haphazardness, inconsistency, and fragmentation of refugee governance is only the result of 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 a 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.


Key contributions:

  • By exploring the ways in which Lebanon’s protracted Palestinian refugee presence informs the country’s current engagement with Syrian refugees, the book puts one of the world’s most urgent refugee crises in a historical context and harnesses existing knowledge and expertise to better understand a still unfolding crisis.
  • By developing the notion of a ‘politics of uncertainty,’ it offers an innovative and critical reading of the policy and politics of governing refugees and connects academic and practitioner debates on state fragility, refugee governance, and strategic ignorance and institutional ambiguity.
  • Drawing on ethnographic case-studies as well as in-depth expert interviews, the book uniquely bridges national policy-making dynamics and local governance realities and comprehensively connects de jure and de facto approaches to regional refugee governance.