Identity and Absence; the Problematic

Identity and Absence; the Problematic
Yara Al-Heswani/ Damascus/ Syria

“An immigrant is double absent: absent in the place from which he arrived, and absent in the place to which he arrived.” -Pierre Bourdieu¹.

Millions of people were forced to leave their homes in Syria, and a good few chose to immigrate to Europe dreaming of a better futur. Journeys differ and diverge, but unlike trees, our journeys are rooted in a concept of a homeland, a starting point to a road with countless toils and turns of new beginnings. How could those who lost their starting point continue in a completely different country? What will happen to their kids, the new generation? Where will their starting point be? What road will they take?

The identity rift is born out of the loss of identity signifiers post forced-immigration. The signs in exile are fragile, leaving memory intermittent. Forced exile is a turn in people’s lives where a movement back and forth between the two realities lived by the refugees is always occurring; they are living their present in a new country, while still connected to their loved ones and facing the reality of their origin country. The loss of identity hits all aspects of one’s new life; the personal, emotional and professional. The totality of these elements forms the double absence.

Refugees are those who had to flee their residences and found sanctuary in a new area, whether it’s in a foreign country, or internally displaced in their own country. More than half of those all over the world are now living in civil areas. The international community has been focused   on running camps and settlements in remote places, giving little attention to the issue of refugees in urban areas and to those internally displaced. More refugees are trying to stay alive in cities and suburbs, where they have clear opportunities for survival, money making, and building a better future.

The identity crisis in Syria started long before the war. Many young Syrians felt that it was necessary to leave a country that was limiting their talents and ambitions, but they also dreamt of coming back home to buy a house in Syria. The idea of leaving their roots behind was never acceptable, even for those who had stayed at the time. However, without these ties, one can only wonder: what will become of our unstable identity? Where will we go back? To our place of birth? To the place we were raised? Will we go back to our hometown? Or to our city? Which neighborhood will we go back to? To which life? Or perhaps to which death?

1- Pierre Bourdieu, in the preface to the book by Abdelmalek SAYAD: « La double absence. Des illusions de l’émigré aux souffrances de l’immigré », Seuil, 1999.

كيف يمكن لمن فقد نقطة انطلاقه، أن يبدأ من جديد في بلد مختلف تماما؟ وإذا لم يتمكنوا من العودة إلى منازلهم ماذا سيحدث لأطفالهم؟ للجيل القادم، وأين ستكون نقطة انطلاقه؟ أي طريق سيتخذ؟

“المهاجرُ غائبٌ بصورة مزدوجة: غائبٌ عن المكان الذي أتى منه وغائبٌ عن المكان الذي وصل إليه ” (بيير بورديو)1. قد يولد شرخ الهوية من فقدان العلامات الدالة بعد الهجرة الغير مختارة.العلامات الدالة في المنفى تكون هشّة في البداية، وتصير الذاكرة متقطعة. فالرحيل القسري منعطف في حياة الأشخاص، الحياة لم تعد نفسها، كما أن هناك حركة ذهاب وإياب فكرية دائمة بين الواقعين اللذين يعيشهما اللاجئون، فهم يعيشون حاضرهم في البلد الجديد ويستمرون بالتواصل مع أقربائهم ومتابعة أخبار بلدهم. فقدان العلامات الدالة يتجلى أيضا على الصعيد المهني، فهؤلاء الأشخاص كانت لديهم مهن في بلدهم. ويُشكل مجمل هذه العوامل مايسمى بالغياب المزدوج الذي يتحدث عنه بيير بورديو.    أزمة الهوية بدأت في سوريا قبل أن تبدأ الحرب، العديد من الشباب السوريين شعروا بضرورة مغادرة بلاد تقيد مواهبهم وطموحاتهم، ولكنهم كانوا يحلمون دوما بالعودة لشراء منزل في سوريا، ففكرة اجتثاثهم من الجذور لم تكن مقبولة أبدا حتى بالنسبة للذين لم يتمكنوا حينها من السفر، لكن بعد انسحاب الجذور لا يمكن للمرء إلا أن يتساءل: ما هو مآل هويتنا غير المستقرة؟ إلى أين سنعود؟ إلى مسقط الرأس أم إلى مكان الترعرع؟ هل سنعود إلى القرية الأم، أم إلى المدينة الأم؟ إلى أي حي سنعود، إلى أي حياة، أم إلى أي موت؟

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