Current Institutional Affiliation
Post-doctoral Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor, Geography, George Washington University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of California / Los Angeles
Exile, Place, and Politics: Syria's Transnational Civil War

How does opposition adapt to exile during civil war? This question lies at the heart of the ongoing conflict in Syria, which began as a popular revolution in 2011 and has since evolved into a brutal war involving the authoritarian Asad regime and a shifting array of militias, states, civil society movements, and aid-organizations. This dissertation approaches the transnational politics of civil war by tracing ethnographically how networks of opposition adapt to exile in two places. It examines 1) the ties among various opposition factions (militant or otherwise); 2) the cross-border activities these relationships facilitate; and 3) the narratives and practices of legitimization that underpin them. Building on a combination of assemblage theory and geographer John Allen's theory of "topologies of power," this project works toward a more transnational conception of how "political order" emerges and adjusts in civil war. Five years of war and foreign intervention have transformed the political geography of Syria. In addition to the territorial fragmentation of the country and the disintegration of its border with Iraq, the Asad regime has made extensive use of barrel-bombs in rebel territory and in civilian areas especially. This deliberate tactic of urbicide (Coward 2007) has forced key opposition actors, institutions, and services into exile in neighboring countries where they can consolidate their activities. Chief among these are Turkey and Jordan. While this has enabled the Syrian opposition to survive, it has also forced it to adjust to a dramatically new political context and thus altered the larger rebel division of labor. Amman (in Jordan) and Gaziantep (in Turkey) in particular have emerged as key nodes or "exile-capitals" for Syrian opposition activity. Accordingly, this study explores how the challenges and opportunities of these contexts shape the ties, activities, and stories that the opposition develops in exile.