DS08 - Sociétés innovantes, intégrantes et adaptatives

SHAKK-Syria: Conflicts, Shifts, Uncertainty – SHAKK

Submission summary

Since the uprising and the war that followed, the knowledge produced on Syria came mostly from experts and journalists than from the academic field. If social scientists keep on publishing despite the impossibility to go to Syria, they are often prompted to provide studies framed for international or national decision makers. As a result, they have to handle a double challenge: to pursue their research according to their proper pace and approach as well as to invent new methods to invest the Syrian fieldwork. How to conducting research on a society scattered by war and under constant transformations ? How to figure out phenomenons of brutal dislocation of familiar spaces and social relationships ? How to chart extreme violence and trauma ? Analyzing the upheavals shaking Syria since 2011 raises epistemological, ethical and reflexive issues, as the commitment of the researcher has become unavoidable. The SHAKK's team is willing to tackle these different challenges according to a multidisciplinary and comparative perspective. It will associate the Center for Religious Social Sciences studies (Césor/EHESS), the French Institute in the Near East (Ifpo) and the audiovisual department of the French National Library (BNF). This team is composed of nine researchers – anthropologists, political scientists, historians and linguists- as well as a research engineer, Arabist, a specialist of digital humanities and a curator, specialist of audiovisual archives and will also associate exiled Syrian students. Indeed, the pooling of scientific and technical skills is essential to carry out the different aspects of our project.

Our first ambition is to come back to the origins of the revolt and to the various stages of its transformation into a military conflict, closely scrutinizing actors, trajectories, actions and narratives. Paying special attention to moments and places, we will examine political, religious, social, territorial and memorial reconfigurations proper to this context of uncertainty (Shakk in Arabic) and extreme violence. We will focus on relationships that are broken, suspended and renewed by the uprising and the subsequent war through the notions of displacement and indetermination. Displacement and indetermination of centers of power, of identities, of frontiers, of religion and politics as well of categories, methods and paradigms. We believe that these two notions are particularly relevant to grasp this in-between temporality made of ruptures, disorders and conflicts, proper to war. Our team also wishes to develop an in-depth reflection on methods of inquiry: we will conduct our researches outside Syria while seeking to narrow the geographical distance imposed by war. Fieldwork will be carried out in bordering countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan) and in Europe (France, Germany and Sweden). We will also proceed to online interviews with people inside Syria via Messenger, WhatsApp and Skype. Furthermore, and that's where lies the originality of our approach, we will investigate the digital space and more specifically, the huge amount of videos uploaded on YouTube by the different protagonists of the revolt and of the war. This vast digital territory will be considered as a site of inquiry for which we will elaborate specific tools for collect and analysis. In addition, these online videos will also be investigated from an archive perspective and the making of a vernacular memory of the events. Finally, we hope to contribute to the emergence a new generation of Syrian researchers who are exiled in Europe.

Project coordination

ANNA POUJEAU (Centre d'études en sciences sociales du religieux)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CESOR-UMR8216 Centre d'études en sciences sociales du religieux
BnF BnF - Département de l'Audiovisuel
IFPO Institut français du Proche-Orient

Help of the ANR 362,612 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2018 - 48 Months

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