Skip to main content
×
Home

Narratives of Fear in Syria

Abstract

Scholarship on Syria has traditionally been limited by researchers' difficulty in accessing the reflections of ordinary citizens due to their reluctance to speak about politics. The 2011 revolt opened exciting opportunities by producing an outpouring of new forms of self-expression, as well as encouraging millions to tell their stories for the first time. I explore what we can learn from greater attention to such data, based on thick descriptive analysis of original interviews with 200 Syrian refugees. I find that individuals' narratives coalesce into a collective narrative emphasizing shifts in political fear. Before the uprising, fear was a pillar of the state's coercive authority. Popular demonstrations generated a new experience of fear as a personal barrier to be surmounted. As rebellion militarized into war, fear became a semi-normalized way of life. Finally, protracted violence has produced nebulous fears of an uncertain future. Study of these testimonials aids understanding of Syria and other cases of destabilized authoritarianism by elucidating lived experiences obscured during a repressive past, providing a fresh window into the construction and evolution of national identity, and demonstrating how the act of narration is an exercise in meaning making within a revolution and itself a revolutionary practice.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Narratives of Fear in Syria
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Narratives of Fear in Syria
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Narratives of Fear in Syria
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
References
Hide All
Abbas Hassan. 2011. “The Dynamics of the Uprising in Syria.” Arab Reform Brief 51, http://www.arab-reform.net/sites/default/files/ARB_51_Syria_Oct_2011_H-Abbas_En.pdf, accessed February 3, 2016.
Abdulhamid Ammar. 2011. “Syria Is Not Ready for an Uprising.” Guardian, February 7, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/syria-uprising-egypt-tunisia-days-of-rage, accessed February 3, 2016.
Abdullah Omar. 2014. “Why Some Syrians Are Against Strikes on ISIS.” Syria Deeply, October 10, http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2014/10/6222/syrians-strikes-isis/, accessed February 3, 2016.
Aboud Samer N. 2013. “Economic Transformation and Diffusion of Authoritarian Power in Syria.” In Democratic Transition in the Middle East: Unmaking Power, ed. Sadiki Larbi, Wimmen Heiko, and Al-Zubaidi Layla. London: Routledge.
Alhassen Maytha and Shihab-Eldin Ahmed. 2012. Demanding Dignity: Young Voices from the Front Lines of the Arab Revolutions. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press.
Al-Khatieb Mohammed. 2014 “Syria’s Second Revolt, Against Isis.” Syria Deeply, January 10, http://beta.syriadeeply.org/2014/01/syrias-revolt-al-qaida/#.Uwz6XCTQpBx, accessed February 1, 2016.
Al-Zubaidi Layla. 2012. “Syria’s Creative Resistance.” Jadaliyya, June 8, http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5920/syrias-creative-resistance, accessed February 10, 2016.
Al-Zubaidi Layla and Cassel Matthew, eds. 2013. Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution: Voices from Tunis to Damascus. New York: Penguin.
Amos Deborah. 2012. “Syrians Now Willing To Talk, but No Names, Please.” National Public Radio, June 24, http://www.npr.org/2012/06/24/155597491/syrians-now-willing-to-talk-but-no-names-please, accessed December 15, 2015.
Amnesty International. 2013. “Rule of Fear: ISIS Abuses in Detention in Northern Syria.” December 19, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/063/2013/en/32d380a3-cc47-4cb6-869f-2628ca44cb99/mde240632013en.pdf, accessed February 3, 2016.
Baba Hakam. 2005. Kitab fil Khouf: Shahid Ayan ala as-Sahaafa as-Suriyyah [Book on Fear: An Eyewitness to Syrian Journalism] . Damascus: Dar al-Kana‘an.
Batatu Hanna. 1999. Syria’s Peasantry, the Descendants of Its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Black Ian. 2014. “Syrian Regime Document Trove Shows Evidence of ‘Industrial Scale' Killing of Detainees.” Guardian, January 21, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/20/evidence-industrial-scale-killing-syria-war-crimes, accessed February 3, 2016.
Black Ian. 2015. “Satellites Capture How the Lights Have Gone Out in Syria.” Guardian, March 11, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/satellites-capture-how-the-lights-have-gone-out-in-syria, accessed February 3, 2016.
Boëx Cécile. 2011. “The End of the State Monopoly over Culture Toward the Commodification of Cultural and Artistic Production.” Middle East Critique 20(2): 139–55.
Charaf Inaam. 2014. “Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Syria Today.” Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression, http://www.ifla.org/publications/freedom-of-expression-and-access-to-information-in-syria-today, accessed February 10, 2016.
Cooke Miriam. 2007. Dissident Syria: Making Oppositional Arts Official. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Corradi Juan E., Fagen Patricia Weiss, and Garretón Manuel Antonio, eds. 1992. Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Della Ratta Donatella. 2012. “Dramas of the Authoritarian State.” Middle East Report Online, http://www.merip.org/mero/interventions/dramas-authoritarian-state, accessed February 3, 2016.
Droz-Vincent Philippe. 2014. “‘State of Barbary’ (Take Two): From the Arab Spring to the Return of Violence in Syria.” Middle East Journal 68(1): 3358.
Elias Chad and Omareen Zaher. 2014. “Syria’s Imperfect Cinema.” In Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, ed. Halasa Malu, Omareen Zaher, and Mahfoud Nawara. London: Saqi.
Furedi Frank. 2005. Politics of Fear. London: Continuum International Publishing.
George Alan. 2003. Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom. London: Zed.
Goode J. Paul. 2010. “Redefining Russia: Hybrid Regimes, Fieldwork, and Russian Politics.” Perspectives on Politics 8(4): 1055–75.
Goodwin Jeff, Jasper James M., and Polletta Francesca, eds. 2001. Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Gould Deborah B. 2009. Moving Politics: Emotion and Act Up’s Fight against AIDS. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Green Linda. 1999. Fear as a Way of Life: Mayan Widows in Rural Guatemala. New York: Columbia University Press.
Haddad Bassam. 2012. Business Networks in Syria: The Political Economy of Authoritarianism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Halasa Malu, ed. 2012. Culture in Defiance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria. Amsterdam: Prince Claus Fund Gallery, http://princeclausfund.org/en/activities/culture-in-defiance.html, accessed February 3, 2016.
Halasa Malu, Omareen Zaher, and Mahfoud Nawara, eds. 2014. Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. London: Saqi.
Hanano Amal. 2011a. “To Die For.” Jadaliyya, July 18, http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/2161/to-die-for, accessed February 3, 2016.
Hanano Amal. 2011b. “The Opposite of Silence.” Jadaliyya, August 22, http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/2451/the-opposite-of-silence, accessed February 3, 2016.
Hassan Hassan. 2014. “Breaking Syria’s Reign of Terror.” Foreign Policy, January 4, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/01/09/breaking_the_reign_of_terror_syria_al_qaeda, accessed December 10, 2015.
Hersh Joshua. 2013. “The Dilemma of Syria’s Alawites.” New Yorker. October 18, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-dilemma-of-syrias-alawites, accessed February 3, 2016.
Heydemann Steven. 1999. Authoritarianism in Syria: Institutions and Social Conflict, 1946–1970. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Heydemann Steven and Leenders Reinoud. 2014. “Authoritarian Learning and Counterrevolution.” In The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East, ed. Lynch Marc. New York: Columbia University Press.
Hinnebusch Raymond A. 1989. Peasant and Bureaucracy in Ba‘thist Syria: The Political Economy of Rural Development. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Hinnebusch Raymond A. 1990. Authoritarian Power and State Formation in Ba’athist Syria: Army, Party, and Peasant. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Hinnebusch Raymond A. 2012 “Syria: From ‘Authoritarian Upgrading’ to Revolution?” International Affairs 88(1): 95113.
Hinnebusch Raymond and Zintl Tina, eds. 2014. Syria from Reform to Revolt, Vol. 1: Political Economy and International Relations. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Hokayem Emile. 2012. “Syria and Its Neighbours.” Survival 54(2): 714.
Hokayem Emile. 2013 Syria’s Uprising and the Fracturing of the Levant. London: Institute for Strategic Studies.
Human Rights Watch. 2012. World Report 2012. New York: HRW.
Huysmans Jef. 2006. The Politics of Insecurity: Fear, Migration, and Asylum in the EU. London: Routledge.
International Crisis Group. 2011. “Popular Protests in North Africa and the Middle East VI: The Syrian People’s Slow Motion Revolution.” Middle East/North Africa Report 108. Brussels: ICG.
International Crisis Group. 2012a. “Syria’s Mutating Conflict.” Middle East/North Africa Report 128. Brussels: ICG.**
International Crisis Group. 2012b. “Tentative Jihad: Syria’s Fundamentalist Opposition.” Middle East/North Africa Report 131. Brussels: ICG.
International Crisis Group. 2013. “Too Close For Comfort: Syrians in Lebanon,” Middle East Report 141. Brussels: ICG.
Ismail Salwa. 2011. “The Syrian Uprising: Imagining and Performing the Nation.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism (11): 538–49.
Jasper James M. 1997. The Art of Moral Protest: Culture, Biography and Creativity in Social Movements. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Jones Seth G. 2013. “Syria's Growing Jihad.” Survival 55(4): 5372.
Joubin Rebecca. 2013. The Politics of Love: Sexuality, Gender, and Marriage in Syrian Television Ddrama. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Kemper Theodore D. 1978. A Social Interactional Theory of Emotions. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Khaddour Khader and Mazur Kevin. 2013. “The Struggle for Syria’s Regions.” Middle East Report 269, http://www.merip.org/mer/mer269/struggle-syrias-regions, accessed February 3, 2016.
Koonings Kees and Kruijt Dirk, eds. 1999. Societies of Fear: The Legacy of Civil War, Violence, and Terror in Latin America. London: Zed Books.
Kuran Timur. 1991. “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989.” World Politics 44: 748.
Kurzman Charles. 2004. “Can Understanding Undermine Explanation? The Confused Experience of Revolution.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 34: 328–51.
Lawson Fred H., ed. 2009. Demystifying Syria. London: Saqi.
Leenders Reinoud. 2012. “Collective Action and Mobilization in Dar‘a: An Anatomy of the Onset of Syria’s Popular Uprising.” Mobilization 17(4): 419–34.
Leenders Reinoud. 2013a. “Social Movement Theory and the Onset of the Popular Uprising in Syria.” Arab Studies Quarterly 35(3): 273–89.
Leenders Reinoud. 2013b. “‘Oh Buthaina, Oh Sha‘ban—the Hawrani Is Not Hungry, We Want Freedom!’ Revolutionary Framing and Mobilization at the Onset of the Syrian Uprising.” In Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa, ed. Beinin Joel and Vairel Frederic. 2d ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Leenders Reinoud. 2013c. “How the Syrian Regime Outsmarted Its Enemies.” Current History 112(758): 331–37.
Leenders Reinoud and Heydemann Steven. 2012. “Popular Mobilization in Syria: Opportunity and Threat, and the Social Networks of Early Risers.” Mediterranean Politics 17(2): 139–59.
Lesch David. 2005. The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Malkii Liisa H. 2009. “Speechless Emissaries.” In Cultures of Fear: A Critical Reader, ed. Linke Uli and Smith Danielle Taana. New York: Pluto Press.
Massumi Brian, ed. 1993. The Politics of Everyday Fear. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Middle East Watch 1991. Syria Unmasked: The Suppression of Human Rights by the Assad Regime. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Monroe Kristen Renwick. 1996. The Heart of Altruism: Perceptions of a Common Humanity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Monroe Kristen Renwick. 2004. The Hand of Compassion: Portraits of Moral Choice during the Holocaust. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Monroe Kristen Renwick. 2012. Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide: Identity and Moral Choice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
National. 2011. “Damascus Faces a New Spring of Challenges,” March 23, http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/editorial/damascus-faces-a-new-spring-of-challenges, accessed February 3, 2016.
New York Times . 2011. “Fearing Change, Many Christians in Syria Back Assad.” September 27, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/world/middleeast/fearing-change-syria-christians-back-bashar-al-assad.html?pagewanted=all, accessed January 8, 2016.
Oweis Khaled Yacoub. 2011. “Fear barrier crumbles in Syrian ‘kingdom of silence.’” Reuters, March 22, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/22/us-syria-fear-idUSTRE72L3ME20110322, accessed February 10, 2016.
Özden Şenay. 2013. “Syrian Refugees in Turkey.” Migration Policy Centre Research Report 2013/05 . Florence, Italy: European University Institute
Pearlman Wendy. 2013. “Emotions and the Microfoundations of the Arab Uprisings.” Perspectives on Politics 11(2): 387409.
Perthes Volker. 1995. The Political Economy of Syria under Asad. London: I.B. Tauris.
Perthes Volker. 2004. Syria under Bashar Al-Asad: Modernisation and the Limits of Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
POMEPS. 2013. The Political Science of Syria’s War, December 18, http://pomeps.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/POMEPS_Studies5_PoliSciSyria.pdf, accessed December 10, 2015.
Robin Corey. 2004. Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Salamandra Christa. 2011. “Spotlight on the Bashār al-Asad Era: The Television Drama Outpouring.” Middle East Critique 20(2): 157–67.
Salti Rasha, ed. 2006. Insights into Syrian Cinema: Essays and Conversations with Contemporary Filmmakers. Brooklyn, NY: ArteEast.
Shklar Judith. 1989. “The Liberalism of Fear.” In Liberalism and the Moral Life, ed. Rosenblum Nancy L.. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Silverstein Shayna. 2012. “Syria’s Radical Dabke.” Middle East Report 263: 3337.
Slackman Michael. 2011. “Syrian Troops Fire on Protesters in Several Cities.” New York Times, March 25.
Slate. 2012. “Inside the Syrian Revolution: Whether It Is This Year or Not, Bashar Assad’s Regime Is Already Finished.” June 13, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2012/06/bashar_assad_s_regime_is_coming_undone_as_the_syrian_people_rise_up_.html, accessed February 12, 2016.
Somers Margaret R. and Gibson Gloria D.. 1994. “Reclaiming the Epistemological ‘Other’: Narrative and the Social Constitution of Identity.” In Social Theory and the Politics of Identity, ed. Calhoun Craig. Oxford: Blackwell.
Starr Stephen. 2012. Revolt in Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising. New York: Columbia University Press.
Syria Untold. 2013. “Syrian Activists, between the Struggle against the Regime and the Struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” October 10, http://syriauntold.com/en/story/2013/10/10/5512, accessed February 3, 2016.
Syrian Centre for Policy Research (with UN Development Program and the UN Relief and Works Agency). 2015. Syria—Alienation and Violence: Impact of Syria Crisis Report 2014, http://www.unrwa.org/resources/reports/alienation-and-violence-impact-syria-crisis-2014, accessed February 3, 2016.
Torres-Rivas Edelberto. 1999. “Epilogue: Notes on Terror, Violence, Fear and Democracy.” In Societies of Fear: The Legacy of Civil War, Violence, and Terror in Latin America, ed. Koonings Kees and Krujit Dirk. London: Zed Books.
United Nations. 2011. The Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11654&LangID=E, accessed February 3, 2016.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2013. Regional Analysis Syria, June 26, http://www.acaps.org/img/documents/r-regional-analysis-for-syria–-part-ii-host-countries-june-2013.pdf, accessed February 3, 2016.
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). 2014. Satellite-based Damage Assessment to Cultural Heritage Sites in Syria, https://www.unitar.org/unosat/chs-syria, accessed January 15, 2016.
USAID. N.d. “Crisis in Syria.” https://www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria, accessed January 30, 2016.
Van Dam Nikolaos. 2011. The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Asad and the Ba'th Party. 4th ed. London: I. B. Tauris.
Wannous Dima. 2012. “In the Syrian Revolution, a Victory over Fear.” Washington Post, November 9, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-the-syrian-revolution-a-victory-over-fear/2012/11/09/bf8a84b4-0f02-11e2-bd1a-b868e65d57eb_story.html, accessed February 3, 2016.
Weddady Nasser, and Ahmari Sohrab. 2012. Arab Spring Dreams. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wedeen Lisa. 1998. “Acting ‘As If’: Symbolic Politics and Social Control in Syria.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 40(3): 503–23.
Wedeen Lisa. 1999. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Wedeen Lisa. 2013. “Ideology and Humor in Dark Times: Notes from Syria.” Critical Inquiry (39): 841–73.
Wieland Carsten. 2012. Syria—A Decade of Lost Chances: Repression and Revolution from Damascus Spring to Arab Spring. Seattle, WA: Cune Press.
Wimmen Heiko. 2014. “Divisive Rule: Sectarianism and Power Maintenance in the Arab Spring: Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.” German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Research Paper 4, http://www.swp-berlin.org/fileadmin/contents/products/research_papers/2014_RP04_wmm.pdf, accessed February 3, 2016.
Wood Elisabeth Jean. 2003. Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wood Elisabeth Jean. 2008. “The Social Processes of Civil War: The Wartime Transformation of Social Networks.” Annual Review of Political Science 11: 539–61
Yazbek Samar. 2011. A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution. Trans. Max Weiss. London: Hauss.
Yazbek Samar. 2015. The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria. London: Rider.
Yow Valerie Raleigh. 2005. Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 2d ed. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Ziadeh Radwan. 2011. Power and Policy in Syria: Intelligence Services, Foreign Relations and Democracy in the Modern Middle East. London: I.B. Tauris.
Ziadeh Radwan. 2012. “The Making of a Syrian Dissident: A Personal Journey.” New Republic, April 30, http://www.tnr.com/article/world/103028/radwan-ziadeh-syria-snc-dissent-assad, accessed February 3, 2016.
Zisser Eyal. 2007. Commanding Syria: Bashar al-Asad and the First Years in Power. London: I. B. Tauris.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
PDF
Supplementary Materials

Pearlman supplementary material
Online Appendix

 PDF (193 KB)
193 KB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 68
Total number of PDF views: 759 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1438 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.