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Northwestern University

Bucerius Fieldwork Grant

Activist Refugees, Local Authorities, and External Actors: Civilians in and around Wartime Syria


My dissertation asks: what explains trajectories of activism in contexts of civil war? My research revealed that Syrians were engaged in a range of activities to engender change, in refuge and in rebel-held territory, throughout the war. Yet the trajectory of their activism had shifted. I argue that, as the crisis attracted copious international aid, assistance mobilized activists. But I also contend that international aid, though often explicitly supportive of civilian enpowerment, contained
activism—drawing participants away from transgressive contention. I employ process tracing to discern how attributes of international assistance transform civilian activism in these ways. Immersive fieldwork conducted in Jordan and Turkey, 180+ interviews with Syrian refugees and international aid workers, and original datasets enable my account of aid´s paradoxical impacts on activism in a case characterized by extreme displacement, repression, and violence.
Rana B. Khoury is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science and graduate fellow of the Buffett Institute at Northwestern University. Her research interests include contentious politics, displacement, international aid, and Middle East politics. She has received support for her research from the Social Science Research Council, the Council for American Overseas Research Centers, and the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius. Rana holds an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. in Political Science from American University.

“Hard-to-Survey Populations and Respondent-Driven Sampling: Expanding the Political Science Toolbox,” Perspectives on Politics, 2019

“Aiding Activism? Humanitarianism’s Impact on Mobilized Syrian Refugees in Jordan.” Middle East Law and Governance, 9(3): 267-281, 2017

"As Ohio Goes: Life in the Post-Recession Nation", Kent: Kent State University Press, 2016

“Sweet Tea and Cigarettes: A Taste of Refugee Life in Jordan.” Forced Migration Review, 49: 93-94, 2015

“Western Sahara and Palestine: A Comparative Study of Colonialisms, Occupations, and Nationalisms.” New Middle Eastern Studies, 1: 1-20, 2011


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