Hela L’Wein : performing nationalisms, citizenship, and belonging in displaced Syrian communities




Pitchford, Gerald Barton

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Hela L’Wein examines cultural production through a textual analysis of selected theatrical output by displaced Syrians “temporarily” relocated to Zaatari camp, Azraq camp, and Amman, Jordan. In concert with analyzing several theatrical works, I also consider the process and daily lives of the producing artists. A textual analysis of both the fictional worlds created in these plays and the nonfiction worlds their creators inhabit reveals a narrative of radical democratic citizenship bound closely with identity formation in the wake of dislocation and national fragmentation. The narrative I elucidate hinges on the interrelated logics of nostalgia, desire, and hope. Taken together these three affective registers, negotiate, and combine throughout the lives and stories of the artists discussed. Nostalgia, hope, and desire become the affective filters through which these displaced Syrians grapple with recent events, sift through memories, and begin to reconstitute themselves as stateless citizens. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the spaces of displacement in which these productions took place as well as briefly summarizes each work in its entirety. Each subsequent chapter examines a selection of work through the affective registers nostalgia, desire and hope. Chapter two focuses on moments in three productions Shakespeare in Za’atari, Our Journey, and Love Boat where nostalgia is used strategically to reinforce specific modes of citizenship or to induce behavior change. Chapter three examines desire as a tactic which draws on improvisation and immediacy to control small actions within larger chaotic situations. The three theatrical moments discussed in this chapter, Shakespeare in Za’atari, the classroom of Iman Zabeida, and Romeo and Juliet Separated by War exhibit agency by transgressing regulated territory. Chapter four elevates moments of hope present in the act of creating theatre for the participants in Syrian Trojan Women, Romeo and Juliet Separated By War, and Love Boat. Experiences described in this chapter allowed the participants to project themselves into a future where the trauma of war disappears and they belong to a community. Throughout this dissertation I argue that the intersecting flow of nostalgia, desire, and hope open new pathways for the displaced participants to reconsider and remake citizenship.


LCSH Subject Headings