The Displacement Crisis

a)

syrian-refugees-landing

Image courtesy of http://fair.org/home/the-syrian-refugee-crisis-and-the-do-something-lie/

After reading through the Foreign Affairs The Dispossessed article, I found it to be very emotionally appealing, and an effective combination of factual and statistical data with the narratives of real-life refugees. As a American who is more far removed from the refugee crisis taking place in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, this article was a very powerful medium that effectively convey the tragedies and hardships faced by those refugees seeking a better life. I found the nonfiction comic included in the article to provide a face and a name to the refugee crisis, making it easier for people like myself, who perhaps feel isolated from the situation, to adopt a sense of the significance of this migration occurring across the globe. The comic was a clever and unconventional approach to analyzing the refugee situation, and I think the goal was to create a story that illustrated the arduous journey these migrants take, and give readers an idea of what that journey entails. Authors identified that reasons for escape are largely personal and unique to each migrant, but that fear of an oppressive regime was a motivating factor. Islam does play a role in the refugee situation, as differences between practices can become a source of conflict when refugees are fleeing their homes to go to another country. All in all, though, these people are just in search of a better life.

Overall, I thought the piece was engaging to read, and I found myself reading in suspense until the ending, wondering whether or not the characters presented in the comic made it safely to their destinations. I think that the comic definitely simplified what these refugees had to go through to reach asylum, but that it still was effective in demonstrating their hardships, and making readers sympathetic to the situation. I don’t know if I would say that the comic in itself was a thorough analysis of the crisis, but when paired with the rest of the content in the article, I think that the Foreign Affairs piece was an encompassing approach to the displacement crisis taking place in today’s world. It conveyed the direness and uncertainty of the situation, and signaled that a global effort is necessary to fully support the migrants, and prevent the political and social structures in host countries from collapsing.

b)

In their article, Islam and the West: Narratives of Conflict and Conflict Transformation, Nathan C. Funk and Abdul Aziz Said analyze the complicated relationship between the United States/Western world and the Muslim Middle East. They focus on the medium of the narrative. “Narratives, then, are the stories that members of social and political groups tell about themselves and their relations with selected “others,” to create or reinforce a sense of collective identity and shared purpose,” (Funk & Said, p. 3).

“the narratives which come to dominate public discourse are often those which serve most effectively to give definition to in-group identity and values through reference to an out-group” (p. 3). Narratives that perpetuate an in-group dynamic along with a villainous portrayal of adversaries can often emphasize tension and increase the possibility of conflict. Rather than narratives that focus on polarization and the differences between two different cultures, the authors believe that crafting a new narrative, one that highlights common interests or shared ideals. This type of narrative is more likely to lead to positive progress and conflict resolution.

Relations between the United States and the Muslim Middle East have long been tense and surrounded in controversy. The authors of this article reveal how both cultures are promoting a polarizing and hostile perception of the other, because of their “self vs. other” ideology. Both the United States and the Muslim Middle East are similar in the fact that the narratives of both cultures perpetuate an adversarial relationship, and exaggerate/misrepresent differences. Each group has a tendency to focus on extreme and sensationalist representations of the “other” culture, and these images convey an insurmountable barrier to cooperation or understanding. The authors say that both the United States and the Muslim Middle East fail to recognize the “common ground” or context. The current narratives surround themselves with a confrontational and adversarial relationship between the West and Islam. There is a consistent reference to conflict, both ancient and more recent, feeding into the idea that the two cultures are simply too different to resolve anything. What the authors point out, is that the two cultures are taking the same approach:

“If Americans and Westerners are often tempted to regard the Muslim Middle East as a foil – a means of defining themselves in relation to everything that they presumably are not – Middle Eastern Muslims are more than capable of manifesting a similar attitude toward a Western ‘other'” (p. 6). A far more effective approach to framing a narrative is intercultural compatibility. It’s the approach that the authors identify as recognizing shared values that can transform the focus of narratives from a confrontational and adversarial one, to revealing how the West and Muslim Middle East “share many values which provide a basis for understanding and cooperation. These values include respect for learning, desire for peace, esteem for toleration, and partisanship on behalf of human dignity” (p. 15). If both the West and Muslim Middle East can transform their narratives to include more intercultural compatibility and complementarity, than conflict transformation will soon follow.

 

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