In the Skies Over Sofia: Place(s) in Displacement for Syrian Women in Bulgaria
Keywords:Syrian mobilities, policy labels, place, displacement, Bulgaria
This article shows that policy categories such as “refugees” and “migrants” fail to capture the complex reasons why people move during conflict and how they experience place(s) in displacement. Drawing on ethnographic interviews conducted in the summer of 2021, we explore the ways in which three Syrian women, whose lives have been affected by displacement in complex ways, emplace themselves in Sofia. Although policymakers consider Bulgaria a transit country for refugees on the so-called Western Balkan route, some Syrians have stayed after 2011. Their choice can only be understood in the context of longstanding trade and marital migrations encompassing the Mediterranean and its hinterlands, and we thus develop a mobile and dynamic understanding of Syrians’ acts of emplacement: they may be localized in Sofia, but they also unfold against the backdrop of transnational networks. However, we do not romanticize ideas of constant fluidity. Rather, we put place back into displacement, demonstrating that women’s lives and migratory projects are shaped by the places they pass through, and that they leave an imprint on transitory and more permanent homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods in Sofia, with all the tensions and contradictions that this entails.
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