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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Timothy Pachirat

Second Advisor

Amel Ahmed

Third Advisor

Rebecca Hamlin

Fourth Advisor

Rochelle Davis

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | International Relations | Political Theory


This dissertation provides empirically grounded analysis that elucidates meaning-making processes among Syrians who are caught between past experiences of brutal state violence (in Syria) and present experiences of bureaucratic and judicial violence (in the United States). It seeks to bridge the gaps between macro and micro levels of analysis in political science and it is driven by ethnographic observations and the puzzles and questions I have encountered at the grassroots level following the 2011 Syrian uprising. I follow interpretive ethnographic methodology and employ three main methods: 1) 76 interviews with exiled Syrians, immigration attorneys, and social workers at refugee resettlement agencies 2) political ethnography by combining participant observation with auto-ethnography; and 3) critical discourse analysis and textual analysis of media and immigration documents. The dissertation addresses the following main questions: How did the Syrian uprising and the subsequent chronic conflict and displacement reshape the social and political dynamics between Syrians? What was the role of regional and international actors, including Syrians in diaspora, in mediating these dynamics? How do participants’ past experiences and memories continue to affect their lived experiences as asylum seekers and refugees in the present? And how do asylum officers in the United States re-frame asylum seekers’ narrated stories to include racialized others through exclusion? To answer these questions, I focus on the context of post-2011 Syria and demonstrate that the contradictions and the long-term effects of the Syrian uprising and the subsequent conflict and displacement continue to reshape the social and political dynamics between Syrians and their subjectivities in exile as well as inside their shattered country. I show that analyzing the dynamics of the Syrian uprising and the conjuncture of the Arab Spring, especially during the formative years of 2011-2013, is a multidimensional task that is indispensable to understanding the contentious and ongoing processes of group-making and identity-(re)formation in exile. I also demonstrate how legalized, yet invisible forms of institutional violence have transformed the process of seeking asylum in the United States into what I call, a project of liminalization, which is embedded in a logic of differentiation and racialization.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Tuesday, September 01, 2026