Victoria Brykalski

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Davis, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9398

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Brykalski, Victoria, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'There is Still Hope: The Matter and Meaning of Syrian Child Labor in Lebanon,' supervised by Dr. Suad Joseph

Preliminary abstract: Through ethnographic fieldwork in Lebanon, this research examines the emergent forms and meanings of labor performed by Syrian children living in exile, as experienced by themselves, their families and wider communities, and others enrolled in the effects of the Syrian revolution and war. In particular, I investigate the relations informing children and their families’ claims that their labor is more than what both the Lebanese State and a number of non-State organizations call harmful, that it can be, in fact, a practice through which they survive and continue to live. Preliminary research indicates that the labor Syrian children perform in Lebanon is increasingly becoming a crucial component in Lebanon’s political economy as well as a necessity for many Syrian families, while it is simultaneously increasingly becoming a medium through which a myriad of different actors – including Syrian children and their families, political leaders, humanitarian workers, labor organizers, teachers, and activists – make sense of the possibilities and limits of continuing life in the midst of destruction, violence, and exile. In this context, while the labor Syrian children practice in Lebanon is undoubtedly harmful or threatening, it is simultaneously capable of making particular kinds of life possible – for themselves and their families, and for the region more generally. This research first asks: what is child labor across an array of sectors – including agriculture, construction, recycling, and shoe shining? What are its capacities, roles, potentials, and how is it apprehended and intervened in? Second, how is child labor as a practice related to the practice of surviving and continuing to live in these heterogeneous sectors? My points of entry to answer these questions in Lebanon are fourfold. By accompanying Syrian children, their families, humanitarian workers, and Lebanese State and non-State officials in their efforts to practice, make sense of, and address child labor, I seek to explore the ways in which they articulate and enact the various capacities of labor and its multiple emergences, and trace its various roles in the making, refusing, and constraining of particular forms of harm and life.