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Centre for Gender Studies

Magdalena Suerbaum

BA (Philipps-Universität Marburg), MA (University of Exeter)


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Magdalena Suerbaum
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Thesis title:
Mosaics of masculinity - Gendering the experience of male Syrian refugees in Egypt
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

My research project deals with the case of Syrian refugees in Egypt and questions whether notions of masculinity have changed due to the refugee experience. My rationale in researching this topic arose from the view that an academic focus on the Syrian refugee crisis is needed and that the study of gender, and especially of masculinities, in the context of war-torn communities who were forced to flee requires more attention. Literature has focused predominantly on the experience of female refugees and children, while the male refugee experience is often normalised, naturalised and homogenised.

In analysing changing constructions of masculinity my research entails two levels of critique: a focus on the relations of male Syrian refugees with members of the Syrian refugee community currently staying in Egypt, and an analysis of Syrian men’s interaction to the broader Egyptian population. Discussing at the level of the refugee community, I aim to take into account the lived reality of the individual – that is whether he is in Egypt with family members, whether he came alone, or whether he made friends there - analysing how male Syrian refugees interact with their contacts within the refugee community, and how the experiences of these relations impact constructions and conceptions of their masculinity. In studying the encounter of Syrian men with the Egyptian population, I intend to focus on refugees’ social relations with the host society, investigating men in their role as the ‘other’ and the ‘stranger’. Thus, my major thematic concerns are forced displacement and consequent changes in male refugees’ self-perception, their lived experiences within the refugee community, and their encounter with the Egyptian host population. I approach these themes through a gendered lens with a focus on masculinity and my data will be gathered through ethnographic research in Egypt.

This research aims to challenge public discourses of ‘the’ Arab masculinity. Furthermore, it intends to re-draw the picture of the victimised and static refugee deprived of any personal agency. This research project seeks to produce a gender-sensitive intersectional analysis of constructions of masculinity among Syrian refugees currently staying in Egypt.

PhD Conferences

‘To what extent and how did notions of masculinity change during and after the uprising in Egypt in 2011?’ (2013). Presentation at the conference "The Arab Spring, The Middle East & Turkey", organized by the Turkish Society of Exeter and the Bosporus Research Centre


SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research - member of the editing team