Stories of the Syrian New Scots: Digital Storytelling in COVID-19 Refugee Arts
Please note: this event will be held in person and live-streamed for attendees online. For those who attend in person, there will be refreshments and a chance to network after the event.
Syria now has the largest forcibly displaced population worldwide, with 6.6 million Syrians forced to flee the country since 2011. In the twenty-first century Scotland has become a celebrated, if controversial, site of refugee resettlement through the landmark New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy (2014-2017 & 2018-2022). This paper explores how a distinctive culture of storytelling which developed amongst Syrian refugees resettled in Scotland through theatre performances, festivals, and community writing initiatives was threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic when public performances and community workshops were no longer possible in person. It traces how Syrian New Scots’ storytelling practices adapted during consecutive national lockdowns in the pandemic through digital platforms accessible across dispersed geographies of resettlement in Scotland. As it considers how digital arts have provided vital forms of community building through lockdowns and resettlement processes, it argues that this Syrian-Scottish context demonstrates the diversifying potential of digital programming while at the same time reflecting on key issues of digital exclusion.
Dr Annie Webster is a Digital Scholarship Postdoctoral Fellow at IASH and from February 2023 will be a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the English Literature Department at the University of Edinburgh. She completed her Wolfson-funded PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, in 2020. This research, which she is now developing as a monograph, explores the affective economies of contemporary Iraqi fiction and how it has circulated as ‘world literature’ in the wake of the 2003 Iraq War. Her current research project, which she will be undertaking over the next few years at Edinburgh, extends her research interests in how literary movements develop in the wake of conflict as it investigates storytelling practices among Syrian refugees resettled in Scotland. While at IASH, she is researching one strand of this project that focuses particularly on modes of digital storytelling among Syrian New Scots.
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