The effect of war and displacement on the play of young Iraqi and Syrian refugees.


Sandra El Gemayel

PhD candidate, UCL Institute of Education

War and perpetual violence in Syria and Iraq have led to the influx of around 1.5 million Syrian and 6,000 Iraqi refugees into Lebanon, over half of whom are children. Research shows that conflict and displacement constrain children’s opportunities to play, to learn through play, and for their unique potential to flourish. Yet, there are no in-depth studies of the effects of war and displacement on young child refugees in Lebanon. My research aims to investigate what play opportunities are available to these children, how their experiences of war and displacement affect the ways they play, and what measures could be taken to improve their play opportunities. Froebelian principles lie at the core of this study which promotes the integrity of childhood in its own right, the indispensable benefits of play, and the role of the environment in a child’s development. This research also studies childhood as a social construction through a Foucauldian lens, exploring the diverse power structures, regimes of truth, and discourses within these communities and families. Questionnaires will be distributed to over 100 parents/guardians via a local dispensary, and longitudinal ethnographic case studies will be conducted with refugee families, using ‘long’ conversations and observations to investigate children’s play experiences and enable the children themselves to become active researchers of their own lives. Recommendations will be made regarding improving play opportunities for refugee children.

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