"I Just Dream of Things Being Stable": Exploring How Physical Displacement Affects Syrian Refugee Mothers' Perception of Time


Laila Omar, University of Toronto

Scholars studying refugee crises have focused significant attention on the _geographical_ aspect of forced migration and the implications of refugees’ movement across space. However, they have not addressed the _temporal _dimensions of forced migration. In this paper, I attempt to connect scholarship on forced migration and cultural concepts of “time” and the “future” in order to examine the _temporal _aspect of forced migration. Using semi-structured interviews with 41 Syrian mothers who have recently arrived in Canada, this paper investigates refugee mothers’ conceptualization of their (and their children’s) future in Canada. More precisely, I argue that forced migration and the status of “refugeeness” heavily shape newcomers’ perception of time in general, and of the future in particular. I find that mothers deliberately “foreclose” their own timeline in order to focus on their children’s future in Canada. Moreover, a sense of “scrambled timeline” is emergent: mothers cannot separate their future projections from the present nor from the past. Finally, key cultural and religious orientations to the future further shape mothers’ perceptions.

This paper will be presented at the following session: