Making Places in New Spaces:  Circassian Forced Migrants in the late Ottoman Empire


Monday, November 19, 2018, 6:00pm


77 Mass Ave. Room 10-390

Monday, November 19

Making Places in New Spaces:  Circassian Forced Migrants in the late Ottoman Empire

Dawn Chatty

Emeritus Professor in Anthropology and Forced Migration

University of Oxford, UK  

6 pm in MIT Room 3-133

Free and open to the public.


Refugee studies rarely address historical matters; yet understanding ideas about sanctuary, refuge, and belonging have long roots in both Western and Eastern history. By and large, the circumstances, experiences, and influence of refugees and exiles in modern history are ignored.   This presentation attempts to contribute to an exploration of the past and to examine the responses of one State - the late Ottoman Empire - to the forced migration of millions of largely Muslim refugees from its contested borderland shared with Tsarist Russia into its southern province of Bilad al –Sham [Greater Syria].  It focuses on one particular meta-ethnic group, the Circassians, and explores the responses to their movement both nationally and locally   as well as their concerted drive to carry their ‘homeland’ on to new territory. In their concerted drive to put down roots and establish new belongings, they carved out a process of integration territorially but without cultural assimilation.  The Circassians are one of many groups that were on the move at the end of the 19th century and their reception, and eventual integration without assimilation in the region provides important lessons for understanding of the contemporary Levant.


Dawn Chatty is Emeritus Professor in Anthropology and Forced Migration and former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.   She is also Fellow of the British Academy. Her research interests include:  coping strategies and resilience of refugee youth; tribes and tribalism; nomadic pastoralism and conservation; gender and development; health, illness and culture. She has edited numerous books including: Deterritorialized Youth:  Sahrawi and Afghan Refugees at the Margins of the Middle East, Berghahn Books, 2010; Nomadic Societies in the Middle East and North Africa: Facing the 21st Century, Leiden, Brill, 2006; Children of Palestine: Experiencing Forced Migration in the Middle East, Berghahn Books, 2005; and Conservation and Mobile Peoples: Displacement, Forced Settlement and Sustainable Development Berghahn Press, 2002.  She is the author of Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East  Cambridge University Press, 2010, From Camel to Truck, White Horse Press, 2013,   and Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State, Hurst Publishers, 2018.

Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT
77 Mass Ave. Room 10-390
Tel  617 253 1400
Fax  617 258 8172

fall18poster.pdf1.05 MB