Syrian refugee men as objects of humanitarian care
Critical feminist scholars of conflict and displacement have demonstrated that “womenandchildren” (Enloe 1993) have become an uncontroversial object of humanitarian concern in these contexts (Carpenter 2003; Hyndman and Giles 2011). Yet very little scholarly work has attempted to understand the position of refugee men as a demographic within humanitarianism. Through an analysis of the Syria refugee response in Jordan, this article investigates how humanitarian workers relate to refugee men and think about refugee masculinities. It argues that refugee men have an uncertain position as objects of humanitarian care. Seeing refugee men as objects of humanitarian care would disrupt prevailing humanitarian understandings of refugeehood as a feminized subject position and of gender work as work that “helps women” (Cornwall 2007; Johnson 2011). It would furthermore challenge prevailing binary visions of refugee men as agential, political actors, and refugee women as in need of “empowerment” through the implementation of technocratic programming. In the context of the Syria refugee response, these gendered and racialized understandings of refugee men and masculinities are mediated by particular conceptions of “Arabness.” This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews with humanitarian workers and Syrian refugees, which was undertaken in Jordan in 2015–2016.