Resilience Mechanisms to Gender Identity Crisis and the Link to Radicalisation

A Comparative Case Study of Displaced Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Turkey

Principal Investigator: Dr Aitemad Muhanna-Matar
Duration: February 2017–July 2019
Supported by: LSE IGA–Rockefeller Fund

Walking down the main street of Zaatari refugee camp, Russell Watkins/DfID (CC BY 2.0)

To date, Jordan and Turkey host respectively 650,000 and 2.5 million Syrian refugees. Most Syrian refugees have lost all sources of livelihood and face increasing vulnerability, with the majority relying on food coupons. Continuing household vulnerability has forced many refugee families to accept further humiliating coping mechanisms. These include early marriage for girls as a means to secure their lives and reduce the financial burden on families, and ‘survival sex’, whereby vulnerable adult women offer sex to employers in order to secure jobs or to earn money.

Within the social and cultural contexts of Jordan and Turkey, these severe, economically driven coping strategies challenge the understanding of resilience as a means of helping individuals to cope with disaster, without losing their gendered self-respect and self-esteem. This creates a two-fold crisis: socio-economic and moral. Literature on gender differentiated coping mechanisms undertaken by Syrian refugees provides evidence of the reconfiguration of gender, in which women act as the primary providers for their families whilst the men are mostly jobless and helpless. However, this literature mostly concentrates on the material aspects of resilience with insufficient emphasis on the relationship between the situational enactment of gender reconfiguration, the (inter)subjective aspects of experiencing gender reconfiguration and the contingent gender identity, or identities, triggered by this experience. 

This research tries to fill this gap by exploring how gender reconfiguration, as a means of resilience when livelihoods are threatened, may create a crisis of gender identity whereby both men and women feel demoralised by the change in gender norms. The research also examines the link between the gender identity crisis caused by gender reconfiguration and the return to discursive tradition and religion as a means of resilience.

Principal Investigator


Aitemad Muhanna-Matar

Aitemad is Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre.



LSE Middle East LSEMiddleEast

RT @sham_marral: Panels in Arabic, English, and Farsi will address the history, present, and future of joint struggles between Black and no…

16 hours ago

Reply Retweet Favorite

LSE Middle East LSEMiddleEast

Russia and Turkey's rivalry in the Middle East has come to define the two civil wars in Syria and Libya, with Mosco……

18 hours ago

Reply Retweet Favorite