Masculinity, migration, and forced conscription in the Syrian war

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In this essay, I provide a different perspective on the Syrian conflict by examining how the war's reach can also be located amid the losses, interruptions, and experiences of those Syrians who have until now largely escaped its incredible violence. By looking closely at how the war has altered the life trajectories of and produced distinct modes of vulnerability for military-age men, I develop an argument about how, although they avoid fighting by going to work in Qatar, the lives of a group of Syrian men remain defined by conscription. Through my investigation of how these men are located in a landscape of conscription that extends beyond the borders of Syria, I build on anthropological knowledge of how masculinity is shaped by and through contexts of political destabilization. I demonstrate how, in fulfilling their end of the patriarchal bargain through political obedience and economic production, these men lose a particular stage of manhood and the aspirations, projects, and affective promises it holds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-289
Number of pages26
JournalCultural Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am indebted to the men in Doha who gave of their time and shared their stories. The ideas presented here were enriched by feedback from Sami Hermez, Giulia El Dardiry, Wendy Pearlman, and other participants in the September 2018 "(In)Security in Everyday Life" workshop in Beirut supported by the Arab Council for Social Sciences and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Earlier versions of this essay benefited tremendously from the suggestions made by my colleagues Erin Koch, Sarah Lyon, and Karen Rignall, as well as the careful and generous reading of three anonymous reviewers. The editors of Cultural Anthropology, especially Heather Paxson, provided valuable guidance and sharp insights.

Publisher Copyright:
© American Anthropological Association 2020.


  • Conscription
  • Labor
  • Masculinity
  • Migration
  • Syria
  • War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Masculinity, migration, and forced conscription in the Syrian war'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this