‘Us’ and ‘Them’? How a massive influx of refugees from Syria resulted in the establishment of a new social order, which helped to minimize conflict in the conflict prone context of Shatila refugee camp, Beirut, from 2012 until 2017
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This research aims to explore the process of conflict minimization in Shatila camp. Through fieldwork conducted in the Palestinian Shatila refugee camp, which has recently seen a massive influx of refugees from Syria as result of the Syrian civil war, this paper illustrates the increasing hardships in everyday life as result of the severe overpopulation of the camp. The combination of these hardships is, according to contemporary academics, a trigger for inter-group conflict that often escalates over existing social fault-lines. Based on these theoretical premises, we would expect conflict escalation between the three national groups in the camp: the established Palestinian-Lebanese refugees and the new Palestinian-Syrian and Syrian refugees. However, this thesis argues that no inter-group conflict has erupted inside the camp, but that rather regulations were set in place to deal with the current social situation and resulted in the establishment of a ‘new social order’. By using the framework of social order, this thesis analyzes how social interactions in the camp are structured. The framework of causal mechanisms is then used to explain how the established social order helps to minimize conflict. The findings demonstrate that the situationally shifting of group boundaries resulting from the individuals’ ‘positionality’ leads to a situation in which ‘nationality’ does not permanently set the groups apart. The analysis shows that an explanation for the minimization of conflict in Shatila camp can be found in the absence of permanent group boundaries.