Nada Awar Jarrar’s An Unsafe Haven (2016) is the first novel to incorporate the Syrian refugee crisis outside of Syria. I select this Anglophone Lebanese narrative to explore the heuristic potential of fictional prose by demonstrating specifically what a literary text can and does contribute to journalistic, humanistic, and social scientific knowledge about this humanitarian issue featured daily in print and electronic journalism. Marshaling findings from narrative theory, studies of reading (fiction versus non-fiction), and the discourse on refugees, this article argues that this novel carves out what Edward Said describes as an affiliative space in which the refugee can be rehabilitated. This happens by making the refugee not only visible and audible but also capable of exercising agency and free will, all of which relate to (decisions about) mobility. What also contributes to this empowerment is the readiness of Lebanon-based characters to challenge both national and international filiative/legal structures. By highlighting the ways in which education, class, gender, language, and nationality both inform dialogical encounters and redraw insider/outsider demarcations, I contend further that this fictional narrative spotlights methodological blind spots in other disciplines that study refugees.


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pp. 394-423
Launched on MUSE
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