Hi everyone! I’m Marwa Bakabas, a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University with a specialization in Global Urban Studies. This year, I am also a fellow in the Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) fellowship initiative for the academic year 2020-2021.
I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Affairs with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa from George Mason University (2011) and a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology from the American University of Beirut (2019).
What led me to anthropology was my volunteer work on Lesvos Island, Greece during 2015-2016, as refugees were crossing the sea border into Europe. I then decided to move to Lebanon volunteer and conduct ethnographic research to understand the ways of dwelling and the life transformations through disaster faced by refugees living in a state of temporality in informal settlements in Lebanon and transit camps in Greece. Through volunteering and research, my work has focused on public and applied anthropology to promote awareness of the ongoing issues of violence and exile. Thus far, my research has included sea border crossings, humanitarianism, death & dying, the ageing population, memory, violence, transformations, and the space of refuge. During this time, I also worked with organizations to build programs (gender based violence, psycho-social support, healthcare, etc.) in these spaces of dwellings.
In over four years of working and living with refugees, I have documented transitions of the migrant crisis—from the influx entering Europe by sea in 2015, to observing the haphazardly constructed dwellings. I became inspired to study the conflict in Yemen and those who are facing similar distress. My doctoral research will focus on building academic scholarship by shedding light in the context of the understudied population of displaced Yemenis as well as the conflict in Yemen. As someone who is interested in storytelling, I am hoping to incorporate visual ethnographic work from my data collection and to provide more quality in the meaning behind my academic research. I believe that CHI will allow me to apply photo-ethnography in order to pursue a creative and visual impact to anthropological findings on the subject of migration. I intend to have visuals alongside stories that will humanize the written narratives and surface realities of what is transpiring in a world that seems so distant. This fellowship will provide me the tools to build a resource for teaching about displaced people(s) through mapping out narratives.
Additionally, I am a Research Fellow on the DAAD Higher Education Dialogue with Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München working on a publication called “Violence, Trauma and Exile: in the Arab World and Germany.” I am also a part of an interdisciplinary collaborative design group called Spatial Stories Design Group, where we have together created a digital research space to support research and activism.