The Arab Diaspora in Europe

How do events change or shape a person’s identity and sense of belonging?

War destroys more than the physical geography of a country. The displacement of people from their homes leads to generations of trauma, feelings of alienation and a search for an identity in a land that is not always welcoming. This Twitter thread from Ayman Makarem, an Arab immigrant living in Europe, describes his desire to find a word in his native language for the feelings he is having due to his displacement from the economic disaster in Lebanon.

Connection to Re-Imagining Migration Learning Arc:

Life Before Migration:

How did people live their lives before migration (cultural practices)?

In what ways do societal, political, and environmental forces/challenges influence the decision to migrate?

How do individuals and societies manage uncertain status?


How might the environment in the new land help or hinder newcomers’ inclusion?

How do newcomers come to understand the new land and their place in it over time?

How might newcomers and the receiving community balance their identities, cultural values, and world views as they interact with one another?

Turning to Action:

How can we take action toward more inclusive and sustainable societies?

Suggested Activities:

-Define the term diaspora. Allow students time to reflect on the meaning. Ask students if they have learned or know of any diasporas in the past or present?

-Read the twitter thread by Ayman Makarem (below). Have students complete a Feel-Think-Wonder (replace the see from the activity to feel) as they read the thread.

@Ayman_makarem (Twitter):

I’ve been searching for a word that describes my current experience. An Arab who has left his home (unwillingly) and now finds himself alienated in Europe. I can’t find a single word in English that covers all these layers at once, but I’ve realized there is one in Arabic: غربة. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word. My current experience is not comparable to exile or refuge, but also more severe and dislocating than is implied with the term emigre. غربة feels situated between these two poles. This word غربة doesn’t just have no English corollary, but I’m beginning to realize that the experience itself doesn’t exist here in Europe (particularly by white europeans). Idk if I should call this part of my feelings of culture clash or what, but it furthers my alienation. I’ve analyzed this linguistic and cultural disconnect through the word itself. غريب means weird. غرب means the West. Not only does this term describe my experience, it connects me to a longer history of Arab migration, which has historically tended to be westwards/northwards. I obviously don’t want to summon any exclusivity, or say my struggle is super unique. The opposite. I think seeing myself and my situation as connected to larger tendencies of migration (historically and currently) is actually really powerful and helps me connect with others. I am obviously not alone. I am part of what is now being called the Third Wave of migration from Lebanon. So many of us are leaving, so many want to … I really feel like we’re going to have to overcome these stupid binaries of local/diaspora. What upsets me so much, and confirms to me that غربة is a word to hold close, is that friends back home describe the same feelings of alienation, minus the actual leaving. This is so painful to me. Not just the economy, but the society, people, everything is become so ugly. I just threw out a lot of thoughts I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m glad I wrote them out. I haven’t been writing a lot lately. I’ve internalized too much bad __. Coping mechanisms can become toxic. But I’d love to hear if anyone is thinking similarly. I know y’all are, but I meant it more as an invite to talk.

-Use Project Zero’s The 4 C’s to help students prepare for small group discussion about the topic of Arab diaspora and identity.

-Conclude the discussion by using Project Zero’s Three Why’s Thinking Routine to allow students to take a deeper dive into the topic of how people can help create more inclusive communities for all.