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Ethnography as thrownness and the face of the sufferer

A Research Paper by Tarik Sabry, published by European Journal of Cultural Studies

This article provides a self-reflexive account of ethnographic research conducted on the outskirts of Burj Al Brajneh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, run by Hezbollah. It focuses on ethnographic research conducted with a Syrian refugee family including the mother, father and three children. The research is well captured, in hindsight, by Sarah Pink’s definition of ethnography as a ‘reflexive and experiential process through which academic and applied understanding, knowing and knowledge are produced’. The article demonstrates how the ethnographer’s experience with the refugee children was marked, regardless of long and diligent preparations, by several dislocations: methodological, sensorial and epistemic. The ethnographer pursued a non-media-centric approach allowing him to explore both the refugee family’s media uses as well as the lived, everyday conditions that marked their media uses. The primary aim of the article is three-pronged: (a) to provide an ethnographic description and analysis of the media worlds in a Hizbullah area in South Beirut, (b) to analyse media uses and aesthetics of violence in the context of war/refugees’ lives and (c) to theorise using the Heideggerian concept of thrownness, the entangled and affective regime that emerges during the ethnographic encounter.

Tarik Sabry


I am a Reader in media and communication theory at the University of Westminster where I am a member of the Communication and Media Research Institute and Co-ordinator of the Global Media Research Network.

I am the author of Cultural Encounters in the Arab World: On Media, the Modern and the Everyday (2010, I.B. Tauris); Editor of Arab Cultural Studies: Mapping the Field (2012, I.B. Tauris) and Co-Editor of Arab Subcultures: Reflections on Theory and Practice (I.B. Tauris 2016).

I am Co-Founder and Co-Editor of the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication and co-founder of the journal Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. I am co-editor with Joe Khalil of Culture, Time and Publics in the Arab World ( IB Tauris 2019) and a co-author with Nisrine Mansour of Children And Screen Media in Changing Arab Contexts: An Ethnographic Perspective (Palgrave 2019).

My research interests include media and philosophy, audiences, children and the media, Arab popular cultures, Arab contemporary philosophical thought and cultural studies. I conducted a number of ethnographic studies exploring the relationship between global media and the dynamics of hybrid identities in Egypt, Lebanon, the UK and Morocco.


28 May 2021
Published By
European Journal of Cultural Studies
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