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What happens to the mind and soul when we move places? In times of global immobility and isolation, what does the word migration mean beyond movement?

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Migration is an endlessly broad phenomenon, ranging across the entire spectra of human experiences. But it always starts with the same thing: a change of location. Somehow, in one way or another, it is about moving places. For over a year now, the world as we knew it has changed in every possible way. Our existence has been turned upside down, and become defined by lockdowns, curfews, confinements, restrictions, flight bans and border closures. 

 

This led us to think about the concept of migration in times of global immobility and isolation. We tried to grasp what the word means beyond movement, and what happens to the self when we move from one place to another. What inner conversations begin when we migrate? What memories and dreams are evoked by moving from one place to another? What feelings of loss, grief and loneliness – or of joy and new discovery – come to visit us in the process? How do we begin to see the world in new ways, and how do we revisit moments from our past?

 

We invited eight contributors to author stories about this. All seven features that were produced (one of them was written by two authors) look in different ways at this journeying of the mind and soul. They speak about rootedness and rootlessness, remembrance and nostalgia, and connections or disconnections to the surrounding world. 

 

First out, Ibrahim Nehme describes the retreat to his rural village after being injured in the Beirut port explosion in 2020. Then, Sarah Khazem recalls journeys between her home in coastal Syria and the temporary war-time refuge of Beirut. Next, Fatima Alhaji writes about arriving first in Lebanon and later on in Germany, a path thread by many Syrians as a result of the war. Hamoud Mjeidel then recounts the story of Abu Khalil who left behind two eucalyptus trees, in two different countries, on his still-ongoing journey. After that, Hussein El Hajj Hassan tells the tale of three brothers and a mother, separated by the inescapable choices those on a migratory journey must make. Ghadir Hamadi then describes a pandemic confinement in her family village, and how it changed something deeply personal in herself. Finally, Sarah Lily Yassine and Jenny Gustafsson write about Beirut, and how the city transformed during the months of lockdown.