“It will always be Temporary”: A qualitative study of Syrian young adults expressing histories of collective violence and forced displacement in participatory theatre

de Smet, S., Rousseau, C., Stalpaert, C., & De Haene, L. (2024, janvier)

Transcultural Psychiatry

Vol 60/ Num. 6


Given the increased prevalence of mental health problems in Syrian refugee communities, there have been efforts to develop adequate mental health care for their well-being. Herein, clinical literature is increasingly emphasizing the importance of locating refugees’ healing at the nexus of personal and social realities, understanding the process of trauma narration within social restorative spaces of witnessing and communal support. Alongside this debate, there is growing interest in the relevance of participatory theatre for refugees. This innovative approach understands how voicing narratives of life histories within a broader social sphere may support personal and socio-political transformation. In this article, we aim to further the understanding of participatory theatre’s relevance to these issues, focusing on the reparative dimensions of trauma narration. Based on a case study of a theatre project with Syrian young adults resettled in Belgium, we explore the different ways participants expressed experiences of collective violence and displacement in dialogue with each other, their diasporic and home communities, and their host society, and consider how these processes relate to their construction and meaning and coping with trauma. In a final section, we discuss the implications of our findings, raising questions about the value of participatory theatre as a reparative space and outlining suggestions to introduce and mobilize reparative modes of trauma narration in therapeutic practices in refugee trauma care.