Dunya Habash

Affiliated Researcher


Dunya Habash is an Affiliated Researcher at the Woolf Institute.

She is a previously holder of the Woolf Institute Cambridge Scholarship and completed her PhD studies in Music in 2023.

Her ethnographic research examined Syrian musicians in Turkey. Dunya hypothesised that the Syrian cultural imaginary is shifting as a result of 'emplacement' into Turkish society, and that this can be illustrated through musical practices. Looking at how Syrian musicians in Turkey place themselves and how they use music to belong to an ideational community can give fresh insights into the relationships between structural forces - politics, religion, migration, economics - and inner subjectivities. Exploring how the various communities in Syria negotiate a new identity in the diaspora can not only describe Syria's demographically rich history - for cities like Aleppo and Damascus boast centuries of cohabitation between Muslims, Jews, Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians and others - but also test the strength of the 'interfaith and cosmopolitan' narrative of Syria's secularist national identity. This research wbuilt on insights that Dunya developed during her fieldwork for the Living in Harmony project at the Woolf Institute and on her MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford.

Dunya formerly joined the Woolf Institute as a Researcher and Outreach Officer for the Living in Harmony project in March 2018. She also holds undergraduate degrees in Music and History from Birmingham-Southern College, where she embarked on her first substantive project with Syrian refugees, a documentary on Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, 'Zaatari: Jordan's Newest City'. That work led her to the program in Refugee Studies at Oxford and a TEDx talk in Birmingham, AL. Her interest in music continues with the organisation of Damj, an ensemble formed with two other Arab heritage musicians dedicated to creating a new musical tradition out of the traditions of east and west.

Recent Publications

'Playlist: The Music of Syrian Exile'. The New Humanitarian 25 April 2022. 

'"Do Like You Did in Aleppo": Negotiating Space and Place Among Syrian Musicians in Istanbul'. Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 34, No.2 (June 2021): 1370-1386.

With Naohiko Omata and Nuha Abdo. 'Integration of Resettled Syrian Refugees in Oxford: Preliminary Study in 2018'. Refugee Studies Centre Working Paper Series No. 129, September 2019. 

'My Hidden Misconceptions About Refugees'. Refugees Deeply, 29 June 2017.

'The Study of Syrian Refugees: From the Academic to the Actual'. Oxford International Relations Society Blog, 3 March 2017.

'The "Organized Hypocrisy" of Western Refugee Policy'. Oxford International Relations Society Blog, 17 May 2017.

'The Common Core: Explorations in Light Mysticism'. Southern Academic Review, BSC 82 (2016): 28-35. 

Selected Musical Compositions and Performances

Lament for Syria
Composition and Performance, 2017
Oxford Department of International Development

Zaatari Theme (2015) and Dream (2016)
Performance, 2017

Other compositions here.

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