‘Biting our tongues’: Policy legacies and memories in the making of the Syrian refugee response in Jordan

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This article analyses the significance of policy legacies and policy memories for refugee policy in conflict-neighbouring countries, where most of the world’s displaced live. Drawing on insights from critical policy analysis, it looks at refugee policy as a set of transnational practices, in which host government and international agencies are not neatly separable but entwined in constantly evolving policy assemblages in past and present. This approach is illustrated by analysing two different aspects of refugee policy in Jordan – the process of counting Syrians in the country, and recent policy changes toward formalising their labour market integration. Both examples reveal an overarching politics of accommodation tying together international and host government actors, whose main goal has been to strike compromises, safeguard organisational interests and create outward policy success. For the sake of achieving these goals, involved agencies they have either learned to tolerate unresolved ambiguities or disregarded inconvenient legacies and memories that would have complicated the design of new policies. Acknowledging the fundamental role international agencies play in such dynamics is essential for rethinking policy change and responsibility in contexts of mass displacement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-298
Number of pages26
JournalRefugee Survey Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date23 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • refugee policy
  • Jordan
  • policy legacy
  • policy memory
  • Syrian refugees
  • assemblage
  • politics of accomodation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Development
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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