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This Place Doesn’t Exist Anymore: Food and Memory Among Syrian Refugees

By Beth Grannis, Degree Candidate, Master of Arts in Global Communications (AUP), The American University of Paris

This short documentary film submission, “This Place Doesn’t Exist Anymore”: Food and  Memory Among Syrian Refugees”, stands as a class project from the American University of Paris (AUP) inspired by a set of readings on the subject of food, the senses, memory, and identity through the works of David E. Sutton, C. Nadia Seremetakis, and Marcel Proust. This film offers insight into the life of a young Syrian man, Saad Hakki, who after fleeing Syria and immigrating to France, uses food as a vehicle for personal reflection, assessing his home country’s stance within the world, for deepening the understanding of his own identity, and preparing for a new and different future than the one he imagined for himself.

With the support and guidance of Professor Christy Shields and Claire Perrot and in conjunction with their “Innovative Showcase” workshop proposal, Ethnography and Taste Education in Cooperation with Comté Cheese: A Cross-Cultural and Collaborative Approach to Food Pedagogy and Taste Learning, this film stands as a work in progress and poses itself as an emerging topic that I plan to pursue and develop into a MA thesis film in 2017-2018. Alongside my fellow AUP colleagues at this conference, I hope to ignite discussion, and solicit ideas, approaches, and potential processes for my continued research on food, exile, and memory.

Additionally, by exploring the ways in which Syrian refugees use food to commemorate deeply rooted cultural identity and personal history in an unfamiliar place, the audience is probed to consider the ways in which displaced people uphold identity, foster family relations, and preserve memories within their community. Situated at the tender threshold of a home that no longer exists and the makings of a new home, “This Place Doesn’t Exist Anymore”: Food and Memory Among Syrian Refugees aims to unite the audience and Mr. Hakki by shining light on the shared common ground of memories and emotions surrounding ties to food. It is my hope that this film’s theme will position a platform for those to stand upon to help disseminate elements of cultural compassion and to initiate conversations between different and opposing mindsets.