The resilience potential of heritage for Syrian refugees in the UK 

Anglia Ruskin University of Cambridge

How do refugees survive and thrive after being forced to flee their homes and communities? What contributes to the well-being and resilience of refugees in new environments? While we understand the importance of things like housing, support, employment and healthcare, for those who have sought refuge in a new country, there is less understanding of the cultural and community desires that may contribute to refugee well-being and adaptation.

Studies with migrants and refugees have identified many elements that contribute to resilience that we may link with heritage, including religion, community, and traditions (Sleijpen et al., 2016; Sherwood and Liebling, 2012; Abraham et al., 2018; Schweitzer et al., 2007; Singer et al., 2015; Fleming and Ledogar, 2010). However, none have examined the specific role of heritage. Nevertheless, these studies suggest heritage is likely to contribute to resilience in refugees, particularly given the role heritage can have in general for individual and community well-being; helping to foster identity, community, belonging and security (Brabec et al., 2019). All of which are likely to be more valuable when displaced from your home or community.

Working with Syrian refugees in the UK, it is hoped that this research can contribute to a better understanding of the value of cultural heritage practices for refugees and resilience. Though this research is only in the early stages, I would like to share with you some of the experiences and stories shared so far and what this may tell us about the resilience potential of heritage and its significance in response to such challenges.