Kristian Berg Harpviken
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Why do people subject to war privilege one specific survival strategy over its alternatives? Focusing on the interplay of opportunity and motivation, and employing a mixed methods research design, Schon adds to a rapidly evolving literature on how people cope with armed conflict. Schon's analytical framework focuses on individual choice, engaging with psychological research on the contrasting consequences of trauma, with sociological insights into the utility of networks for access to information or social support, and with knowledge from political science and economics about the role of structural factors such as conflict intensity or economic status. Notably, this approach gives equal weight to various strategies: internal or short-term displacement; cross-border migration; community mobilization; cultivating ties to (non-state or state) powerful actors; or minimizing visibility. The approach, argues Schon, can be developed and applied not only to other armed conflicts, but also to other crisis contexts, such as environmental change. The book draws on original data collected by the author, who has interviewed Syrians in Turkey and Jordan, while also drawing on a variety of secondary data. The accounts of the scope conditions, as well as of the limits to generalization, are exemplary. Somewhat surprisingly, the book presumes a clear civilian distinction, precluding the possibility that some, perhaps for limited periods of time, join the government or other armed actors as a strategy of survival. Also, the final editorial touch is missing. Overall, this is a meticulously researched book that offers crucial insights theoretically and methodologically, and which expands our understanding of how Syrians seek to cope with life in a devastating war that has now lasted over a decade.