This article draws on research with and about refugees from across the Middle East and North Africa and examines the current Syrian refugee crisis through the tropes of visibility and invisibility. Adopting a deconstructive framework, it purposefully centralizes what has previously been assigned a peripheral position throughout the ever-expanding “archive of knowledge” (following Foucault) vis-à-vis particular refugee situations and critically interrogates how, why, and with what effect only certain bodies, identity markers, and models of humanitarian response become hypervisible in the European public sphere. The article starts by tracing the roles of visibility and invisibility in constituting the “ideal refugee” (and the concomitant figure of the “a-refugee”), before turning to refugee-refugee humanitarianism as an invisible form of Southern-led (rather than Northern-led or Northern-dominated) responses to displacement from Syria.

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