Scholarly debate has persuasively highlighted the inherent tension between refugees and the modern state. Yet, how do state-refugee relations unfold in practice when considering the historical and social specificity of a single state? Is there a heuristic value in going beyond the premises of a general state-refugee binary and adopt a state-specific approach? These questions are addressed through an analysis based on the modelling of statehood in Lebanon and comparing five cases of refugee-state relations in this country. This method allows explaining the variation in degrees of segregation or integration of refugees and shows that the mode of politicization of refugees is the key factor in understanding this variation. Not all refugees and not all states are the same; the variance of state-refugee relations is best explained from a perspective that considers the historically situated nature of statehood.