Refugees and Urban Space

At the end of 2019, the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted over 79.5 million forcibly displaced persons around the world. Out of which are 26 million refugees hosted in urban areas and camps. While assisting refugees usually entails the coordination between different local and international actors, and the tailoring of new policies to ensure their protection; it also results in the production of new urban spaces. In cities for instance, refugees contribute to urbanization processes and can reshaped the ways some neighborhoods are built. Similarly, in refugee camps, the temporary spaces and shelters offered to refugees become gradually complex overtime, turning into vibrant markets and spaces for socialization with complex dwelling arrangements. Consequently, these spaces play host to clashes between the different visions and needs of local officials, humanitarian outfits, and newly arrived residents looking to establish a sense of home in an often-permanent but always precarious space. The emergence of urban space in refugee camps not only raises questions about the nature of such temporary spaces, but also urges us to rethink the meanings of 21th Century cities. 

 This course is an invitation to explore the impact of refugees on urban space. We will look at how refugees can act as architects and city-makers within the different contexts, and how they utilize their knowledge on space to produce new hybrid urbanities within settings characterized by permanent temporariness and precariousness. To do so, the course will explore different case studies in the Middle East and Europe, and will introduce the students to key readings that explore this burgeoning field of literature and scholarly work.

Invited Speakers:

Fatima Al-Nammari (Associate Professor, Dean of Architecture and Planning Faculty at University of Petra)

Samar Maqusi (Postdoctoral Researcher at the RELIEF centre, UCL)

Heba Najada (Architect and PhD Candidate at UC Berkely)

Saba Innab (Architect and Artist in Residence, DAAD program, Berlin)

  • Institution
    Vassar College
  • Collaboration with:
    Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education
  • Funding
    Andrew Mellon Foundation
  • Type
    Online Seminar
  • Department
    Urban Studies
  • Poster of the seminar (Courtesy and design: Ayham Dalal)
  • A view on the city center of Amman. One of the biggest refugee cities in the world (Courtesy: Ayham Dalal)