Camps: A Genealogy of Refugee Camps in the Middle East

Press de l’ifpo | editors: Ayham Dalal and Kamel Doraï with Something Fantastic

The last five years have witnessed a growing interest in refugee camps studies. The increasing displacement of populations worldwide has produced what the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) described as the biggest human exodus since World War II, resulting into different types of camps. While camps were argued to be attempts to contain and govern displaced populations in the Global South in contrast to less visible ways of dealing with migration and displacement in the Global North; we are suggesting that a thorough reading of refugee camps’ spatialities in the Middle East is fundamental to unpack notions of encampments worldwide. To do so, the book looks at how camps were constructed historically within the region, and how they formed at times when nation-states were also forged in resonance to colonial interests in the Middle East; we argue that the refugee camp has become a constituent urban element of the Middle Eastern fabric, intertwined with its hybrid politics, societal composition and space-materiality.

The book starts with Part I that gives a historical account on refugee camps through archival work. It sheds light on different forms of encampment during Ottoman times, ranging from pilgrim camps on the way to Mecca, to Armenian camps built around Aleppo and Beirut. Then it illustrates the conditions, national and international policies around the production of Palestinian camps upon the creation of nation-states in the Middle East. Starting from there, the book explores different spatial and architectural arrangement of refugee camps in their contemporary forms. It gives various insights from Palestinian and Syria camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq-Kurdistan, shedding light on local practices of dwelling and urbanization. It also shows how the spatiality of the camp became strongly intertwined with the urban landscape of the Middle East. Finally, in part III, the book shows how these camp spatialities became embedded in other aspects such as technology and living in cities. For instance, it will be shown how digitalization is used to manage camps, while squatting in neighborhoods within cities produce camp-like urban realities. By doing so, the book offers a holistic view on encampments historically and shed light on their formation and urbanization processes. It also provides various angles to understanding the camp spatially which, we believe, are important for unpacking the ways politics, societies and space shape cities in the Middle East.

2021
Press de l’ifpo