Domesticating on the run: how refugees "typologize" urban space
Mark Vacher (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
Based on an ethnographic inquiry in Beirut, Lebanon, carried out in collaboration with landscape architect Sonja Stockmarr I will present the preliminary findings from our project on infrastructural challenges caused by the massive arrival of refugees fleeing from the civil war in Syria.
Paper long abstract:
The study sets out to explore how refugees read, interpret, and appropriate urban environments. From a phenomenological perspective, being in a state of flight has a radical impact on how space is experienced. Arriving in a new place as a refugee raises a number of questions regarding comfort, accessibility, and not least safety. Where can a tired family sleep? Where can you store your belongings? Where can you relieve yourself? Where do you go from there? Our hypothesis is that on the one hand, being a refugee is a skill which improves with increased experience. On the other hand, it is also a condition in which resources (mental, physical, and financial) are drained over time. Thus, to the refugee the new environment represents a complex challenge which has to be deciphered and appropriated more or less from scratch, but depending on the refugee's experience this is accomplished according to certain established categories or, as we term them, typologies. Some of these typologies are well-known within studies of dwelling eg.: "the bed", "the toilet", "the roof", "the shade", but our hope is to discover other typologies which can potentially be incorporated in urban design and architectural intervention.