Spaces of belonging in architectures of asylum? Urban refugees’ agency in the production of space and place in Berlin, Germany and Zaatari, Jordan.

Authors: Anna Steigemann*, TU Berlin
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Geography, Migration
Keywords: refugees, migration, space, belonging, architecture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Galerie 1, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Combining research methods from architectural, geography, and the social sciences that include refugees stronger into the research and knowledge production process, the paper investigates physical, material, social, and symbolic appropriation and placemaking processes by Syrian refugees currently housed in humanitarian settings in Jordan and Germany. We ask: What spatial knowledge is mobilized at the place of asylum? How does this knowledge hybrizide practices of the place of origin, experiences made during the escape, as well as during and after the arriving and uncertain period of stay at an unfamiliar place of asylum? How do spatial appropriation processes collide with humanitarian logics and technocratic emergency management approaches at the place of asylum? We argue that arriving refugees mobilize “urban knowledge” at the place of asylum which can only be understood as a re-figuration process, which is equally at work in the case of other migrants, migration and translocal processes. The main focus is on the ways in which refugees perceive, adapt to, appropriate, and alter their new urban environments physically and socially and of how they thereby draw on existing and evolving stocks of urban and spatial knowledge, urban experiences, and relationships in so-called emergency accommodations in Berlin and the more urbanized refugee camp Zaatari in Jordan. Through the direct inclusion of urban refugees in this study, we thus aim to explain how migration transforms urban space physically and socially and how planning and the social and technical infrastructures affect migrants’ mobility – socially and spatially.

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