Displacement and the right to the city: struggles in the oldest refugee camp of Beirut, Lebanon

Authors: Diala Lteif*, University of Toronto
Topics: Planning Geography, Historical Geography, Middle East
Keywords: Refugees, Beirut, right to the city, Lebanon
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 35
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Beirut’s history with displacement is long and complex. The latest Syrian influx of refugees only comes as a continuation of many waves of displacement Lebanon has witnessed in the 20th century. Starting with the Armenians after World War I, Beirut has also hosted Kurds, Palestinians and many internally displaced communities. This research explores the everyday and political life of Karantina, a Beirut neighborhood that has hosted successive waves of refugees to Lebanon. Using Henri Lefebvre’s work on the production of space and the right to the city, I frame the role of refugees as an active participant in the making of the city. The specific case study of the karantina neighborhood—also known as Al Khodr part of the district of Medawar—in Beirut, Lebanon presents a particularly interesting context for these inquiries. Known as one of the first refugee camps, built under the French Mandate to host the Armenian refugees, the neighborhood presents a unique layering of experiences of refuge when studied over time. This specific proposal focuses on the 1960s, when Karantina evolved into a space of collaboration and cohesion between the native population, the migrant laborers and the Palestinian, Armenian, and Kurdish refugees who had settled in the area. Faced with the same struggles the disparate groups banded together. Mixing archival research with interviews, the project aims to gather spatialized narratives of the everyday life of refugees as they claim their right to the city through appropriations of space.

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