BRISMES Panel (zoom): Organized and chaired by Are John Knudsen, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI)

This panel proposes a new approach to Zygmunt Baumann terming the 20th century as “the century of camps”. To this end, the authors examine encampment in the Middle East over longer timescales using spatial analysis, visual imagery and historical records – maps, photographs, biographies – to examine the spatial ordering of camps, the implications for its residents and how the camp is experienced and by its subjects. The foregrounding of visual material is used to theorise the historical role of encampment and extend studies on camp governance towards a spatial and temporal analysis that contrasts the visual representation and spatial imagery of camps by agencies and stewards with the bottom-up view of encampment as imagined, experienced and resisted by the residents.  

Examining the spatial and temporal representation of refugee camps and encampment are important for understanding change and continuity in the historical trajectory of refugee camps to the present-day containment of refugees. To this end, the authors examine a diverse set of examples ranging from the early 20th century Baquba refugee camp (Iraq), to the mid-century UNRWA refugee camps (Palestine) and, finally, the present-day mega-camps (Jordan) and urbanised city-camps (Lebanon). Taken together, these examples provide a visual and temporal record of encampment in the Middle East. We seek to develop a new methodological approach to the study of refugee camps combining urban ethnography, architecture, history and geography providing a new synthesis for understanding the 20th “century of camps”.

1. Aerial photography and the image of the refugee camp in the Middle East from Baquba to Zaatari, 1918-2018 - Benjamin Thomas White, University of Glasgow
2. UNRWA, the Refugee and the Camp: Imageries, Representations and Practice -Kjersti Berg, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI)
3. The Ghettoization and Densification of Beddawi Refugee camp, Lebanon - Ismail Cheikh Hassan, Independent Researcher
4. Visualizing the Evolution of Refugees’ Housing in the Zaatari Camp, Jordan - Kamel
Doraï, Institut français du Proche-Orient (Ifpo-Beirut)
6. Gaza Buildings: Spatial Archives of Displacement in Sabra, Beirut - Are John
Knudsen, Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI)