Forced displacement is one of the most contentious issues of our time. How governments and institutions at all levels address the needs of those unsettled from their homes is an urgent sociopolitical and economic question. The scale and complex dynamics of Syrian ‘unsettlement’, in particular, have magnified the inadequacies of the aid mechanisms established to deal with forced displacement and refugees. Critically, the spatial mechanism of the refugee camp does not satisfy the demands of Syrian and others’ unsettlement: only a small percentage of Syrians are currently in camps, and many seeking refuge actively avoid them. The UN originally viewed the spatial isolation of camps as an effective means to deliver targeted aid and provide protection for short-term stays, but is now reacting to clear evidence that camps are insufficient, even harmful, to provide for refugees’ wellbeing.
Overwhelmingly, displaced persons and other stakeholders attempt to resolve their unsettlement through integration into the urban fabric. International relief agencies, such as UNHCR, struggle with questions of how to support settlement in urban areas, and how to shift their operations to accommodate a new spatial framework outside the boundaries of the camp. Governments, international organizations, and the unsettled themselves, meanwhile, have devised a broad range of strategies to meet refugees’ needs.
Unsettled is a collaborative book project, with contributions from architects, social scientists and urbanists, that examines the broad range of these spatial strategies through the experiences of the world’s largest displaced population. The intention of this book is not only to document the diverse spatial typologies that have emerged in response to Syrian displacement. It aims to critically examine both successful and ineffective strategies for meeting the requirements of those who are unsettled across a range of socio-spatial scales and cultural contexts.
This volume will:
1. Document and analyze a broad range of “unsettled” sites through selected case studies, with an emphasis on Syrian unsettlement both within Syria and around the world. They include temporary strategies, such as the transitional UNHCR camp, Tempelhof, in Berlin, the Temporary Protection Center (TPCs) in Turkey and the “tent” cities along the Lebanese-Syrian border; more permanent interventions, such as the conversion of military housing into accommodation centers for refugees (Germany); and the revitalization attempts of de-industrialized towns and cities now welcoming through refugee absorption (Magdeburg, Germany; Boise, USA).
2. Challenge and inform current policy discussions on how to address the needs of “refugees” (or what we will term the unsettled) in the context of a shift away from refugee camps and the rise of “urban refugees”. This volume asks, what could a progressive international framework providing for the spatial needs of the unsettled be? What are the main social and physical taxonomies that characterize responses to Syrian displacement and how do we assess them? What are the ethics of hospitality? How do different notions of hospitality, at different scales (urban and national), determine forms of unsettlement? What impact do social and/or institutional networks and support have in the types of spaces created?
3. Imagine how planning, design and scholarship can contribute to addressing unsettlement in a way that enhances integration, justice and sustainable urbanism. This book will explore how spatial approaches and perspectives that can provide guidance, and new possibilities, for addressing the temporal, and increasingly protracted, nature of displacement.
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