Tom Scott-Smith wins ESRC-AHRC award for project on Architectures of Displacement

Posted:
12 January, 2017

Associate Professor Tom Scott-Smith has won funding for a new interdisciplinary project that will explore the lived experience of temporary accommodation for refugees in the Middle East and Europe.

Architectures of Displacement brings together experts in forced displacement, archaeology, anthropology, and architecture to study refugee shelter across six countries. The project is a partnership with the Pitt Rivers Museum and has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Global Challenges Research Fund. It is due to run until the end of 2018.

The project has four main aims:

  • to produce an inventory that records and categorizes the diverse range of emergency accommodation in situations of forced migration;
  • to produce detailed portraits of emergency shelter through ethnographic writing, photographic essays and film;
  • to assess the social, cultural, political and legal implications of different emergency shelters; and
  • to inform the design of successful policies on shelter and displacement through discussion with humanitarian and governmental agencies.

To achieve these aims, the project will conduct multi-sited fieldwork throughout 2017 and early 2018 in order to capture the full range of emergency accommodation generated by the Syrian refugee crisis. Research will take place in six countries – Jordan, Lebanon, Greece, Italy, Germany and France – with sites in these countries capturing the most creative and diverse range of accommodation types.

The project starts from the view that the experience of forced displacement is profoundly shaped by where people find shelter, and that the analysis of material forms can offer unique insights in the study of migration and refugees. The project draws together three disciplines with distinct but complementary approaches to the study of material forms: Anthropology, Architecture and Archaeology. By developing an interdisciplinary approach to the physical dimension of the refugee experience, Architectures of Displacement will provide new perspectives upon the processes of human adaptation to new circumstances through displacement.

In sum, one of the most vital concerns for migrants when they first leave their homes is where to find a safe and stable space in which to rest, eat, socialize, and sleep. Tents and camps dominate media images of forced displacement, but forced migrants find shelter in many other ways, making use of abandoned buildings, staying on the floors of friends and relatives, finding rest in self-built shelters, sleeping in the natural environment, and being housed in specially created spaces, such as 'villages' made-up of stacked shipping containers, IKEA-designed prefabricated shelters, or government-run detention centres. Architectures of Displacement will facilitate a more nuanced and detailed understanding of refugee sheltering in all these forms, helping understand the impact of shelter policies and their lives on refugees.

Find out more.