Dadaab Is a Place on Earth: Architecture in the Twilight of the World’s Largest Refugee Camp
This moderated discussion concerns architecture and emergency urbanism in history, focusing on the constructed environment of the UNHCR-administered refugee camp complex at Dadaab, Kenya, near the border with Somalia. Paradoxical for its scale and ephemerality together, the Dadaab complex at once approaches and resists being “urban,” on the one hand, and a “camp,” on the other. Established in 1991 to shelter thirty thousand refugees, the Dadaab complex expanded over the course of a quarter century to five settlements with a compound headquartering a centralized structure of humanitarian agencies. According to unofficial counts, it currently houses one half million refugees and asylum seekers, along with humanitarian aid workers in residence. In early 2016, citing security threats, the government of Kenya announced that it would close the complex prior to the next general election, and dismantled the Department of Refugee Affairs as a decisive measure. Through a detailed discussion on design, use, aesthetics, and affect at the Dadaab site, we hope to study the social and political lived realities of an environment constructed to be liminal.
Introduction by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi
Discussion with Samar Al-Bulushi, Alishine Osman, Ben Rawlence, Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi
Moderated by Rosalind Fredericks
Remarks by AbdouMaliq Simone
Organized by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi with Rachel Stern. Photo taken in Ifo Camp, 2011, by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi. For further inquiries or to obtain teaching materials related to this event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsored by New York University | Gallatin School of Individualized Study Urban Democracy Lab, Global Design NYU, and Gallatin Human Rights Initiative | Departments of English, History, Art History, Anthropology, Sociology, Social and Cultural Analysis – Africana Studies | Institute of Fine Arts | Institute for Public Knowledge and the Race and Public Space Working Group | Center for the Humanities | Africa House.
Samar Al-Bulushi is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University. Her research examines the relationship between transnational governance, militarized urbanisms, and middle class subject formation in the context of Kenya’s role in the US-led “War on Terror.” Previously, Samar worked with various human rights organizations, including the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). As an independent journalist between 2010-2011, Samar co-produced and co-hosted AfrobeatRadio and Global Movements, Urban Struggles on Pacifica’s WBAI in New York City. Her work has appeared in Africa is a Country, Transforming Anthropology, Jacobin, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, and Pambazuka News.
Rosalind Fredericks is an Associate Professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. After completing her PhD in geography at the University of California, Berkeley, she was a postdoctoral research scholar with the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. Trained as an urban and cultural geographer, her research interests are centered on urban development, citizenship, political ecology, infrastructure, and geographies of waste in Africa. Her forthcoming book manuscript, Garbage Citizenship: Vibrant Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Duke University Press), chronicles the infrastructural politics surrounding municipal garbage labor in the wake of structural adjustment. A new research project funded by the National Science Foundation examines planning and activism surrounding the proposed closure of the city’s dump, Mbeubeuss. She also has an ongoing research project on the role of hip-hop in elections in Senegal. Fredericks has edited two books with Mamadou Diouf on citizenship in African cities: Les Arts de la Citoyenneté au Sénégal: Espaces Contestés et Civilités Urbaines (Editions Karthala, 2013) and The Arts of Citizenship in African Cities: Infrastructures and Spaces of Belonging (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014).
Alishine Osman left Somalia at the age of seven due to political turmoil and was settled in Ifo Refugee Camp, Dadaab, Kenya. He and his family were confined there from 1991 to 2007. Osman graduated from the first class to pass through Ifo Secondary School, and worked in Dadaab for the international humanitarian organization Norwegian Refugee Council. On September 10, 2007, he was resettled in the United States. He attended Harrisburg Area Community College, and received a BA degree in Political Science from Pennsylvania State University. Osman works in a social service organization in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and as a language and cultural consultant across the United States.
Ben Rawlence is the author of Radio Congo (OneWorld, 2012) and City of Thorns (Picador, 2016). He has worked as a speechwriter and policy advisor in the US, UK, and East Africa and also as a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. He lives in Wales.
Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi is Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow in the Gallatin School for Individualized Study at New York University, and co-editor of the volume Spatial Violence (Routledge, 2016). Her research focuses on spatial politics, urbanisms, and modernist culture and discourses in history, drawing from primary research in East Africa and South Asia on two book projects, Architecture of Humanitarianism: The Dadaab Refugee Camps and Emergency Urbanism in History and Vocal Instruments: Minnette De Silva and an Asian Modern Architecture. The Fulbright Scholar Program, Social Science Research Council, Graham Foundation, American Institute of Indian Studies, New York University, and National Endowment for the Arts have supported her work, and she has taught in the Growth and Structure of Cities Department at Bryn Mawr College and in the Art and Design History and Theory Department at Parsons The New School for Design. She received a PhD in the History of Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, and practiced architecture in the United States and India.
AbdouMaliq Simone is an urbanist with particular interest in emerging forms of collective life across cities of the so-called Global South. He has worked across many different academic, administrative, research, policymaking, advocacy, and organizational contexts. Simone is presently Research Professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Visiting Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of London and Visiting Professor of Urban Studies at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. Key publications include In Whose Image: Political Islam and Urban Practices in Sudan (University of Chicago Press, 1994), For the City Yet to Come: Urban Change in Four African Cities (Duke University Press, 2004), and City Life from Jakarta to Dakar: Movements at the Crossroads (Routledge, 2009), Jakarta: Drawing the City Near (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and the forthcoming New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times (Polity) with Edgar Pieterse.