Dadaab is a Place on Earth

Thursday, April 27, 2017 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

With Professor Anooradha Siddiqi, New York University

This seminar follows an earlier moderated public discussion (held on April 18th at NYU) concerning 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. The detailed discussion on design, use, aesthetics, and affect at the Dadaab site, aims to study the social and political lived realities of an environment constructed to be liminal. This seminar will examine the empirical and theoretical problematics in the historical and ethnographic investigation of this site, as well as the methods in this study.