Preface and Acknowledgments
Monk and Herscher, “The New Universalism.”
Introduction: The Global Shelter Imaginary
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Conflict, Violence in Burkina Faso Displaces Nearly Half a Million People”; Romain Desclous (spokesperson for UNHCR in West Africa) in discussion with the authors, Zoom, August 24, 2020.
Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries, 23.
Agier, Managing the Undesirables, 16.
For a symptomatic registration of this shift, see Structures of Protection? Rethinking Refugee Shelter, ed. Tom Scott-Smith and Mark E. Breeze.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “The Global Compact on Refugees.”
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Global Compact on Refugees.” The compact’s four key objectives are: “Ease the pressures on host countries; Enhance refugee self-reliance; Expand access to third-country solutions; Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.”
Jeff Crisp (@JFCrisp), “Phrases I won’t be using in 2020: ‘Global refugee crisis’ ‘Record number of refugees’ ‘One person displaced every two seconds’ ‘Persons of concern’ ‘Complementary pathways’ ‘Bringing refugees to the market’ ‘Private sector engagement’ ‘New paradigm’ ‘Gamechanger’ ‘Changemaker,’” Twitter post, December 24, 2019, 9:21 a.m., https://twitter.com/JFCrisp/status/1209388630550237190.
Fassin, Humanitarian Reason, 6.
Fassin, Humanitarian Reason, 7–8. For discussions of a sentimental humanitarianism, see Berlant and Warner, “Sex in Public”; Owens, “Xenophilia, Gender, and Sentimental Humanitarianism.”
Crisp, “Phrases I won’t be using in 2020.”
Owens, “Xenophilia, Gender, and Sentimental Humanitarianism” 296. See also the chapter “Neo-humanitarianism” in Barnett, Empire of Humanity.
Bourdieu, On the State, 23.
Rajaram, “Humanitarianism and Representations of the Refugee,” as cited in Haddad, The Refugee in International Society, 35. See also Rajaram, “Humanitarianism and Representations of the Refugee,” in the Journal of Refugee Studies.
Davis, Planet of Slums.
1. Better Shelter / Better Refugee
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2019.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2018.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2018.
Gatrell, The Making of the Modern Refugee, 3.
Hathaway, “The Evolution of Refugee Status in International Law”; Islam and Bhuiyan, An Introduction to International Refugee Law.
Hammerstadt, “The Securitization of Forced Migration.” See also Crawley and Skleparis, “Refugees, Migrants, Neither, Both”; FitzGerald, Refuge beyond Reach.
Michael Grewcock, “‘Our Lives Is in Danger’”; National Immigrant Justice Center, “A Legacy of Injustice.”
“The Convention is both a status and rights-based instrument and is underpinned by a number of fundamental principles, most notably non-discrimination, non-penalization and non-refoulement. Convention provisions, for example, are to be applied without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin. Developments in international human rights law also reinforce the principle that the Convention be applied without discrimination as to sex, age, disability, sexuality, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination. The Convention further stipulates that, subject to specific exceptions, refugees should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay. This recognizes that the seeking of asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules. Prohibited penalties might include being charged with immigration or criminal offences relating to the seeking of asylum, or being arbitrarily detained purely on the basis of seeking asylum. Importantly, the Convention contains various safeguards against the expulsion of refugees.” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, The Refugee Convention, 1951, “Introductory Note”; UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; see also Agier, Managing the Undesirables.
Fassin, Humanitarian Reason, 155: “regulation is paradoxically all the more strict because the European space is also a space of the rule of law—and hence of rights, notably human rights.”
Dale and Kyle, “Smart Humanitarianism,” 785.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “IKEA Foundation.”
Better Shelter, “Better Shelter Awarded Beazley Design of the Year.” In this and other publications on the Better Shelter, the IKEA Foundation refers to the product as “theirs,” rather than a product of the Better Shelter nonprofit, which strictly speaking it is.
“The Way We Work,” IKEA Foundation, accessed November 3, 2019, https://ikeafoundation.org/about/the-way-we-work/. Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, explicitly drew this connection, writing that, “our goal with the IKEA Foundation is in keeping with exactly what we’ve always tried to do as a home furnishings company”; see “A Better Everyday Life,” IKEA Foundation, accessed May 13, 2020, https://ikeafoundation.org/about/.
“Circle of Prosperity,” IKEA Foundation, accessed June 7, 2018, https://www.ikeafoundation.org/about-us-ikea-foundation/circle-of-prosperity/. It pays to note that in articulating these features of a “better life,” the IKEA Foundation exemplifies the type of “computational empathy” discussed in Dale and Kyle, “Smart Humanitarianism.”
“We always look to monitor and maximise the return on invested capital and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our support programmes, so we can be sure we’re doing as much we can for as many people as possible” (emphasis added), “Funding,” IKEA Foundation, accessed May 13, 2020, https://www.ikeafoundation.org/about-us-ikea-foundation/funding/.
See Mattsson and Wallenstein, eds., Swedish Modernism.
Quoted in Lindqvist, “The Cultural Archive of the IKEA Store,” 57.
Sphere Project, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, 239–86.
Terne, “Presentation of the Better Shelter Product.”
As the founder of BetterShelter.org, Johan Karlsson, put it: “I had thought of humanitarian aid as a temporary measure, something to protect for the short term. But the average time of a refugee situation is almost twenty years. In many of the camps where we are working today refugees have stayed for years and years . . . [the Better Shelter can be] . . . integrated into transitional shelter programs so that you can extend the lifespan and link the emergency aid you are having here to more development aid.” Johan Karlsson, “Innovative Design—A Winding Path,” Tedx Talk, TEDxNorrköping, December 4, 2017, YouTube video, 18:01, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15cJPKKd0i0.
Gatrell, Making of the Modern Refugee, 114.
The Museum of Modern Art, “Preview | Insecurities, and How Should We Live,” featuring Glenn Lowry, Sean Anderson, and Juliet Kinchin, The Museum of Modern Art, September 30, 2016, YouTube video, 45:16, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kltVGARh7xM. The phenomenon of “bandwagoning” has been analyzed extensively in the field of international relations theory, where it connotes a process of seeking relative safety in numbers. But even there it also implies the meaning attributed to it in the social sphere, where to bandwagon is to adopt “a popular point of view for the primary purpose of recognition and/or acceptance by others” (Urban Dictionary, s.v. “bandwagon,” December 17, 2003, accessed July 11, 2018, https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bandwagon).
To speak of “virtue signaling” is not to imply that these institutions acted cynically. Rather, it means that their members have a “practical sense” that imbricates them in the ordering of their reality—often, in ways that often involve an “exchange of honor.” That practical sense: “operates at a pre-objective, non-thetic level; it expresses this social sensitivity which guides us prior to our positing objects as such.” Bourdieu and Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, 20. On exchanges of honor, see the chapter “The Economy of Symbolic Goods” in Bourdieu, Practical Reason, 92–124.
Bourdieu, Practical Reason, 83–84.
Bourdieu, Practical Reason, 78. In such denials, Bourdieu argues, there is a “hidden tacit accord”: adversaries interested in the same social field “disagree with one another, but they at least agree about the object of disagreement.” These generate what Bourdieu calls the “profits” of universalization that attend the language of disinterested and apolitical humanitarianism, which is the language of its protection of humanitarianism as disinterested and apolitical. This is illustrated, in part, in the way that Sean Anderson, the curator of the Habitat insecurity exhibit at MoMA, suggests that “architecture becomes a litmus of the very problem . . . if we propose architecture as a solution it ignores the problem. . . . I come back to the idea that shelter is something we make, but when shelter is imposed . . . that’s when the architecture changes . . . and that’s when the meaning of architecture begins to reinforce or negate the very idea of humanitarianism.” The Museum of Modern Art, “Preview | Insecurities, and How Should We Live.”
Bourdieu, Leçon sur la leçon (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1982), as cited in Bourdieu and Wacquant, Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, 40.
Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, 167.
Sassen, Expulsions, 1.
“Depoliticizing everything it touches, everywhere whisking political realities out of sight, all the while performing, almost unnoticed, its own preeminently political operation of expanding bureaucratic state power.” Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine, xiv.
Better Shelter, “Better Shelter @ World Intellectual Property Day,” May 8, 2017, YouTube video, 2:29, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9xegwnBWVQ.
Pasquetti, Casati, and Sanyal, “Law and Refugee Crises.”
Gharib, “Humanitarian Experts Debate Trump’s Use of the Term ‘Humanitarian Crisis.’”
Heller and Pécoud, “Counting Migrants’ Deaths at the Border,” 10.
Welton-Mitchell, “Medical Evidence in Refugee Status Determination.”
Fassin and d’Halluin, “The Truth from the Body,” 597. See also Pestre, “Instrumentalizing the Refugee’s Body through Evidence.”
See Keeler, “Peacebuilding.”
Jacobsen, “Experimentation in Humanitarian Locations,” 144. See also Monk and Herscher, “New Universalism.”
Muhle, “A Genealogy of Biopolitics,” 79.
Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 147.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@refugees), “These friends never thought they’d see each other again. The moment when they reunited will give you chills. #DayofFriendship,” Twitter, July 30, 2019, 11:50 a.m., https://twitter.com/refugees/status/1156139872450744320.
In this connection, it bears stating that between 2017 and 2019, BetterShelter.org’s own mission statement dropped any reference to “persons displaced by conflicts.”
Better Shelter, “Almost 30,000 Better Shelter Units Improve Refugee Living Conditions around the World.”
Nichols and Maner, “The Good-Subject Effect.”
“A Better Shelter for Refugees,” IKEA Foundation, October 25, 2017, YouTube video, 4:50, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p0TfPIK7_Y.
“Iraqi Families Return to Rebuild Their Lives: Better Shelters Offer a Feeling of Home in a City in Ruins,” Better Shelter, accessed November 3, 2019, https://BetterShelter.org/iraqi-families-return-to-rebuild-their-lives-better-shelters-offer-a-feeling-of-home-in-a-city-in-ruins/ (emphasis added).
MacGregor, “Design for Refugees.”
Hebdidge, “The Machine Is Unheimlich.”
Better Shelter, A Home Away from Home.
Better Shelter, Home Away from Home.
“Temporary Homes for 4000 Iraqis,” Better Shelter, accessed November 3, 2019, https://BetterShelter.org/temporary-homes-for-4-000-iraqis/; Hunt Institute, “OXHIP 2015: Profile of Better Shelter, Inventive Housing for Refugees,” October 12, 2015, YouTube video produced by The Kelley Group, 2:30, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmk9yemxfQo.
“Revisiting Lesvos,” Better Shelter, accessed November 3, 2019, https://BetterShelter.org/revisiting-lesvos/.
“Revisiting Lesvos,” Better Shelter.
Adorno, The Jargon of Authenticity; Nikolaj Fremming, “Screening of The Human Shelter Documentary Film,” June 1, 2018, Vimeo video, 04:14, https://vimeo.com/273032055; in a gender-inclusive amendment to Heidegger’s text, at the end of the screening, IKEA head of design, Marcus Egman and the film director, Boris Bertram, concur that “poetically humans dwell on this earth.”
See Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” in Poetry, Language, Thought, 351.
Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, 363.
Daloz, “Political Elites and Conspicuous Modesty”; Mattsson and Wallenstein, Swedish Modernism; Murphy, Swedish Design.
Norberg-Schulz, Existence, Space & Architecture; Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci; Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture; Pallasmaa, The Thinking Hand and The Eyes of the Skin.
Agamben, The Omnibus Homo Sacer, 141.
2. There Has Always Been a Better Shelter
Oliver, Carceral Humanitarianism.
See the chapter “The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man” in Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, 284.
Arendt may have borrowed the term “scum of the earth” from Arthur Koestler’s 1941 memoir, Scum of the Earth, about his detention at Camp Le Vernet in France the previous year.
Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, 277.
Our argument also supplements the history of the intertwined relationship between counterinsurgency and domesticity laid out by Patricia Owens. Owens explores investments in “improving” or “reforming” the social life of dominated people—the way in which “civilizing missions involve the domestication of dominated others”; in colonial contexts, she locates these investments outside camps and after periods of manifest terror and violence. We point to another intersection of domestication and domination that, in Europe, originated not beyond the camp but within it. See Owens, Economy of Force.
See, for example, Forth, Barbed-Wire Imperialism; Pitzer, One Long Night; Nemser, Infrastructures of Race; and Stone, Concentration Camps.
For a sophisticated architectural version of this morphological history, see Grancy, “Die Baracke als architektonische Kippfigur,” https://vimeo.com/156405263.
On the relationship between globalized histories, humanitarianism, and encampment, see Monk and Herscher, “New Universalism.”
A paradigmatic example of this morphological turn may be found in Katz, “The Common Camp.”
See Forth, Barbed-Wire Imperialism, 43–128.
See Raath and Strydom, “The Hague Conventions and the Anglo-Boer War.” According to the 1899 Hague Convention, “Prisoners of war may be interned in a town, fortress, camp, or any other locality, and bound not to go beyond certain fixed limit.”
See Thomson, The Transvaal Burgher Camps, South Africa, posed by its author as the world’s first manual on designing and managing the refugee camp. On castramentation as an ideal, see Monk, “The Art of Castramentation.”
See Herscher, Displacements, 102–6. Exploring colonial contexts, Patricia Owens sees housing questions emerging after the internment of populations; in the Philippines, for example, she writes that “the forcible removal and concentration of populations was followed by ‘policies of attraction,’ reform of labor, education, health, and sanitation . . . a form of domestic engineering especially responsive to housewifery.” See Owens, Economy of Force, 22.
See Hermann, “Cities of Barracks.” On the legal status of citizens of the Austro-Hungarian empire, see Hirschhausen, “From Imperial Inclusion to National Exclusion.”
Hermann, “Cities of Barracks,” 139.
On these camps, see Schwarz, “Architekt Heymann, Ingenieur Gröger und das k. k. Flüchtlingslager Oberhollabrunn”; Schmoll, “Das Flüchtlingslager in Gmünd”; Antje Senarclens de Grancy, Ein Flüchtlingslager in der Südsteiermark, project description, n.d., https://iam.tugraz.at/akk/.
Hermann, “Cities of Barracks,” 135.
Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, 281.
On the camp at Saliers, see Pernot, Un camp pour les bohémiens, and Marie-Christine Hubert, “The Internment of Gypsies in France.”
Barnett, Empire of Humanity, 97–160.
Cuny, “Refugee Camps and Camp Planning”; Davis, Shelter after Disaster; Davis, ed., Disasters and the Small Dwelling; Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Co-ordinator, Shelter after Disaster; and Cuny, Disasters and Development. On this discourse, see Anooradha I. Siddiqi, “Architecture Culture, Humanitarian Expertise.”
Cuny, “Refugee Camps and Camp Planning,” 127.
For example, the work of John Turner on self-settlement and self-housing in the Global South would become important for Davis and Cuny: see Siddiqi, “Architecture Culture, Humanitarian Expertise,” 376.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Handbook for Emergencies; Zetter, “Shelter Provision and Settlement Policies for Refugees”; Sphere Project, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. See also Siddiqi, “Architecture Culture, Humanitarian Expertise” 378–81.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Handbook for Emergencies, vii.
Zetter, “Shelter Provision and Settlement Policies,” 30, 37.
Zetter, “Shelter Provision and Settlement Policies,” 33.
Zetter, “Shelter Provision and Settlement Policies,” 47.
UN Secretary-General, “Secretary-General Proposes Global Compact on Human Rights, Labour, Environment, in Address to World Economic Forum in Davos.”
Better Shelter, Home Away from Home, 3.
3. “Protection Space”
Edwards, “‘Legitimate’ Protection Spaces.”
“Pirate urbanization is, in effect, the privatization of squatting.” Davis, Planet of Slums, 40.
Ghazaleh, “In ‘Closed File’ Limbo”; Kagan, “Assessment of Refugee Status Determination Procedure at UNHCR’s Cairo Office 2001–2002.”
Haddad, Refugee in International Society.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees [Luise Druke], Mobilizing for Refugee Protection.
Azzam, ed., A Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations, 8
On the “individualist” approach to refugee management, see Hathaway, The Law of Refugee Status, 2–5. For a comprehensive explanation of the RSD process and its implications for the fate of asylum seekers in that period, see “UNHCR’s RSD Policy: Quick Guide.”
Loescher et al., eds., Protracted Refugee Situations, 12.
Azzam, Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations, 36.
Loescher et al., eds., Protracted Refugee Situations, 51.
Loescher, Betts, and Milner, eds., The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 48.
These responses accord with the attitudes laid out in UNHCR’s 1997 urban refugee documents: “irregular movers are often among the most vehement of protesters, although rejected cases, those refused assistance, as well as the psychologically disturbed might all, at times, prove violent and dangerous to themselves and staff . . . UNHCR staff should not hesitate to seek the intervention of local authorities against refugees or asylum-seekers who break national laws. Experience has shown that clear messages, such as closing down the Branch Office and calling in the local police at the beginning of a violent protest, is the most effective way in bringing it to an early and peaceful close.” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Comprehensive Policy on Refugees in Urban Areas.
Azzam, Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations, 37.
Ghazaleh, “In ‘Closed File’ Limbo,” 25.
Azzam, Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations, 66.
Curtis, “Refugees Die in Police Raid.”
Whitaker, “20 Killed as Egyptian Police Evict Sudanese Protesters”; actually UNHCR both affirmed and denied that it had asked the Egyptian government to intervene. UNHCR in Cairo also stated that it was “very shocked and saddened” by what had taken place. See Azzam, Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations, 13–14.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Comprehensive Policy on Refugees in Urban Areas.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Comprehensive Policy on Refugees in Urban Areas, 94.
Crisp, “Finding Space for Protection,” 94.
Nor can one fail to notice that the report characterized political protest among “irregular movers” as pathology. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Comprehensive Policy on Refugees in Urban Areas, 4.
Note that Crisp highlights that the 1997 report had no separate section on protection, and that it was overly concerned with assistance to the undeserving. See Crisp, “Finding Space for Protection,” 94.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR’s Policy and Practice Regarding Urban Refugees, a Discussion Paper, 14.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR’s Policy and Practice Regarding Urban Refugees, 7.
Dallal Stevens, “What Do We Mean by Protection?” 237.
See Goodwin-Gill, “The Language of Protection”; Fortin, “The Meaning of ‘Protection’ in the Refugee Definition”; and Stevens, “What Do We Mean by Protection?”
Stevens, “What Do We Mean by Protection?” 244.
Barnes, Realizing Protection Space for Iraqi Refugees, 5–7; see also UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Note on International Protection.
Barnes, Realizing Protection Space for Iraqi Refugees, 11. Emphasis added.
Barnes, Realizing Protection Space for Iraqi Refugees, 11.
Barnes, Realizing Protection Space for Iraqi Refugees, 12.
Gallop, Reading Lacan, 81.
Kelly Oliver makes a similar point in her brilliant study Carceral Humanitarianism; see also UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Statement by Erika Feller, Assistant High Commissioner—Protection, UNHCR, at the “Refugee Futures” Conference.
Conclusion: Airbnb Refugee
See UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@refugees), “Screws bolts panels These recently assembled Refugee Housing Units will provide safe and dignified spaces to undertake medical screenings in quarantine centres in order to identify people in need of protection. via @recere,” Twitter, July 15, 2020, 12:47 a.m., https://twitter.com/Refugees/status/1283171198126493698.
Jeff Crisp (@JFCrisp), “Are UNHCR staff now under instructions to talk about ‘displaced people’ rather than ‘refugees’? That’s what it’s beginning to look like . . . ,” Twitter, August 7, 2020, 5:10 p.m., https://twitter.com/JFCrisp/status/1291753628265570304.
Rima S. Aouf, “Airbnb Launches Open Homes Refugee Housing Platform.”
Aouf, “Airbnb Launches Open Homes.”
“Who Is Eligible to Book on Open Homes?” Airbnb Help Center, accessed August 7, 2020, https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/2597/who-is-eligible-to-book-on-open-homes-as-a-guest.
“Who Is Eligible to Book on Open Homes?” Airbnb Help Center.
Article 21 of the 1951 Refugee Convention stipulates that “Contracting States . . . shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory treatment as favorable as possible and, in any event, not less favorable than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances,” UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. In addition, Article 43 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families stipulates that “Migrant workers shall enjoy equality of treatment with nationals of the State of employment in relation to . . . access to housing, including social housing schemes, and protection against exploitation in respect of rents,” UN General Assembly, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. On the right to shelter, see UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Fact Sheet No. 21, The Human Right to Adequate Housing.
Joe Gebbia (@jgebbia), Twitter, June 20, 2018, 4:21 p.m., https://twitter.com/jgebbia/status/1009441195502682113.
See the essay “On Cosmopolitanism” in Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, 17.