Heba Al Najada

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A Discourse Analysis of Today’s Humanitarian Response to the Syrian ‘Refugee’
Department:
Architecture
Term:
Spring 2017

While the world has been witnessing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, or what the European Commission calls “the largest global humanitarian crisis”, one feels the necessity to question the very notion of humanity in one of the powerful discourses of our time. I probe the question: if ‘the refugee’ is situated in relation to emerging forms of humanitarianism, is the refugee caught in a humanitarian discourse?

In this research, I will identify the refugee camp as a site of action that is operated by international and humanitarian organizations, and enabled by the millions invested in the deliberate control of refugees. Firstly, I will examine how the institutions, programs and agents of the humanitarian discourse shape the condition of life of the Syrian ‘refugee’. Secondly, I attempt to investigate how two forms of humanitarian organizations aid the Syrian ‘refugee’ in the camp: the secular and the religious. I will then examine the politics behind their construction, and explore how they differ in orientation and emphasis. Finally, as a first year PhD student in Architecture, I am interested in investigating how humanitarianism as a practice is spatially conceived in relation to both the refugee and the aid-worker. This summer, my pre-dissertation research will be constructed in a transnational and comparative perspective, mainly focusing on Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan; I will also conduct research in a refugee camp in Dortmund, Germany.The fieldwork is structured on analytic frameworks that attempt to reveal the different ways in which humanitarianism as discourse is mobilized.