Ayham Dalal: Spatialities of Exception and Informality

Spatialities of Exception and Informality – Mapping the Urbanization of Syrian Refugee Camps in Jordan

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Ayham Dalal

Shaped by migration and the different systems that emerged along its shores and beyond, the production of urban space around the Mediterranean did not only result in cities, metropolises, villages and suburbs, but also in refugee camps and informal settlements. Refugee camps are thought of as temporal spaces where a homogenous group of people are provided with protection, shelters and services until a durable solution is possible. However, in reality refugee camps are contested geopolitical territories of ‘different’ orders, where humanitarian and socio-cultural systems clash, align and interact. Throughout this process, spaces of solidarity and new urban identities are being produced and negotiated. Based on the studies produced about the urbanization of Palestinian refugee camps and informal settlements, this research looks at the newly constructed Syrian refugee camps as urban laboratories. Following a comparative approach, the research examines the spatial practices emerging within these camps in relation to governance, infrastructure, shelter units, population and density. It explains how these camps are being planned and how refugees perceive and respond to this planning. By doing so, not only a better understanding for urbanization processes in general contexts is being generated, but the humanitarian responses, nationalities and borders within the Mediterranean region are being re-questioned.

Ayham Dalal has been an architect and PhD researcher at Habitat Unit (TU Berlin) since October 2015. He studied architectural engineering in Syria. In 2014, Ayham obtained his master degree in Integrated Urbanism and Sustainable Design (IUSD), at the Universities of Stuttgart and Ain Shams with a DAAD scholarship (Master thesis: “Camp Cities between Planning and Practice: Mapping the Urbanisation of Zaatari Camp”). Before joining the Habitat Unit, Ayham worked as a research and teaching assistance at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), and before that as an architect and urban planner in Syria and Jordan. He has been engaged with several initiatives, conferences and workshops related to urban topics and the refugee crisis in Europe and the MENA region. Ayham has published in peer-to-peer journals and magazines like Migration Letters, Trialog, and Idafat (The Arab Journal of Sociology). His doctoral research looks into the potentials and conflicts rising from the urbanisation of the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, focusing on the relationships between urbanity and exile, humanitarian aid and local development, and the role of socio-culture. For that, Ayham has been awarded a DAAD scholarship through the LfS programme (Leadership for Syria).


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