Campus in Camps_Case Study
Missy + Tanya
Thanks for introducing Campus in Camps. I think it is really fascinating when seeing the contradiction between the temporal nature of refugee camps and the reality of being there for 65 years. I think it would be great if there is more investigation in discussing that effect has been produced from the contraction. For example, how has the refugees respond to it – do they feel like being imprisoned, or are they actually seeing the land as their own territory and accepting the identity of being in the camp. Also, I am a little bit confused about the diagram on page 3, where “camp and city”, “refugee and citizen”, “center and periphery”, “theory and practice”, “teacher and student” are connected in a very specific way. Not all of them connect to each other, like “citizens” is not connected to “city”, “center”, and”theory”. I really like the diagram but do you mind explaining that a little bit more?
Hi Simon, in response to your observation of the contradiction of residing in a what was initially designed to be a temporary camp for now more 65 years of camp living, I find the creation of Campus in Camps a critical response and acknowledgement of this very contradiction. Rather than clearly positioning their identity as either imprisoned or accepting of their current status within the camp, the documents, written and visuals, produced by the program aim to complicate and redefine these terms, redefine the contested notion that it is acceptable to improve the land without forfeiting their political status as ‘refugee’ and thus their right to return to place of origin. The diagram aims to make visual, in an overly simplified way, how Campus in Camps aims to complicate/co-relate terms such as theory and practice, citizen and refugee, etc. While once the camp may have been considered on the periphery and an area of exception, Campus in Camps written work makes the argument that the 65 years of camp living have created a condition where the periphery has become a locus of activity, transitioned into a center, and perhaps a newly defined city; then taking this and reflecting back on how this challenges the traditional notion of both city and periphery. Of course they go into much further detail of term re-definition with downloadable .pdfs available on their website.
As an aside, I had the opportunity to visit the Dheisheh camp and meet with members of the Ibdaa Cultural Center a few years ago after having been in a West Bank village prior. This is a few years before the Campus in Camps program had begun, but it is notable that both programs arise from the Camp rather than from Palestinians living elsewhere in the West Bank. In my personal interactions, those living in the camp had a more clearly defined platform from which they were speaking. The political position of the camp provides a certain status which enables such a dialogue, while the nature of living conditions of other Palestinian residents, and the human rights transgressed, are much less clearly defined in any form of international law, it is thus a more complicated position from which to redefine any terms, if perhaps the terms to begin are undefined.
Page 7’s title immediately jumped out at me as I expected the word commons, not “common”. The use of the word common, made me first question if there is a different intended meaning between a common and a commons. The quote from a participant reveals that the term is indeed intended to be the non-exceptional, the ordinary. Yet in context, the concept of the commons, a shared recourse pool, also seems applicable despite resulting in a somewhat different reading. My confusion and subsequent desire to parse out the terms, lead me to several considerations. First, what is gained and what is lost in the appropriation of the term “commons”, which to me conjures specific ideas of land tenure and resource pool management — a value assessment rendered in economic terms. Today, I feel we privileged elite in particular and society as a whole in general have lost a popular understanding of the concept of the commons. The postmodern, neoliberal condition has stripped if from our vocabulary and our psyche despite the best efforts of some activist groups and scholars. However, given that the old feudal Great Britain no longer exists (it has new forms of course), and the fact that what defines a “commons” can pertain to much more than land, is it not time to consider a new term? I think the concept of the “common” is an interesting and potentially productive step. In dropping the “s” what is shared shifts from a recourse, defined in economic terms, to a relation, defined in social terms. In this way, we can jump to Lefebvres critique of everyday life (the ordinary, the common) to find again a more transcendent and humanizing (not monetizing) term to convey the inherent value in sharing space (physical or otherwise) with others. The commons of the common, in other words, could be a useful concept for not only discovering but instrumentalizing the idea that “we are all human” as a first step to managing that shared status to greater social value. The need to claim a “right to the city” seems to have been eclipsed by a more pressing need to claim a “right to each other”, in other words, the cultivation of empathy and compassion. It also came to mind that a common, or a commonality, that transcends many cultures and classes is the oppression of debt, or the colonization of the future. Perhaps claiming the “right to the future” could be another unifying theme as the commons gets traded for the common.
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