DISPLACEMENT AND DOMESTICITY SINCE 1945.
Refugees, migrants and expats making homes
Brussels, March 28th – 29th 2019
Submission deadline: 15th September 2018
Displacement connotes a sense of being uprooted. When people are displaced, it involves instability and invokes strong feelings of unfamiliarity, even homelessness. Domesticity, in contrast, implies certain stability and familiarity; a rootedness or sense of being grounded. Applied to the building and adaption of architecture, domesticity refers to the material and spatial practices that are considered indicative of the makings of a home.
At first glance, these two concepts appear irreconcilable. When hundreds of people are displaced every day, it is difficult to imagine (or believe) that domestic life can emerge in and from these contexts. This standpoint arises, however, because we have a tendency to forget that massive migratory flows have a long history. The year 1945 is often indicated as the starting point of an irreversible sense of displacement. The fact of mass human displacement substantiated this feeling. Following the Second World War that saw an estimated 60 million people displaced, subsequent endeavours of nation-building, de/neo-colonisation and the rise of neoliberal globalisation has spurred the migration of millions upon millions searching for safety, better opportunities and lifestyles. There is no doubt that such human displacement has radically shaped perceptions, terms and concepts (e.g. the UN 1951 definition of a ‘refugee’) and significantly, our material environment. Nonetheless, over time, people have taken on and adapted existing materials and practices to ground or (re)root themselves in estranged places and contexts, and continue to do so. Architectural examples consist of mass informal housing, such as, the favelas in Brazil or ethnic enclaves in the global North (e.g. Chinatowns). But also, formal (top-down) initiatives like the erection of refugee camps and expat towns.
The goal of this conference is to critically engage with and reflect on the ways in which concepts, practices and material expressions of domesticity have been (and still are today) employed in response to displacement, forced or otherwise, since 1945.
Looking to historical case-studies (either in the plural or the singular) not only shines light on the complex entanglement of these positions, but can help clarify contemporary situations and ‘crises’. We invite applicants from a broad range of (inter-)disciplinary backgrounds to critically reflect on the material histories of the manifold expressions that embody processes of domesticity in displacement. In doing so, it is important to bear in mind that the concepts of displacement and domesticity are laden with explicit and implicit presumptions. This includes (but is not limited to) the implications of modern capitalist privatisation, repressive gender roles, nationalist and colonialist practices. In this regard, displacement and domesticity are concepts to be critically interrogated, and we invite applicants who put forth and reflect on theoretical positions and contemporary critical practices.
Submissions are invited to draw upon the following categorisation of displaced people elaborated on in the full call for papers:
In this way, we invite applicants to think on the varieties of displacement – the gradations between what is forced and chosen – and, in doing so, the multiple identities of people often over-simply categorised. Indeed, these categories are not intended to be exhaustive and, in fact, their definitions invite challenge. We must also situate, for example, internally-displaced people, stateless, ‘elites’ resettling from conflict zones, nomads, etc. This brings us to further question the very concept and possibility of ‘making homes’ in displacement.
Applicants are invited, but by no means restricted to present on topics like the following:
Historical illustrations of domesticity in times and the experience of displacement.
Critical reflections (e.g. feminist, post-colonialist, critical theory) on the concept and practices of domesticity, spurred by instances of mass or singular displacement.
Critical reflections on modern theories of displacement and how it is affirmed or challenged by people’s domestic practices.
- Past, present and even future critical practices of domesticity employed (bottom-up) and deployed (top-down) in response to displacement.
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