Memory, Resistance and the Everyday: Spatial Practices in the Rebuilding of Nahr El-Bared Camp

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Dounia SALAMÉ , Inst National Recherche Scientifique, Montréal (Québec), Canada
Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, home to around 27000 people, was nearly completely destroyed in 2007 by the Lebanese army in a confrontation with Islamist group Fatah al-Islam. Plans for reconstruction started even before the war ended, lunched by a first design by the Government of Lebanon.

One of the issues in the rebuilding of the camp is the control of space. The government tried to impose a plan that ignored the spatial practices and configuration of the old camp, prioritizing security issues in a design that allowed total control and surveillance by the army. Palestinian civil society groups asked for a reconstruction preserving neighborhood relations, main streets and identity, similar to the destroyed camp. If literature on the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared tackles issues of power, law and sovereignty in this enclave, no research explores how the population acts upon the space to infuse its meaning to the space again.

My research seeks to find how the population of Nahr el-Bared expresses their agency through everyday spatial practices. In the tension between the control of the space by the army and the history that makes the camps traditionally ruled by the Palestinians themselves, how do the inhabitants of Nahr el-Bared rebuild their camp themselves?

The camps in Lebanon are poor, closed, spatially limited areas that become representative both of the Palestinian identity and refugee condition. Nahr el-Bared, for example, was built informally by the refugees in a way reflecting geographical and cultural organization in Palestine. Today, I argue, it is through daily spatial practices, mnemonic recalling of the destroyed camp and dwellings as well as everyday resistance that Nahr el-Bared inhabitants take back the control of the camp and rebuild their own space. My research examines these three elements in the way they are expressed in space.