150 Years of Refuge into Jordan: Land Tenure, Camps, and Hospitality (1878-Present)


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




The image of the refugee camp dominates most representations of contemporary refugees. Journalists, practitioners, and policymakers often claim that refugees and humanitarian aid have a coeval history, indeed, that the United Nations camp is the only rational architectural solution to the refugee “problem.” By taking up the case of Jordan, one of the largest host-states of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, this dissertation challenges the myth of the UN camp by situating various forms and norms of refugee settlement—Ottoman state lands, self-built Palestinian camps, refugee-to-refugee sanctuary, in addition to UN camps—within a social-legal and architectural history that spans from the late Ottoman period to the present. Drawing on nine months of ethnographic and archival research in Jordan, this dissertation demonstrates how genealogies of Ottoman refugee aid, the endurance of Arabo-Islamic traditions of hospitality, and the building activities of refugees can explain how the majority of refugees in this region have come to own land, make homes, and fulfill housing needs outside of western humanitarian aid.