Bard College ART HISTORY PROGRAM

Filed under Happenings at Bard

Humanitarian Heritage and Anxious Architectures in East Africa: A Long History of the Dadaab Refugee Camps

Amin Shopping Mall

Amin Shopping Mall

A lecture by
Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi, Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow (NYU)

Tuesday, November 1st, 6:30pm
Olin 102
Co-sponsored by the Art History, Africana Studies, and Human Rights Programs (maybe Anthropology as well?)

This talk examines a history of the world’s largest designated set of settlements for refugees through its constructed environment and archival record, interrogating an ephemeral territorial form and the paradoxical heritage it proposes. If architecture and infrastructure have entrenched a quarter century of humanitarian intervention by the United Nations at Dadaab, Kenya, the site has been depicted instead as precarious. Occluded at once through aesthetic codings and archival silences, its permanence has been veiled in fragile architectures of an international humanitarian aid operation and in pastoral landscapes of a contested desert borderland traditionally inhabited by nomadic Somalis. Rather than a provisional artifact of the 1991 crisis that occasioned humanitarian operations in northeast Kenya, I posit that this territory unfolded as exceptional and emergent over the course of a century: knowable through visual, historical, and ethnographic study of architecture and territory. My research recuperates a figuration and construction of humanitarian territory in missionary settlements for freed slaves in the nineteenth century, imperial and postcolonial systems of land tenure in the twentieth, and forced sedentarization of pastoralists in the twenty-first. Through this analysis, I interrogate a problematic humanitarian heritage of furtive architectures, which at once liberate and coerce, resist as well as assert colonial and national borders, and make claims upon abject suffering as well as its salvation. These confront and index our representations and constructions of emancipation, emergency, city, Africa, the native, and the precariousness of ephemerality itself.