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Decorating public and private spaces: Identity and pride in a refugee camp

Lookup NU author(s): Sara Nabil AhmedORCiD, Reem Talhouk, Professor Dave KirkORCiD, Dr Simon BowenORCiD, Emeritus Professor Pete Wright


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© 2018 Copyright is held by the owner/author(s). Zaatari, the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp, currently hosts around 80,000 Syrian refugees. Located in the desert, the camp has become the fifth biggest city in Jordan. Previous examinations of crisis-housing in refugee camps have assessed re-appropriation of shelters in order to improve functionality. In this paper, we show how interior adornment serves a purpose in refugee lives that goes beyond that of functionality. Our analysis of fieldwork conducted in Zaatari camp show how decorating provides an escape from the camp and compensates for loss of identity, home and leisure. Within contexts of austerity, decorating spaces is a valuable and vital aspect of living, coping and supporting people’s sense of identity and pride. Through painting and decorating both public and private ‘spaces’, refugees transform them into ‘places’, creating a sense of home. We highlight how the capability of decorating, crafting and making is an enactment of freedom within contexts of political restrictions and resource limitations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nabil S, Talhouk R, Trueman J, Kirk DS, Bowen S, Wright P

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: CHI EA '18 Human Factors in Computing Systems

Year of Conference: 2018

Online publication date: 21/04/2018

Acceptance date: 21/04/2018

Publisher: Association for Computing Machinery


DOI: 10.1145/3170427.3188550

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781450356206