Practising Displacement: Modes of Engagement and Representation

  • 14.00 - 18.00
  • 12 Feb 2020
Practising Displacement: Modes of Engagement and Representation

This symposium will focus on the temporality of displacement. The temporal is evident from the recurrence and prolongation of displacement in communities across the world. This is the case of many displaced communities in the Middle East, Europe, South Asia and Latin America who have been living in a state of transition for long periods of time; as such, the symposium addresses the social and economic inequalities in today’s cities and the spatial and temporal differentiations between citizens and non-citizens, or lesser-citizens.

Speakers will present their experiences of working on displacement and borders in different geopolitical contexts and at varying scales through employing a series of differing research methods and practices. These research and urban activities raise questions on the mode of engagement with the topics and subjects (participants), the outcome and findings of each project, and the ethics surrounding the studies.

The temporality of displacement is observed in relation to Marxist theory and the ‘heterogeneous space and time of global capitalism’ that shapes labours’ experiences (Mezzadra and Neilson, 2013). The temporal is also associated with the relational – particularly in feminists’ theory and contemporary art practices (Bourriaud, 1998) – as opposed to the spatial and the bounding of space outlines in the field of geography (Soja, 2006). However, in this symposium, the temporal is explored to highlight the significance of the present time and space, and to speculate on future possibilities of the space of the displaced and cities in general.



Mohamad Hafeda is a senior lecturer of architecture at The Leeds School of Architecture. He is a founding partner of Febrik, a collaborative platform for participatory art and design research working on issues of refuge and spatial rights. Hafeda holds a PhD degree in Architectural Design from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is the author of Negotiating Conflict in Lebanon: Bordering Practices in a Divided Beirut (I.B. Tauris, 2019); the co-author of Creative Refuge (Tadween, 2014) and Action of Street/Action of Room: A Directory of Public Actions (Serpentine Galleries, 2016); and the co-editor of Narrating Beirut from its Borderlines (Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2011). He is currently working on a new art research project with a group of refugees in Wakefield exploring the temporal bordering practices of displacement in the UK, funded by the Arts Council England.

George Epolito is an academic whose career has spanned over two decades in the United States, Puerto Rico, Italy, and the United Kingdom. His research explores the intersection of politics and culture with an emphasis on the innovative, hybridised aesthetics produced by people who have been displaced into the margins of societies. George is currently the Course Director of the Post-Graduate Architecture courses and teaches design and theory modules in architecture and urban design at the Leeds School of Architecture.

Speakers Synopsis and Biographies

“Funding for refugee and asylum seeker support has recently turned its focus towards creative integration projects. Introducing her work at Mafwa Theatre and The Art House the concept of integration will be examined in a comparative study of the two projects: To&Fro and Studio of Sanctuary Community Workshops. Both projects seek to address the need for so-called integration but use different methodologies and operate within vastly different contexts. Both projects create heterotopias, places on the edge of community where people can meet and form meaningful connections, although this does not mean that they have been entirely successful or easy. Learning across the projects will be presented, offering a new way of working in communities drawing on radical pedagogy and migration studies.”

Keziah Berelson is theatre facilitator working with new migrant communities in Leeds and Wakefield. She is the co-artistic director of Mafwa Theatre, a community theatre company working with refugee and asylum seeking women in East Leeds. She also coordinates the Studio of Sanctuary project at The Art House, bringing together people of different migrant backgrounds through printmaking and art workshops. She works within action-based research projects focussing on displacement, diaspora and feminism.


“This paper attends to how migrant subjectivities can coalesce in relation to the discursive, administrative and economic practices of nation states and humanitarian bodies, even as they are practiced in specific ways by individuals and communities. In particular, it examines the terms “modern heroes” – used by then Philippine president Corazon Aquino to describe overseas Filipino workers – and “modern slaves” – a term currently circulating in humanitarian discourses on migration. These terms form a binary that both victimises and venerates migrant workers, shaping public opinion and policy making and necessitating certain “bureaucratic performances” that can be life-transforming for migrant workers. I argue that the terms employ a spectacular temporality that attempts to direct migrant workers’ experiences from above. Drawing on my current research with Filipina domestic workers in the UK and Lebanon, I instead explore how we might respond to their own accounts of the temporalities of everyday exploitation and expertise.”

Ella Parry-Davies is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, and a BBC New Generation Thinker. Prior to joining Central, she was a Visiting Scholar at De La salle University Manila. Ella co-convenes the Performance Studies international (PSi) working group on Performance and Critical Social Praxis, and co-founded the research collective After Performance. She is an editor of Contemporary Theatre Review Interventions and facilitates, a collection of soundwalks made with migrant domestic workers in the UK and Lebanon.

“The presentation will discuss two projects (‘P | A | N’ in Santiago, Chile, 2016; and ‘Migrating Proverbs’ in Ankara, Turkey, 2017-ongoing) that explore processes of cultural integration between refugee/migrant and local communities through methodologies based on participation and Critical Play.”

Catalina Pollak Williamson is an architect, artist and researcher interested in challenging disciplinary boundaries to drive new forms of critical engagement with the built environment. She runs an interdisciplinary collaborative research-based practice ( that explores new methodologies based on play and participation to drive social and urban change. Projects are developed as temporary socio-spatial interventions that invite community participation to drive civic agency towards the production of more empowered and engaged citizens. She currently teaches at East London University and is doing a PhD at the Development Planning Unit, UCL.


“Refugees are people out of place, and they are also subject to forms of disrupted and dislocated time. The refugee is, by definition, a temporary status, one awaiting correction through return, integration or resettlement. The time of displacement is one of transience and liminality, often enduring, sometimes protracted, but never permanent. And the space of refuge is also a temporary one: a space of interruption, waiting, stasis. This paper is an initial collection of thoughts connection old and new fieldwork – on the Palestinian exodus of 1948 and the Italian exodus from Istria and the Dalmatian coast between 1943 and 1960 – through the question of temporality.”

Dr Adam Ramadan is a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham. Adam’s work lies at the intersection between political and cultural geography. It addresses the ‘everyday’ of geopolitics, how ordinary people understand and negotiate their position within broader geopolitical dynamics. Much of this work has focused on the Middle East, and in particular on refugee issues.


“Jane will read from ‘To unsettle: art as a reflexive verb?’ an essay written for the exhibition Unsettlement, Monash Art Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, 2018, curated by Charlotte Day, Shelley McSpedden & Elise Routledge, in which I explore the relation of subjectivity and displacement from aesthetic and ethical, political and poetic dimensions, questioning the values and experiences of unsettled subjects.”

Jane Rendell (BSc, DipArch, MSc, PhD) is Professor of Critical Spatial Practice at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where she was Director of Architectural Research (2008-11), Vice Dean Research (2011-13) and Director of History and Theory (2016-18). She co-initiated the MA Situated Practice and supervised history/theory and design PhDs. Jane has introduced concepts of ‘critical spatial practice’ and site-writing’ through her authored books: The Architecture of Psychoanalysis (2017), Silver (2016), Site-Writing (2010), Art and Architecture (2006), and The Pursuit of Pleasure (2002). Her co-edited collections include Reactivating the Social Condenser (2017), Critical Architecture (2007), Spatial Imagination (2005), The Unknown City (2001), Intersections (2000), Gender, Space, Architecture (1999) and Strangely Familiar (1995). Working with Dr David Roberts, Bartlett Ethics Fellow, she currently leads the Bartlett’s Ethics Commission; and, with Research Associate, Dr Yael Padan, she is Col for Ethics on KNOW (Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality, PI Prof Caren Levy). Her new writing is constructing a history of auto-theory via architecture.


“Most of the world’s refugees are moving into urban areas rather than living in refugee camps. In the Global South, where the majority of the world’s refugees are located, most refugees have moved into already existing informal settlement in cities. As a result of such shift, humanitarian support for them is also slowly urbanising. This includes finding shelter solutions for refugees in formal and informal settings and using novel techniques to encourage hosting refugees. This presentation will explore one such dimension-that of upgrading houses as an incentive to landlords to host refugees. Placing these interventions within a longer history of humanitarian architecture, this presentation asks what incremental infrastructural improvements offers to the futures of refuge.

Romola Sanyal is Associate Professor of Urban Geography at the London School of Economics. Her work of refugees, informality, urbanisation and citizenship has appeared in a number of journals including IJURR, Geoforum, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and Political Geography. Her co-edited book with Dr Silvia Pasquetti, titled Displacement: Global Conversations on Refuge is forthcoming with Manchester University Press.

“105 Women is based in the City of Leeds in the UK. It was set up to bring women together from all over the world in a safe space where their creative ambitions can be realised. Members include women seeking asylum in the UK, women who have gained permission to remain, cultural workers, artists and academics. 105 Women attempts to be a collaborative creative collective, empowering one another through; sharing skills, experience, contacts, friendships, food, resources. The group aims to create a working space for all to be equally responsible for the activities and direction of the group whatever our circumstances. By being there, knowing that each voice will be listened to, all creative ideas are valued and space provided for everyone to see their ideas through – individually or collaboratively. The talk is at a timely moment of evaluation of the space and its short history examining its journey and the difficulties and successes through the voices its members and a closer look at the political, social, cultural conditions that such a project has to navigate to continue.”

Dr Liz Stirling is a creative practitioner using performance, collaborative production and art activism to explore how we connect with each other. Her work is particularly informed by feminist interdisciplinary art practices and she is the co-founder of three ongoing collaborative projects F= research collective, 105 Women and the Art Doctors. She has performed at Tate Britain, Tate Modern Summer School and toured with the British Art Show 8 and is a Senior Lecturer in the Leeds School of Arts and supervises PhD students across a range of areas and disciplines.