Campus in Camps explores and produces new forms of representation of camps and refugees beyond the static and traditional symbols of victimization, passivity and poverty – Sandi Hilal, UNRWA Camp Improvement Programme
It is the place where everything around us has new meanings and dimensions which are connected to the reality of our lives – Ahmad Lahham, participant
Campus in Camps aims at transgressing, without eliminating, the distinction between camp and city, refugee and citizen, center and periphery, theory and practice, teacher and student – Alessandro Petti, Campus in Camps director
It is the only place where the doors of creativity are open – Nedaa Hamouz, participant
A place where we meet to learn to unlearn and become co-authors of what we say and define– Isshaq Al Barbary, participant
It’s a new narration, a different view of the past, and a new future. It is the place I was searching for… where I feel the strength to represent my opinion about camps and refugees – Aysar Dawoud, participant
It is a place for reclaiming the capacity and the freedom to learn – Munir Fasheh, mentor
It is a trip into reality, where we can work on ourselves without outside influences. It is where I found the spirit I had been searching for – Ayat Al Turshan, participant
Campus in Camps is to look at the present, toward the future both theoretically and practically, with a sense of the ideal but grounded in the real. It’s the bridge that we build with our hands between the past, the present and the future – Murad Owdah, participant
We meet here to discuss what refugees should do with their potential – Qussay Abu Aker, participant
Campus in Camps is a collective process that generates reflections, approaches and tools adaptable to anyone through communal learning – Diego Segatto, team member
This initiative stems from the recognition that refugee camps in the West Bank are in a process of a historical political, social and spatial transformation. Despite adverse political and social conditions Palestinian refugee camps have developed a relatively autonomous and independent social and political space: no longer a simple recipient of humanitarian intervention but rather as an active political subject. The camp becomes a site of social invention and suggests new political and spatial configurations.
In recent years the refugee camp have been transformed from a marginalized urban area to a center of social and political life. More notable is that such radical transformations have not normalized the political condition of being exiled. For decades, the effects of the political discourse around the right of return, such as the rise of a resolute imperative to stagnate living circumstances in refugee camps in order to reaffirm the temporariness of the camps, forced many refugees to live in terrible conditions. What emerges today is a reconsideration of this imperative where refugees are re-inventing social and political practices that improve their everyday life without normalizing the political exceptional condition of the camp itself. The Camp Improvement Program, direct by Sandi Hilal, accompanied such trasformations in particular in five refugee camps: Fawaar, Arroub, Dheisheh, Aida and Beit Jibrin. What have emerged in years of community-based projects is the desire to produce new forms of representation of camps and refugees beyond the static and traditional symbols of victimization, passivity and poverty. Campus in Camps aims at providing a protected context in which to accompany and reinforce such complex and crucial changes in social practices and representations.
Campus in Camps is a program by Al Quds University (al Quds/Bard Partnership) and hosted by the Phoenix Center in Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem. It is implemented with the support of the German Government through the GIZ Regional Social and Cultural Fund for Palestinian Refugees and Gaza Population, in cooperation with UNRWA Camp Improvement Program and in coordination with the Popular Committees of Southern West Bank Refugee Camps
*The content of this website does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the institutions mentioned above.
The initiative, begun in January 2012, engages young participants in a two-year program dealing with new forms of visual and cultural representation of refugee camps after more than 60 years of displacement. The aim is to provide young motivated Palestinian refugees who are interested in engaging their community the intellectual space and necessary infrastructure to facilitate these debates and translate them into practical community-driven projects that will incarnate representational practices and make them visible in the camps. What is at stake in this program is the possibility for the participants to realize interventions in camps without normalizing their conditions or simply blending the camp with the rest of the city. We believe that the future of the refugee camps and their associated spatial, social and political regime force us to re-think the very idea of the city as a space of political representation through the consideration of the camp as a counter-laboratory for new spatial and social practices.
Communal Learning*The following text is based on the on-going dialog between Participants, Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Munir Fashi and many others.
Though Al jame3ah translates in English as “university”, its literal meaning is “a public space, a place for assembly”. It is through this spirit that we understand Campus in Camps: a gathering place, a space for communal learning, where knowledge emerges as a group effort rather than from external sources. Hence, the structure, constantly reshaped, allows for the accommodation of interests and subjects born from the interaction between the participants and the social context at large.
For many, knowledge is based on information and skills; in Campus in Camps we place a strong emphasis on the process of learning based on shifts in perception, critical approaches, visions and governing principles. We aim at reclaiming plurality in education, diversity in ways of learning. The participants are invited to seek out original paths of learning, creating knowledge, investigating meanings, as well as deciding actions. Campus in Camps brings people together in a pluralistic environment where they can learn freely, honestly and enthusiastically. Our goal is to reconcile knowledge with actions. Too often the conceptual dimension is relegated to pure theory; in Campus in Camps, participants are involved in an active formation of knowledge based on their daily lived experience. We use the Arabic wordmujaawara to express how our actions are connected to the community. Mujaawara could be translated into English as “neighbouring”, but its real meaning is closer to “forming or being part of a community”.
Thus, Campus in Camps reasserts what is fundamental and profound in the lives of the participants, forming an active group that chooses words, constructs meanings, produces visions and creates useful knowledge through actions within their communities.
Campus in Camps does not follow or propose itself as a model. Rather it cuts across conventional disciplines of knowledge, moving along a different vision, one which integrates aspects of lives, dialogs with the larger community and is not confined within the walls of academia. It welcomes forms of knowledge that remain undetected by the radar of traditional academic knowledge.
A clear example of this knowledge production is the Collective Dictionary: a series of publications containing definitions of concepts. The terms proposed are those considered fundamental for the understanding of the contemporary condition of Palestinian refugee camps. These words have emerged as a result of actions and active dialogs with the camp community. Written reflections on personal experiences, interviews, excursions and photographic investigations constitute the starting point for the formulation of more structured thoughts. The Collective Dictionary is both the reference and conceptual framework for all Campus in Camps projects and interventions. Participants of Campus in Camps are co-authors of meanings. They give names to the reality that surrounds them in order to provide a deeper sense to what they see and experience. The Collective Dictionary is an exploration of camp terminology and life, a way of leaning from the camp. Each definition starts with a story, introducing an original point of view based on the participants’ lived experience. Group discussions mature the terms in a broader conceptual dimension. The participants claim that the Collective Dictionary is their constantly amended “constitution”; it is their theoretical and practical reference, the guide for their actions within the camps. Following a year of communal learning and dictionary building, they have also decided which words they no longer want to use and which words they feel carry more significant meaning for their lives and aims.
from help to engagement
from outcomes to principles
from goals to visions
from needs to abilities
from development to reuse
from rights to dignity
from services to politics
Programme DirectorAlessandro Petti
In collaboration with
Sandi Hilal (UNRWA Camp Improvement Programme)
Marwa Allaham, Qussay Abu Aker, Alaa Al Homouz, Saleh Khannah, Shadi Ramadan, Ahmad Lahham, Aysar Dawoud, Bisan Al Jaffarri, Nedaa Hamouz, Naba Al Assi, Mohammed Abu Alia, Ibrahim Jawabreh, Isshaq Al Barbary, Ayat Al Turshan, Murad Owdah.
Munir Fashi, Ayman Khalifah, Ruba Saleh, Tareq Hamam, Mohammed Jabali, Khaldun Bishara, Ilana Feldman, Michel Agier, Sari Hanafi.
Team ProjectYasser Hemadan, Ala Juma, Tamara Abulaban, Diego Segatto.
Brave New Alps, Giuliana Racco, Matteo Guidi, Sara Pellegrini.
English and Arabic Tutors
Daniel McKenzie, Ayman Khalifah, Samih Faraj.
the right of not being who we are
but the right to becoming who we want