Subprojects | Project Area A | Knowledge of Space

Architectures of Asylum: Appropriation Processes in Refugee Accomodation

The subproject ‘Architectures of Asylum’ examines the re-figuration of spaces with the example of physical-material and symbolic appropriation processes of refugees at the asylum accommodations. The project is guided by the hypothesis that the extreme situation of refugees makes visible processes of the re-figuration of spaces that are also generally effective in other migration processes. We intend to ground a new theory and practical insights for an urbanized society that is increasingly mobile and influenced by intercultural encounters.

The focus is on the following research questions: What spatial knowledge do people make relevant to their particular situation in the state of hovering between place of origin, dramatic escape and the arriving and uncertain period of stay at an unfamiliar place of asylum? What is the relationship between the subjective experiences of space, which have been collected in different places and contexts? How do spatial constitutions change in their relationship dynamics with an ongoing period of time, and by what factors are changes influenced? Further questions are: How does refugees’ spatial knowledge hybridize practices of the place of origin, experiences made during the escape, as well as during the arrival at an unfamiliar place of asylum? And how do spatial appropriation processes collide with humanitarian logics and technocratic emergency management approaches at the place of asylum?

Empirically, the study will focus on Syrian refugees who have found shelter at asylum accommodations as of 2012 in Jordan and Germany. The study is designed as a qualitative comparative study, which explores the arrival and the establishment of refugees at different asylum centres and draws conclusions on the re-figuration process of space. We ethnographically and spatially explore refugee shelters in both Jordan and in Germany. In Germany, our case field sites are emergency accommodation facilities in Berlin Lichtenberg, Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Neukölln, and Kreuzberg, including the surrounding urban contexts. The case study fieldsite in Jordan is the urbanized UN refugee camp Zaatari, close to the city of Amman. We assume that the comparative study of the very different conditions to which the Syrian refugees are exposed in Jordan and Germany provide information also on how the context of the asylum accommodation affects the refugees’ spatial localisation and relocation process.


Dalal, A. (2017). Uncovering Culture and Identitiy in Refugee Camps. Humanities, 6(3).

Dalal, A. (2020). The Refugee Camp as Urban Housing. Housing Studies.

Dalal, A., Darweesh, A., Misselwitz, P., & Steigemann, A. (2018). Planning the Ideal Refugee Camp? A Critical Interrogation of Recent Planning Innovations in Jordan and Germany. Urban Planning, 3(4), p. 64-78.

Misselwitz, P., & Dalal, A. (2017). Asylarchitekturen als Verhandlungsräume CampCities zwischen universalistischer humanitärer Ordnung und lokaler Handlungsmacht. Arch+, 230, p. 32-41.

Steigemann, A. (2020). Multi-culti'vs.'another cell phone store':-Changingethnic, social, and commercial diversities in Berlin-Neukolln. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 12(1), p. 83-105.

Steigemann, A., & Misselwitz, P. (2020). Architectures of asylum: Making home in a state of permanent temporariness. Current Sociology, Special Issue: Researching Home: Choices, Challenges, Opportunities, p. 628-650.

Steigemann, A., & Misselwitz, P. (2021). Global-lokaler Alltag unter Bedingungen von Refiguration – Polykontexturales Homemaking in Berliner Unterkünften für geflüchtete Menschen. In Löw, M., Sayman, V., Schwerer, J., & Wolf, H. (eds.), Am Ende der Globalisierung (p. 387-413). Bielefeld: transcript.

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