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Walking in Landscapes of Forced Displacement

Michal Huss

Berlin, Germany
Jaffa-Tel Aviv, Israel


PhD in Architecture



Though forced displacement is prominent within public, political, and media debates, and within academic research, too often the public image of forcibly displaced persons is that of voiceless victims – or, worse, a threat to national sovereignty. The geo-temporal scale of forced displacement research also tends to focus on instances of border-penetration and emergency accommodation - stressing the boundaries of nation states and a perception of an unprecedented crisis.

This study contributes a new perspective to research on forced displacement that goes beyond this ‘moment’ to include both the urban every-day and its cross-generational causes and impacts in a post/colonial context. Crucially, it reframes the debate from the perspective of displaced persons.

Using city walking tours led by displaced persons as a multiple case study, it examines how they affect the politics and public memory of the cities they inhabit or pass through. The study focuses on walking tours in Berlin and the officially named Jaffa-Tel Aviv municipality - which encompass multiple histories of migration, colonialism, and division. By studying these cities together, the thesis highlights the complex and multi-layered entanglement between cities across the global “north” and “south” divide. It utilizes a participatory method of ‘walk-along’ ethnography conducted between 2018-2020, which entailed joining dozens of tours and interviewing tour-guides and participants. Utilizing this participatory methodology, it advances debates about the politics of urban space and heritage sites by illustrating how tours led by forcibly displaced persons offer a significant de-colonial and cosmopolitan understanding of the places, space-times, and geopolitics of the city.

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