An activist archaeology of sites of temporary refugee shelter in Athens, Greece
Drawing together perspectives from architecture, anthropology, and archaeology, the Architectures of Displacement research project seeks to document and record alternative forms of refugee shelter across Europe and the Middle East. Not all of the homeless people in Athens are refugees, but shelters such as this are part of the story of temporary refugee shelter in the city. There are more people needing homes – and shelter in the broadest sense – than there is money to provide them. Sites of refugee shelter are by definition highly transient places, with complicated politics, temporalities and levels of im/permanency that present new challenges for the archaeological discipline.
Why this idea of the ‘reluctant’ refuge? Because among the stories of hope there are serious challenges. Reluctance is ‘… most usually associated, among other things, with a highly ambivalent attitude, hesitant behaviour and a selective commitment…’ (Destardi, 2017: 319; emphases in original) – which would seem to describe the situation in Athens, in part because the local political landscape was extremely complicated, even before ‘the refugee crisis’ began. It is not that Athenians are more humanitarian than other Europeans. They have no choice but to ‘shelter’ thousands of refugees fleeing war in Syria and beyond due to EU/Turkey deal.
The research team behind Architectures of Displacement are also working with Oxford based refugees, volunteers and artists to co-curate a major public heritage exhibition on material and visual culture from the Calais Jungle. The exhibition will open at the Pitt Rivers Museum on 29th March 2019. More details are available here: https://environnementhostile.blog.
Rachael Kiddey is currently a postdoctoral researcher based at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, working on a project called Architectures of Displacement , funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
From November 2018, Rachael will take up her recently awarded British Academy Fellowship at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford that will focus on Migrant Materialities: the Material Culture of Forced and Undocumented Migrants in Europe.