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Frontier Urbanism Month - Research workshop

Frontier Urbanism Month - Research workshop

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  • Date 10 Nov 2021
  • Time 16.00
  • Category Lecture

Research workshop on refugees and their cities

Frontier Urbanism refers to two fault lines that have shaped the cities in South Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean: the ever-expanding frontier between urban and rural, and the frontiers created by ethnic cleansing and religious communalism in the process of nation formation. In a series of events we seek to illuminate how these two frontiers have intersected and overlapped in surprising ways, often long after traumatic events of Partition and displacement have passed into memory.

This research workshop brings together two scholars of the Eastern Mediterranean and two of South Asia to explore interconnections between ethnic displacement and place-making in the context of rapidly changing cityscapes. The papers will explore the physicality of these changing cityscapes – from the architecture of homes and urban planning, to heritage and the preservation of agricultural practices; social divisions, social mobilisations and efforts to maintain group identities after displacement; and the role of memory politics in the urban frontier.

  • Alekos Lamprou (Marburg), 'Violent Youths: Student Mobilization Against Minorities in Interwar Izmir'
  • Hareem Mirza (RHUL), 'Whose Heritage? Colonial Heritage in Post-Colonial Cities'
  • Kalliopi Amygdalou (HFEFP, Athens), 'Spatial Experiences of Refugee Resettlement: The Case of Kaisariani in Athens'
  • Himadri Chatterjee (University of Calcutta), "'Crops of Our Fathers': Refugee Spirituality and The Urban Frontier"

Paper abstracts and bios 

Alekos Lamprou (Marburg), Violent Youths: Student Mobilization Against Minorities in Interwar Izmir 

The presentation treats a case of youth mobilization against minorities in an eastern Mediterranean port city. The mobilization of middle-upper class students and lower class youths is explored through the intersection of age, class, gender, and ethnic identities. Performed through patriarchal practices and youth codes, youth mobilization offered opportunities for the performance of an aspirant adult masculinity and an aspirant political subjectivity among recently displaced Balkan Muslims.  

Alexandros Lamprou (PhD in Turkish History, Leiden 2009) has taught modern Turkish history in Universities in Greece (Crete, Panteion) in Turkey (University of Ankara), and in Germany (Marburg, Gießen). He has done research on state–society relations, social engineering projects, and population displacement. He has published a book with I.B. Tauris on the reception of the interwar reforms in Turkey and an edited volume in Greek on population displacement from Greece to the Middle East during the Second World War. His work has also appeared in academic journals (Middle Eastern Studies, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Turkish Studies, and Turkish Historical Review). 

Hareem Mirza (RHUL), Whose Heritage? Colonial Heritage in Post-Colonial Cities 

Heritage preservation has emerged as a strongly politicised field in certain sections of Pakistani society. Still struggling with what precisely constitutes its 'history', Pakistan as a post-colonial nation suffers from something of a memory crisis. Karachi, is the biggest and most populated city and the economic hub of the country with a very multicultural population, which is continuously growing. As the city grows, its landscape is constantly changing and evolving to accommodate the growing demands of its population, which is divided ethnically, socio-politically, and economically. These divides are not limited to the population but are also visible in the city’s landscapes and have formed urban frontiers across the city. Furthermore, many areas and heritage sites in the city have invisible ethnic or economic barriers, which gives rise to the notion of Whose Heritage. 

Hareem Mirza is a PhD student in the history department at Royal Holloway, University of London. She holds a BA in History and an MSc in International Relations. Her PhD focuses on the Politics of Heritage Preservation in Pakistan with a particular focus on built colonial heritage in urban centres of Karachi and Lahore. Her project aims to look at the politics and the narrative of conservation/preservation work (both state led and private) of colonial architecture in a post-colonial nation to assess how different groups of people relate and react to the built heritage around them and whether this heritage shapes the national identity of these urban citizens. 

Kalliopi Amygdalou (HFEFP, Athens), Spatial Experiences of Refugee Resettlement: The Case of Kaisariani in Athens 

Following the devastating end of the Greco-Turkish war and the compulsory Population Exchange, the hundreds of thousands of Greek Orthodox refugees who arrived in Athens between 1922-1924 settled in a diverse typology of spaces and structures. Ranging from tents to makeshift huts, from state-provisioned prefabricated wooden structures to one-floor rooms made of brick, from two-floor stone semi-detached buildings to three-floor modernist mass housing later in the 1930s, these structures formed the landscape of temporary or permanent refugee accommodation. They were reshaped to various extents by their inhabitants, and drastically transformed the urban fabric of Athens and Piraeus for decades to come. This study explores the significant range of spatial experiences of resettlement by looking at specific case studies in Kaisariani, one of the first and best-known refugee neighbourhoods of Athens. 

This research is part of the ERC-funded project HOMEACROSS and is the result of joint work by Valia Gialia, Alexandra Mourgou, and Kalliopi Amygdalou.

Kalliopi Amygdalou (PhD in History and Theory of Architecture, UCL 2014) is an architectural historian and Senior Researcher at ELIAMEP, where she leads the ERC StG HOMEACROSS ‘Space, Memory and the legacy of the 1923 Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey’. She has held a lecturer position at the Izmir Institute of Technology (2015-2017). She has published her work in academic journals (International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Bulletin de Correspondence Hellénique, Historica) and has edited the volume ‘The Future as a Project; Doxiadis in Skopje’ (EIA 2018). 

Himadri Chatterjee (University of Calcutta), ‘Crops of Our Fathers’: Refugee Spirituality and The Urban Frontier 

Academic literature on the Partition of the Indian subcontinent, consequent religious violence and resulting refugee flows has recently shifted focus to the intricacies of rehabilitation policy and its differentiable effects on various social groups among the refugees. This has led to increasingly complex understandings of the many outcomes of refugee flows, differentiated by region and by caste. The nature of specific refugee settlements and their effects on local social and political milieu is also beginning to come into sharper focus with progressively micro-level studies. This paper focuses on the Namasudra community of refugees displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan or present day Bangladesh. This community was a ritually excluded but politically powerful group in pre-partition Bengal. They retained their ancestral lands till the catastrophic sharpening of religious and linguistic divides and the massive upheaval caused by the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Majority of the community has since migrated into India and has been seeking stable, legal citizenship in the country for half a century. The proposed paper focuses on a village, Netajipally, settled by Namasudra refugees at the edge of Kolkata in the late 1980s. The paper describes how spiritual practices and networks reproduce agricultural lifescapes in order to anchor community life in changed circumstances. The felt-incompleteness of the reproduction and malleability of its spiritual and political functions demonstrate how memories and performances of the "rural" play a significant role in the making of the urban frontier in contemporary Kolkata.

Himadri Chatterjee is a teacher and researcher interested in the interplay between citizenship, migration, local economies, caste and electoral politics. His doctoral thesis explored the connections between urban development, refugee rehabilitation and citizenship struggles led by Dalit activists in periurban Kolkata. His doctoral field work was done between 2011 and 2016. He seeks to work between the archive and the field in order to generate ethnographic understanding that is anchored in long term historical trends. Very often he finds his archive on the field, in unnumbered files and undated photographs. 

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