Designing Humanitarian Goods: Refugee Shelter in a Logistical World

19 September 2019 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Balsillie School of International Affairs • Room 1-42
67 Erb Street West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 6C2

Photo credit: Better Shelter via MyNewsDesk
Focusing on the IKEA Foundation-sponsored “Better Shelter” kit, the paper explores the role of logistical calculative rationales in the design and usage of portable refugee housing. An engagement with the critical geographies of logistics, it is argued, expands debates on such “humanitarian goods” in two main ways. First, it highlights the organizational and infrastructural connectors that shape the way in which shelter products circulate across production sites, camps, and disaster zones, and relate to other humanitarian objects and broader infrastructures. Second, a logistical and counter-logistical lens unveil the multifarious forms of labour and extraction involved in the production, shipping, assemblage and usage of emergency shelter products. The article thus problematizes prevalent imaginaries of fluidity, smoothness, and remoteness associated with humanitarian goods, and contributes to an emergent body of work that see humanitarian technology and design as sites of frictions and “stickiness”, deeply embedded in global processes of bordering and accumulation.
About the speaker
Elisa Pascucci (PhD Sussex, UK) is Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher at the EuroStorie Centre of Excellence, Faculty of Humanities, University of Helsinki. She is a social scientist specializing in migration and humanitarian studies, whose research interests include migrant and refugee political agency and mobilization, the social effects and everyday politics of border regimes, and humanitarian infrastructures and logistics in the Mediterranean and Middle East. She is also affiliated researcher in the project HUMBorders, funded by the Norwegian Research Council and based at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), which focuses on humanitarian and border governance practices emerging in Europe as a result of the crisis of refugee reception of 2015-2016. Her work has been published, among others, in the journals Global Networks, Area, International Political Sociology and Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.

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