The Ethiopia-Djibouti railway has been compared by residents of of Dire Dawa to the Nile in Egypt—like the Nile, the train was a trading route, a mode of connection, a source of livelihood, a resource. Just as cities can be born based on natural geography, at the mouths of rivers and at ports, infrastructure creates new focal points in the built environment for urban life to develop and flourish. The railway infrastructure altered the geography of the region and provided a connective route across another man-made creation—the border between Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Professor Louise Harpman introduced “Dadaab is a Place on Earth” by saying: “Gallatin is a place where we ask questions that have no answers.” This week’s events did just this: asked questions not easily answerable about society, humanitarianism, displacement, home, urbanism, empire, and the built environment. Throughout Monday night’s event, Dadaab—a place that international media outlets have called “the largest refugee camp in the world”—as a city, a place, a prison, a “warehouse,” an encampment in the margins, was constructed before our eyes through the words of Anooradha Siddiqi, Alishine Osman, Ben Rawlence, and Samar al-Bulushi, the four distinguished panelists. Each of the panelists provided their own perspective on the refugee camp, lending insight into the architecture, politics, and economies of Dadaab. Continue reading