In the late 1960s, residents of Central Brooklyn joined a meeting about a new federal program, Model Cities. The meeting quickly soon The first community meeting in Central Brooklyn about a proposed new federal program, Model Cities, devolved into chaos and confusion. Community members invited to the meeting were skeptical about what they were hearing: A federal program had been launched, they were told, to address some of the problems facing the inner cities. Community participation was a key component of the program. Members of the community were asked to plan the programs and have a say in where the budget was allocated. Yet these members of the community were wary after years of government missteps and neglect. During the meeting, several stood up to demand an explanation, saying that they had had harmful experiences with city programs before and did not see how this one would be different. The central question underlying several of their statements seemed to be–How should we believe you? As one community member asked, “Can any government program be taken seriously by the people who live in the slums of our cities?” To these community members, the premise of Model Cities seemed too good to be true—A wariness that turned out to be correct, especially after looking at the disappointing end results of the program when it concluded in 1974.
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