Berkeley architectural historians Desiree Valadares, Laura Belik, and Heba Al-Najaba offer papers on camps in Brazil, Syria, and Canada to explore how camp “architectures” have operated to shape, detain, and enable forms of movement.

As places of exception and mass incarceration, the camp constitutes a space set apart outside the boundaries of legal and civil rights. Camps are intimately related to the era of colonization and its attendant processes of invasion, occupation, disruption and relocation. They are nodes of state power and spatial manifestation of a society that periodically splinters into distinct categories based on belonging or non-belonging. This panel, comprised of architectural historians, centers its focus on the space of the camp to explore how its ‘architectures’ – the camps themselves, their spatial layout, infrastructure systems and camp-thinking – have operated to shape, detain and enable particular forms of movement. We show how models of encampment travel and shift between states by tracing the confinement of camp dwellers as diverse as drought migrants (Brazil), Syrian refugees (Jordan) and so-called “enemy aliens” of Japanese ancestry (Canada) in the 20th and 21st centuries. Paying attention to the complex mobilities involved in the carceral experience, we broach dichotomies of permanence and temporality, material and immaterial and mobility and stasis. Collectively, we aim to challenge dominant narratives of ‘crisis,’ ‘victims’ and ‘bare life’ by exploring the ways in which camps are transformed, materially and immaterially, through various forms of agency – dissent, resistance, transgression, activism, or submission and dependence – by the bodies that inhabit them.



Talk Title: Erased Traces, Hidden Histories: Concentration Camps in Northeast Brazil 1915/1932
Name: Laura Belik
Dept: Architecture, PhD program
At the turn of the twentieth century, Northeast Brazil suffered three of the most severe drought periods ever registered, popularly known as the Terrible Years (1877/1915/1932). Extensive literaturehas been written about the topic and most specifically about the life of the retirantes , migrant families that worked as stockgrowers and farmers, now trying to escape the inland areas towards the coast and capital cities of the region. These groups were classified as flagelados (flagellated people) by the authorities. As a response to this state of emergency, and pressure by local elites, seven Concentration Camps were built and managed by the government in the state of Ceará in 1915, and again in 1932, at the height of the drought periods. Masked through humanitarian rhetoric as places for quarantine and distribution of work, the Camps only lasted through the drought periods, and were strategically situated in close proximity to railroad stations in the inlands of the state or outskirts of the capital city Fortaleza. Essentially they were zones of isolation and intense policing, with extremely high death rates related to famine and disease outbreaks due to overcrowding. Over the course of just one year (1932-33), the camps sheltered over 150,000 people (Rios, 2014). Although considered a pivotal moment in Brazilian consciousness, and despite being an important part of Ceará’s history which configured urban and social dynamics and established early relations of power and exclusion in Fortaleza, today the Concentration Camps have been almost forgotten. Their visibility and historicity have been strategically hidden or not emphasized, and on both local and national levels, few people know about these scarcely documented spaces. Out of seven Camps that were built, currently only one remains partially standing, serving as a symbol of resistance. At the moment Campo do Patu is the subject of a landmarking process by the Secretariat of State. Issues of preservation also raise questions related memory and memorialization, and the politics behind the Camps both when they were in use, and also how they have been perceived afterwards. My project is working to change that, by uncovering the history of the Concentration Camps as an emergency law, and how they were weaponized by the Brazilian government, evidencing the role of the built environment in debates of social and political order.

Brief Bio: Laura Belik is a PhD Student in Architecture- History, Theory and Society at UC Berkeley. Laura holds an MA in Design Studies from Parsons- The New School (New York) and a BA in Architecture and Urban Planning from Escola da Cidade (São Paulo- Brazil). Her main research interests are urbanism, politics of space, urban democracy and Latin America. Laura’s current work is related to the urban and constructed environment and its influence in social and political life. Currently, Laura is looking at a case study in Northeast Brazil, dealing with issues of land distribution, migration, isolation, spatial inequality and the utopias behind the politics of the built environment.


Talk Title: Caravans in the Desert: The Case of Za’atari Refugee Camp in the region of the Syrian Badia.
Name: Heba Al-Najada
Dept: Architecture, PhD program

In the wake of the Syrian civil war, this presentation investigates how practices of humanitarian-aid, in which, Syrians are hosted in refugee camps set up by the UNHCR in Jordan’s eastern desert, are overlaid with, Arabo-Islamic histories of migration. First, I look at universal caravans laid and never bolted to the semi-arid stony land of Za’atari refugee camp. Under the volcanic sun of the Syrian Badia (desert), the repetitive caravans appear as dots in the expansive scale of the world’s largest camp. This apocalyptic image emerges, not only, in Syrians fleeing destruction, but within the larger colonial history of the ruination of the Arab world. Inaugurated by the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the carving out of post-colonial states, the climatic borders of the Syrian desert that stretches between present-day Syria, Jordan, and Iraq were sliced up by political borders. Second, I consider Za’atari in the context of its other hosts: the Jordanian Bedouin tribes. Based on ethnographic and archival research, I engage with, the memory of the Syrian desert ‘outside’ the camp. I also return to medieval cartographies, the Islamic concept of Hijra (migration) and the recurring theme of movement in the Arab world (Al-Idrissi, 1154; Ibn Khaldun, 1377; Zaman, 2015). I do this to map: 1) dismemberment of community through the humanitarian logic of temporary caravans in fixed humanitarian space 2) movement of Syrians from the camp to the desert 2) spaces of refugee/host engagement scattered in the landscape of the desert. Finally, the juxtaposition of UN caravans with Arabo-Islamic traditions and Levantine histories of migration offers a counter-image to universal images of Syrians as victims cramped in humanitarian caravans through mapping spaces in which the inhospitable desert is made habitable. It also expands our understanding of dispossession outside the economy of territorial and material possession and the logic of human rights and humanitarian aid. As people move, they travel, transgress, cross and transcend borders (national, material and subjective).

Brief Bio : Heba has received her undergraduate degree in Architecture from the University of Jordan and her masters degree in Urban Design from the University of Sheffield. She worked in Palestinian informal camps before starting her PhD in Architecture History at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation research looks at the different spaces in which Syrian refugees are hosted in present-day Jordan, and their relation to, the politics of humanitarianism, the longer histories of the Middle East (most specifically the Levant), and the concept of migration (hijra). She is a 4th year PhD candidate at UC Berkeley’s Architectural History program with an outside focus in urban anthropology and the anthropology of Islam and the Middle-East. Her dissertation fieldwork has been funded by the Critical Refugee Studies Collective and the Institute of International Studies, the Global Metropolitan Studies, the Human Rights Center, and the Center of Middle-Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley.


Talk Title: “Idling No More”: Reading Japanese Canadian World War II Road Camps Alongside Specters of Indigeneity on the Hope-Princeton Highway in British Columbia, Canada
Name: Desiree Valadares
Dept: Architecture, PhD program

This paper uses a critical indigenous studies and legal geographic lens to study the forced displacement of Japanese Canadians and the residual landscape of World War II confinement sites situated on unceded lands in Interior British Columbia, Canada. I engage with the theme of mobility and movement in relation to settler colonialism by contextualizing Canada’s longstanding complicity in the wartime removal of members of the Austro-Hungarian empire (Ukrainian Canadians) during World War I under the Defense of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act. During World War II, this emergency law was reinstated to forcibly remove, confine and disperse “enemy aliens” including Japanese Canadians in addition to conscientious objectors such as the Doukhobors (a sect of Russian dissenters) and their children. I focus specifically on a seemingly ordinary highway route in Canada’s westernmost province that connects the town of Hope to the Town of Princeton known as the Hope-Princeton Highway. This route was constructed by “able-bodied” men of Japanese ancestry, many of whom were Canadian citizens, during their confinement in a network of temporary “road camps” within close proximity to Tashme Internment Camp, from 1942-1945. These men traversed the remnants of a Gold Rush trail and manually carved out an 89-mile pioneer road for the Hope-Princeton Highway using just picks and shovels. Combining archival research with ethnographic fieldwork, I show how forced labor, histories of family separation and wartime incarceration are represented through commemorative community museums, informal archaeology/gardening and a recent Highway Legacy Signage initiative in Interior British Columbia. I argue that the current treatment of the residual landscape of World War II confinement sites reveals the ways in which settler colonialism, carcerality and racial capitalism intersect and are subsequently obscured through histories of transportation and infrastructure building, tourism promotion and selective commemoration. I draw on scholars Razack, Kobayashi and Oikawa’s methodology of “unmapping,” to further situate highway construction projects in the province of British Columbia alongside longer histories of Coast Salish territorial disputes, land dispossession and forced removal. This, I argue, reveals deeply intertwined conditions of what appear to be seemingly discrete racial and colonial processes.

Brief Bio :
Desiree Valadares is a landscape architect / landscape historian studying historic preservation (U.S.) and heritage conservation (Canada) law as it intertwines with redress, reconciliation and recognition politics in the Hawai’ian archipelago, the Aleutian Island Chain and Southeast Alaska and the unceded lands in Canada’s westernmost province: British Columbia. She is a 5th year PhD candidate at UC Berkeley’s Architectural History program with outside fields in comparative ethnic studies and legal history.