Decorating Public and Private Spaces: Identity and Pride in a Refugee Camp

Sara Nabil, Reem Talhouk, Julie Trueman, David Kirk, Simon Bowen, Peter Wright

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Zaatari, the world's largest Syrian refugee camp, currently hosts around 80,000 Syrian refugees. Located in the desert, the camp has become the fifth biggest city in Jordan. Previous examinations of crisis-housing in refugee camps have assessed re-appropriation of shelters in order to improve functionality. In this paper, we show how interior adornment serves a purpose in refugee lives that goes beyond that of functionality. Our analysis of fieldwork conducted in Zaatari camp show how decorating provides an escape from the camp and compensates for loss of identity, home and leisure. Within contexts of austerity, decorating spaces is a valuable and vital aspect of living, coping and supporting people's sense of identity and pride. Through painting and decorating both public and private 'spaces', refugees transform them into 'places', creating a sense of home. We highlight how the capability of decorating, crafting and making is an enactment of freedom within contexts of political restrictions and resource limitations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI EA '18: Extended Abstracts of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Subtitle of host publicationApril 21–26, 2018, Montreal, QC, Canada
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450356206, 9781450356213
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2018


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