Dr Nishat Awan,

Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths University of London  :


Nishat Awan is Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research explores contemporary borders and migration with a focus on modes of visual representation and forms of research that allow an ethical engagement with places at a distance. Her recent book, Diasporic Agencies (Routledge, 2016) addresses the subject of how architecture and urban design can respond to the consequences of increasing migration. Currently, she leads the ERC funded project, Topological Atlas, which aims to produce visual counter-geographies that might help support the fragile movements of migrants as they encounter the security apparatus of the border.


Architectures of Displacement and Forms of Non-Belonging

In this presentation I will explore the ways in which an architectural understanding of space can help us respond to the current situation of the increasing displacement of people across the planet. How can our response to such situations move beyond merely providing shelter to understanding the relationship between displacement and belonging? The presentation will problematise how a concept such as ‘spatial agency’ that relies on an understanding of architecture as social relation, can be mobilised to work with those situations where the answer is not necessarily lived and localised. Instead the border and bordering are conditions that prompt us to think about distributed and networked relations and to address spaces that are difficult for us to enter. What does architectural knowledge offer in such situations and how do we enact spatial agency?

The concept of non-belonging provides a way to move beyond the now well-known and well-trodden realm of architecture as social relation. Instead it allows us to think belonging beyond human relations, towards the non-human, the animal, the geological, the alien even. Can non-belonging as a concept also be mobilised for working in contexts where social relations are difficult to rely on? I will explore some of these issues through forms of visual representation and analysis that allow a negotiation with ideas of witnessing, testimony and (non)-belonging.