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Faculty, students, and scholars, were engaged in critical discourse on urban issues of timely relevance at this year's City Debates conference that took place on April 1-3, 2019 at AUB's Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA). The conference revolved around the theme of “Urban Recovery at the Intersection of Displacement and Reconstruction," given the wide geography of conflict, and the protracted nature of mass displacement.
Over the years, the conference has become a highly anticipated landmark event of the Department of Architecture and Design, as it creates a platform of exchange between local, regional, and international scholars and professionals, and attracts the community at large.
“City Debates is a signature AUB conference that emanates from our tiny-but-intellectually mighty urban core consisting of four faculty members in MSFEA's Department of Architecture and Design," said MSFEA Dean Alan Shihadeh. “Now in its 15th year, the list of past participants in City Debates reads like a who's-who of the world's most original thinkers." He added that City Debates reflects the urban core's interdisciplinary bent and purpose, and tackles some of the truly big problems facing humanity today.
A timely theme
In today's world, where violent conflicts are widespread, an unprecedented rate of one person every two seconds is forcibly displaced. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), conflict uprooted a record number of 3 million people in 2017 making it the biggest increase ever recorded in a single year. Discussing displacement and reconstruction is more critical than ever with the total number of displaced people worldwide reaching 68.5 million by the end of 2017.
Reconstruction and displacement have two independent scholarly trajectories that do not often intersect to enrich either discourse or challenge one another. While reconstruction is often confounded to the physical recovery of ruptured urban spaces, displacement emerges as a human-centered discourse. It encompasses the social and temporal dimensions of human migration towards safety and shelter and is not spatialized enough. While reconstruction has long been debated, its intersections with protracted and mass displacement call for more critical conversations. And while displacement has occupied a central focus in research across historical, urban, anthropological, geographical, and cultural studies, emerging threads call for more interdisciplinary reflections.
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Read more about City Debates 2019 in The Daily Star.