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2014

Issue . 60
P. 31
Features
How Refuge Creates Informality: Shelter Politics in Refugee Camps in Beirut
ABSTRACT

This paper looks at how humanitarian

policies of protection encourage the

development of informality in refugee

camps, particularly informal housing. I

look at four urban camps in and around

Beirut: Mar Elias, Burj al-Barajneh,

Shatila, and Dbayeh. Through interviews

with the early inhabitants of these places,

I attempt to piece together a history of

building shelter among the refugees. I

argue for the application of the concept

of “informality” to the study of refugee

settlements by showing how political and

economic conditions that humanitarian

protection produces compel refugees to

engage in informal practices much like the

urban poor. These informal practices also

become crucial to refugee identity and for

surviving, as well as for negotiating forms

of governmentality in ways that are both

similar to and different from the urban poor.