It is a camp despite the name

by Yousif M. Qasmiyeh and Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Refugee Hosts

Existence, as it is, happens in the intentions of things.

A sign or signs piled on top of one another, barely separated by air and the narrowest of voids: white on blue or blue on white. There is a background – an undercoat – and then the words. But which is which? On the sign are arrows pointing to places, including to Baddawi camp. Names of old and new places neatly and orderly enclosed in this rectangular space. Positioned then adjusted to be made more visible to passers by and cars alike.

It is the Baddawi slope. The road that leads to everywhere and nowhere. The exact road which gave us and my mother trepidations as she stopped taxis on the main road going to Nahr Al-Bared camp. We would, upon my mother’s prodding, hide behind her. Most of the time seven little bodies clutching her dress, looking for a handful of cloth, most of the time ending up inadvertently clutching each others’ hands. The taxi driver would normally drive off the moment my mother would start asking him for a discounted fee: ‘They are little, treat them as one. All of them on one seat and myself on another.’

My mother, to secure a ride that does not go beyond our limited financial means, would contract us into one: one body made of seven heads like a mythical creature who only grows in the camp. Many self-subtracted to one.

The sign is new or at least it previously was not there. The first sign to point to “Baddawi camp” alongside other places. The first sign to have the word ‘camp’ within its folds – a piece of evidence to the existence of the camp. To the presence of a place whose name is validated by a correspondence, a genitive one, between the proper “Baddawi” and the noun “camp” and yet it is the latter which is always remembered. It is a camp despite the name.


This piece continues a series of poetic responses to photographs taken by Refugee Hosts PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh during a field-trip to Baddawi refugee camp and the neighbourhood of Jebel al-Baddawi in North Lebanon, and to a range of neighbourhoods in Beirut in March-April 2018. Written by Refugee Hosts Writer-in-Residence Yousif M. Qasmiyeh and PI Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, they reflect on everyday encounters in and dynamics of displacement.

Photograph Credit: Signalling the camp at the start/end of Baddawi slope, N. Lebanon (c) E. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, April 2018.

Read, and listen, to more creative responses to/as our research in our Creative Archive, including soundscapes of Baddawi camp here.


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