Global Perspectives on Shelter Insecurity and Displacement

This course examines the drivers of, and responses to, global shelter insecurity and displacement. It addresses these issues in both the Global South and North and examines similarities and differences in the way displacement occurs and is addressed across these contexts. The course takes the form of a graduate seminar, in which students will co-create knowledge and engage in informed discussion and debate. The seminar will begin with an overview of the scale of global displacement and the history of this increasingly pervasive phenomenon. UNHCR reported in 2015 that displacement had reached the highest levels ever recorded with almost 1% of the planet’s population either a refugee, internally displaced person or asylum seeker. In 2014 alone the UN conservatively estimated that 59.5 million people had been displaced by war and persecution alone. To address this crisis in greater detail, the remaining seminar sessions will be divided into two sections. The first will cover the primary drivers of global displacement, including: gentrification, criminalization of housing marginality and the displaced, large development projects, conflict and natural disasters. The second section will address responses to displacement, including market and human rights approaches and involuntary resettlement in transitional shelters and camps and in permanent housing. The seminar sessions will involve students reading weekly assigned papers and discussing these in detail. In most weeks, specific cases from a variety of geographic, social and political contexts will be presented and discussed. Participation in class discussions and reading of assigned papers are a course requirement. Additional course activities will include in-class debates on critical themes, practice-relevant simulations and visits by guest speakers. The seminar will involve several local field trips to examine issues of shelter insecurity and displacement in more detail. These will include visits to a local homeless shelter and to the museum of Boston’s former West End neighborhood. Assignments will include weekly memos on the readings and a final analytic project.