Thesis (Ph.D)

Everyday Humanitarians: the act of refugee hosting in protracted urban displacement in Amman, Jordan


Refugee hosting at the household-level is characterised by the sharing of accommodation and social interaction and interdependence between parties. Its prevalence is gaining recognition as humanitarian and scholarly focus shifts to urban displacement. Despite this, there has been little research into refugee hosting. In this thesis, I explore what constitutes the act of refugee hosting at the household-level in protracted urban displacement. Refugee hosting relationships are typically portrayed as static kinship-based practices, between non-displaced hosts and displaced guests. Presumed to be short-term measures, the prolongation of hosting in protracted displacement is seen as a burden to hosts. Through an exploration of refugee hosting in Amman, Jordan, I challenge this depiction to argue that refugee hosting is a far-reaching and dynamic response to displacement and an overlooked component of humanitarian response. I contribute to understandings of how refugees respond to displacement, and their experiences of protracted urban displacement. This research is based on fieldwork in Amman conducted between September 2017 and October 2018, including 38 semi-structured interviews with members of refugee hosting arrangements from Iraqi, Somali, Sudanese, and Syrian backgrounds, and in-depth interviews and observation with 9 young Sudanese men living in 6 shared houses. In the first part of the thesis, I identify hosting as a humanitarian act, and question why hosting has so far been overlooked. I then develop a new framework for understanding the act of hosting based on the concepts of hospitality, sharing, and caring. Drawing on this framework, and emphasising the prevalence of refugee-refugee hosting arrangements, I propose a typology of hosting arrangements and consider who has access to different forms of hosting. In the second part of the thesis, I turn to a more detailed exploration of the experiences of one particular group: young Sudanese refugee men living in group hosting arrangements. I detail the processes through which their hosting relationships were created, identifying their role as an infrastructure of care that enables urban inhabitation, with wide-reaching impact on refugees’ experience of urban displacement. I also provide insight regarding the everyday circulation of care by and for men within hosting arrangements, and the potential of hosting for home in protracted displacement. In conclusion, refugee hosting relationships have extensive impacts on refugees’ lives. Whilst neither desirable nor accessible for all refugees, they are a vital and responsive support during displacement. A greater engagement with refugee hosting at the household-level would improve humanitarian response to urban displacement and increase our understanding of experiences of displacement.

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Jordan, Zoë


Supervisors: Brun, Catherine; Carver, Richard

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Architecture


Year: 2020


Oxford Brookes University : 150th Anniversary PhD Studentship
ISA Charity : Travel Award

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