Cultural heritage as a human right: cultural production in Greece's solidarity refugee squats
Olivia de Dreuzy
(Centre for International Heritage Activities)
Paper short abstract:
This conference proposal examines the establishment of 'refugee squats' appearing throughout Greece in response to the current refugee crisis in which a number of unique cultural initiatives are manifested.
Paper long abstract:
This conference proposal is based on my Masters thesis in Cultural Heritage Studies (University College London) concerning cultural production in self-organised 'refugee squats' in Athens and Mytilene, Greece and how these squats provide unique platforms for the manifestation of cultural and human rights. These settlements were established by activists and refugees alike in response to the 'European Refugee Crisis'. On the fault line between this wave of migration and its 2010 economic crisis, Greece currently hosts around 60,000 'persons of concern' within its borders prompting the establishment of these dwellings in abandoned schools and hotels (UNHCR, 2016). My case studies include Pikpa Solidarity Camp (Mytilene, Lesvos) and a solidarity network of nine squats in Athens. In addition to being unique heritage assemblages, the settlements simultaneously push for a new mentality in treating unused public space. In the form of an online ethnography, I analyse the squats' performances of demonstrating, educating, cooking, and recycling of objects. Despite their role in promoting a politics of recognition for the marginalised through these practices, the squats are at constant risk of closure and in need of institutionalised safeguarding. By drawing and building on Jacques Derrida's (2001) 'cities of refuge' and Henri Lefebvre's (1996) 'right to the city', I propose that refugees arriving in Europe have a 'right to the cities of refuge' in which one may recreate a grounded homeland through the expression of certain cultural practices. The very act of occupying these urban territories and promoting unique forms of cultural production begins to fulfil this demand.
Materializing exile: production of difference and diversity in the city