Compounding Crisis

Powerpoint presentation (2007) on Spaces of the International in post-crisis reconstruction

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Apres le Deluge, Nous

“Apres le Deluge, Nous: The Spatial Turn in Post-Disaster Reconstruction,” unpublished paper, 2007

 

Within modern, Western society, the reconstruction site is an evocative, and recurrent theme. Large scale international intervention transforms the physical landscape of areas affected both through the intended physical changes of the reconstructive process and through the spatial rearrangements that permit the delivery of aid. These physical transformations receive little attention.  What do post-disaster reconstruction sites reveal about relations between the global north and south?  With reference to the built environment and its representations, I argue that the physical production, reproduction and use of space[1] and place in these reconstruction zones, is central to the construction and maintenance of a broader neo-colonial discourse. It is in these spaces that we see the (re)construction of new – and not so new built forms of neo-colonialism. 

 

The idea of a ‘pure’ or natural disaster is a pervasive one.  The occurrence of an ‘Act of God’ appears to be the one instance where international intervention is beyond criticism:  the blamelessness of the victims, translates into an ethical imperative for action on the part of the ‘international community’ – or on the part of those that have the wherewithal  – to alleviate the resultant suffering.  (Edkins 2000) While it is possible to point to many instances of critique of political interventions[2] and many others who critique the efficacy or appropriateness of certain modes of disaster relief, there are few authors who problematized the basic premise:  the responsibility of the ‘international community to provide assistance to those affected by a natural disaster’.[3] And yet authors such as Neil Smith (2006), Mike Davis (2000), and many others.[4] stress that while natural hazards exist, the severity of their impact on human settlement (whether or not they are a disaster), is determined by human decisions:  where and how to build, access to preventive measures; the existence and knowledge of escape routes. Further complicating the matter has been the introduction, in development circles, of the term ‘complex humanitarian emergency’[5] which refers to a crisis situation with causes that are both political (man-made) and natural,[6] and, in practice, most disasters include both elements.  Disaster practitioners often stress that a disaster is the interface between a hazard (flood, earthquake, hurricane) and an existing vulnerable condition (badly constructed homes, high levels of poverty).[7] (Davis 1978)

Such nuances fail to stop the idea of a ‘pure’ natural disaster from being held up as an ethical rationale for intervention.  These interventions are not confined to  ‘disaster relief’ but slide all too easily into more pervasive forms of intervention in the target society, forms of intervention that become political and engage in political contest and transformation.  The slippage is not only between ‘hard’ and  ‘soft’ reforms within a target society – i.e. that technical superiority in the area of bridge building implies commensurate progress in such (socially constructed) categories as ‘civil society capacity building’ – but also across geographies. Within development practice, the rhetoric that is used to respond to natural disasters is also used to justify interventions in overtly political struggles elsewhere. It is not uncommon, within official rhetoric or policy documents to group references to the post-Tsunami reconstruction of South East Asia along with the conflict in Darfur.[8] This logical slippage has also had an impact on post-crisis response strategies with the reconstruction strategies and actors being used for post-conflict reconstructive strategies underpinning the approach used after large scale ‘natural’ disasters.

The introduction of a spatial lens not only allows us to view contemporary post-crisis interventions as part of a historical continuum – facilitating the identification of  similarities and disjunctures with the past – but it also reveals unintended, and unobserved dynamics in contemporary interventions. It allows us to see a whole zone of transformation and politics that operates under cover of the ethical injunction to assist those suffering from so called ‘acts of god’.

This chapter proposes a retracing of the history of post-disaster interventions from a spatial perspective allowing us to problematized and re-examine some of the basic premises of humanitarian disaster response. An examination of particular built forms of the international community  illuminates a spatial genealogy of humanitarian intervention that is usually obscured by abstract discussions over the ethics and modalities of international intervention.

 

I – A SPATIAL HISTORY OF POST-DISASTER INTERVENTIONS

The process of reconstruction is fundamentally about the construction and reorganization of space, however, very little analysis is undertaken of these sites from a spatially oriented perspective. While the ‘spatial turn’ in the social sciences led many disciplines to problematize questions of space and geography, it did not have a significant impact on development or humanitarian studies, nor, by extension on post-crisis reconstruction.[9] As geography, urban planning, and other social sciences engaged with more structural questions through the application of the spatial turn, development studies moved away from structural, or even regional questions and increasingly focused on the level of the individual and its aggregate – society.

This overlooks the way in which post-disaster reconstruction evolved.  From its modern post-WW2 inception, international humanitarian assistance was conceived in spatial terms. (Slater 1997) The categories and binaries by which it defined itself as an activity were fundamentally geographic – 1st, 2nd and 3rd worlds; developed and underdeveloped countries; the global north/global south.  In particular, Fred Cuny attributes the rise of disaster response as an industry within the global north, to the rapid, post-1945 decolonization process which left the former colonies without either the human or financial capacity to respond.  The ‘apolitical’ international system of NGOs and multilateral agencies was seen as preferable to the reassertion of control by former colonial powers. (Cuny 1983)

The high demand of the former colonies – the ‘third world’ – for support in disaster response is also arguably spatial in nature.  It is demonstrable that certain parts of the world, do experience a higher frequency of hazard events[10] – events such as hurricanes, flash floods, volcanoes – and therefore have a higher risk, ceterus paribus, of  experiencing a disaster. According to Ian Davis, “the study of disasters is almost by definition a study of poverty within the developing world, since this is where most of the disasters take place.” (Davis 1978:  11-12) This highlights the explicitly geographic nature of both natural disasters, and subsequent reconstruction sites: concentrated in countries of the Global South. However, those countries that have hitherto experienced a higher number of hazardous events have also been those countries that have the least amount of financial wherewithal to invest in disaster prevention or mitigation – either individually, socially or nationally meaning that they experience an disproportionately increased risk of disaster, as compared to developed (OECD) countries. Even within the Global North, the spatial nature of disasters holds – with those groups which are structurally impoverished, or underprivileged, experiencing a higher vulnerability to disasters, e.g. Hurricane Katrina (Cutter 2006).

According to Craig Calhoun, the idea of an Emergency Imaginary is an important part the Western Social Imaginary (Calhoun 2004, Taylor 2005).  “This notion of ‘emergency’ is produced and reproduced in social imagination, at a level that Charles Taylor (2002) has described as between explicit doctrine and the embodied knowledge of habitus” (Calhoun 2004: 7).  Calhoun goes on to say that the “production of emergencies, and the need to address them, has become one of the rationales for assertion of global power.” (Calhoun 2004: 9).  This thesis is further explored by Naomi Klein, in her new book on what she terms ‘disaster capitalism’, where she claims that the global neo-liberal order is perpetuated through the windows of opportunity presented or created by large scale disasters. (Klein 2007)  An important part of the discourse is the perceived unusual nature of the Emergency:  “’[e]mergency’ is a way of grasping problematic events, a way of imagining them that emphasizes their apparent unpredictability, abnormality, and brevity, and that carries the corollary that response – intervention – is necessary.[11]  The international emergency, it is implied, both can and should be managed.” (Calhoon 2004: 6)

This view is supported by Bankoff (2001) who traces the evolution of disaster response from the 1960s focus on tropical disease and its potential cures to more contemporary versions of risk management, focused on individual and civic responsibility for both mitigation and response.  This moves the frame of reference away from previous structural and causal interpretations of disaster –  that they were primarily a result of underdevelopment and poverty, or are the result of climate change – towards individual causation and response.[12]  By bringing space back in, we begin to see that an important part of this emergency imaginary is the ability to locate the emergency, the event, in a particular geography or spatial imagination.  The ‘assertion of global power’ that Calhoon points to must be asserted over someone or something – it must be asserted from some position of (perceived) security, and over another place of (perceived) insecurity.  The ‘common practices’ that underpins Charles Taylor’s  understanding of a particular social imaginary happen somewhere – they are locatable, they are grounded.  And if, as suggested by Calhoon (2004) and Klein (2007), the importance of the event is that it provides a rationale for intervention, or response, the reconstruction site becomes an integral, albeit under-theorized, part of the Emergency Imaginary.

 

 

 

 

SECTION II – RESPONSE STRATEGIES FROM A SPATIAL PERSPECTIVE

The term ‘reconstruction sites’ refers to geographic locations that have or are being physically reconstructed, with external assistance, after experiencing a crisis that overwhelms the ability of the affected society to respond.  ‘External Assistance’ refers to the provision of physical and/or financial resources by individuals and agencies that normally reside outside the geographic boundaries of the reconstruction site and have been brought there specifically by the event of the disaster.  In the contemporary reconstruction site, changes to the physical environment are of two sorts: first, the physical structures that put are in place to assist the victims of the disaster – houses, schools, hospitals, roads and infrastructure; and second, those changes which occur as a result of the influx of ‘external’ actors – refurbished or new hotels, offices, neighbourhoods, security, and transportation infrastructure.  The lens of analysis is rarely, if ever, focused on the latter.  While there is widespread acknowledgement amongst development practitioners and theorists alike, that the rapid influx of hundreds, or thousands of foreign workers has feedback effects, they are dramatically underexamined. This is characteristic of a general lack of understanding as to how the physical/material impacts on the social, and outside of a few specialized disciplines such as architecture and urban planning, there is also a general lack of interest.[13]

But the humanitarian imaginary – a correlate to Calhoun’s Emergency Imaginary – and a concept which draws upon contemporary development theorists ideas of a “New Moral Concensus” (Hoogvelt 2006) or “New Humanitarianism” (Fox) ultimately relies upon global (international) geographic categories and understandings for legitimacy and reproduction (Bankoff 2001).[14] If, as Calhoon says, a social imaginary is based upon the ‘embodied knowledge of habitus’, perhaps we should turn our lens towards the material practices of those individuals and groups who intervene in the reconstruction zone.  As mentioned in the previous section, the object of the reconstruction is only half of the picture with as many material changes occurring as a result of the large influx of internationals.  The material practices – the strategies and techniques (de Certeau 1988); or habitus (Bacherlard 1994) – of these groups will not only inform the immediate and long term direction of the reconstruction project, but may, contribute to the larger social imaginary – both in terms of how the West sees themselves, and how the West is viewed by others, as mediated by their spatial forms, the built environment.[15]   It is within reconstruction sites and other humanitarian spaces that particular key relations are crystallized, produced and reproduced in reconstruction sites.  In particular, they are embodied within particular built forms such as the international compound.

Authors such as de Chaine (2002), Ek (2006) and Edkins (2000) have pointed to the physical, bounded structure of the international compound  (or ‘camp’) as having unique and underexamined properties.[16] While the camp, or compound, is by no means the only type of physical experience of the international community in a reconstruction zone, it is an evocative one – a place that often becomes the focus of ‘ex-pat’ meetings and leisure activity, whether or not it is truly representative of the international sentiment at large.  Descriptions of the US Green Zone in Iraq, increasingly points to the implications of conducting a ‘reconstruction’ from within a walled compound.[17] A initial examination of the impact reveals at least two types.  First, the practices, and modes of thinking that occur within such a microcosm of international activity will influence the way that individuals relate to one another, what types of interventions are chosen, and how they are designed and implemented.  Second, the impression that such structures, and spatial arrangements have on the individuals that they are intended to assist. The tropes of the white SUV land rover, the ex-pat hotel, the WFP transport planes have become clichés, but what impact does the persistence of these clichés have on external impressions of humanitarian intervention.

 

SECTION III – THE SITE OF THE INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN COMPOUND

The built form of the international humanitarian compound is a powerful and pervasive part of the humanitarian imaginary.[18] Within the sphere of international politics, it is also taken for granted; (un)seen as the inert and neutral physical hardware that supports the soft goals of humanitarian assistance.[19]

Despite the continual use of ‘compound’ as a descriptive term in both popular and official international discourse, there has been no consistent study of the compound as a built form.  While there is an assumed understanding amongst the international community of what is meant by the term, it remains largely undertheorized – both from a material and rhetorical perspective.[20] And yet its political and symbolic nature is clearly demonstrated in the ongoing targeting of compounds globally, considered by its attackers as the central embodiment of the international community in the developing world.[21] For countries that are recipients of humanitarian assistance, the compound is one of the most obvious signs of international presence. For the international workers it will be their primary experience with the country – the place where they work and/or live, and/or socialize.

The form of the compound is often held in parallel with other seemingly similar types of buildings.  In particular, comparisons are often made with three major typologies of enclave communities:  the fortress, the camp and the gated community.

 

Form and function of the humanitarian compound

Within general architectural terminology, a compound refers to a set of buildings, dedicated to a common purpose, surrounded by a wall or fence. In the context of international humanitarianism, a compound can be described as a walled enclosure containing an assortment of offices, storage, living, medical and possibly leisure facilities. Depending on the size, it will also include vehicles for transport of staff and materials. It is highly securitized and may have an extra buffer zone or checkpoint.  There may be watchtowers on the walls where guards can be located.  It may have other oversight mechanisms such as security cameras, or barbed wire on top of the walls.[22]  The form will vary in terms of scale and level of securitization, and these variables are determined in part by their function which are threefold: logistic, diplomatic and staff support.[23] The level of required security will determine the degree of physical fortification as well as the degree of mobility and concentration of international spheres of activity.[24]

Security restrictions on a particular compound will be closely tied to the global political concerns of the agency, and may not be directly correlated to the material circumstance of a particular location.  For example, in the case of the US, the iterative security upgrades since the 1983 bombing of their Beirut Embassy have meant, that a series of baseline requirements have been imposed on all embassies, globally, regardless of their particular security situation.[25] What this has meant for many USAID offices – the overseas development arm of the US government – is that they too, by extension, became highly securitized – in some cases, literally barricaded from the populations they are supposed to be assisting.

Similarly, within the United Nations System, there is an institutional trend towards ‘integrated missions’ where UN Peacekeeping missions are physically housed with other UN agencies such as UNICEF and UNDP.  While this makes sense from the perspective of institutional efficiency consideration needs to be given to the potential effects of housing development and humanitarian projects in the same physical space with quasi-military operations.

The increased use of private contractors is also deserving of some attention. They are often contracted to implement programmes in security related areas:  requiring a higher level of securitization, and attracting a certain profile of employee – often ex-military. As they are not directly operating under multilateral mandate, the diplomatic function of their compounds are reduced, replaced instead with a focus on efficiency and limited liability.  While they have been publicly chastised over their activities in Iraq, further investigation is required with regard to a potential lack of visual accountability in humanitarian zones.  To what degree do particular visual tropes evoke colonial legacies?  The form of the compound evokes certain spatial and visual metaphors, and intuitively resonates with other well documented typologies.  In particular it parallels those built forms which segregate one community from another.

i) The Fortress

In popular discourse, the term ‘fortress’ is often used to refer to humanitarian compounds but how the applicable is the analogy?[26]  As an architectural type, the fortress is a near universal form.  At its most basic, it is an enclosed, defensible space which protects one group of people from another.[27] It has the  practical use of defending those on the inside from attacks on the outside.  In a climate where aid workers have become political targets, the built environment of internationals is becoming increasingly securitized – the fortress metaphor apparently more applicable.

In their work on the nation, Jones and Fowler look at the importance of local spaces in the reproduction of larger, geographic categories, such as the nation. They argue that this (re)production is done in several ways including that ‘localised places’ are used as “‘metonyms’ of the nation” and come to represent, “in a generic and abstract sense” “national messages, symbols, and ideologies.” (Jones and Fowler 2007:  336)  Citing Jackson and Penrose (1994) they “stress the potential for localized places to be key sites for generating ideas and sentiments that can ultimately reproduce the nation.” (Jones and Fowler 2007:  336).  In the case of the international humanitarian compound, what impact does the locale of the compound have on larger conceptions of the international?

For example, the visual metaphor of the fortress also has a symbolic value, representing in physical form the power of their occupants and owners over their surroundings.  It symbolizes the  rights and legitimacy of its occupants to be present in that place. In the case of international humanitarian assistance, the physical presence of the international community is intended to symbolize the precise opposite:  an international responsibility and accountability to local populations premised on a fundamental equality of human subjects.

In the current humanitarian reading, the physical manifestation of an intervention is considered to be largely neutral.  Some attention is paid to the need to aspects such as equal access to facilities, the spatial layouts of refugee camps, and the geographic distribution of projects and interventions, but considerations such as the symbolic value or physical characteristics of a particular building are considered to be either aesthetic or irrelevant.

Now consider, esteemed political scientists, Peter Katzenstein’s  recent work on the apparent rise of Anti-Americanisms in world politics.  He identified one potential causes of anti-americanism as a cognitive dissonance between what the U.S. says it stands for (equality, freedom) and the way it behaves in the sphere of international politics (ignorance of international law, manipulation of international agreements). (Katzenstein 2007) Applying these finding to the realm of humanitarianism, could there then be a relation between the particular, spatial practices of the international community in the field and the perceived increase in mistrust in multilateral mechanisms?[28]

Is the legitimacy of the international compound, not only derived from what it symbolizes, but what it exemplifies with regard to particular, exceptional practices?  (Hirst 2001, p. 191) Beyond its stated objective, such a form could be a constant reminder to the citizenry of the occupant’s elevated position, and their self-invoked right and potential capacity to see and know all. (Foucault 1995) Such forms could potentially evoke colonial legacies, or have an affectual impact on their host populations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the buildings of the international community and their material extensions, such as Land Rovers and helicopters, reinforce certain stereotypes among local population including those of Western excess, exclusivity, and neo-colonialism. While these themes can only be mentioned in this passing, they serve to emphasize the need to consider the potential impact of particular, exceptional enclaves on their host communities.

ii) The Camp as a Space of Exception

Post 9-11, the idea of the form of the camp as a ‘space of exception’ has received significant attention across disciplines. Citing Giorgio Agamben (1998), particular geographic locations were cited as examples of spaces where the established juridical order can be arbitrarily suspended by the ‘sovereign.’  More recently, scholars have begun to question the applicability of Agamben to places like Guantamo, and have sought to position these experiences within longer geo-political narratives.[29]  Within the context of American and European imperialism, the existence of particular spaces that are exempt from local laws and conditions can be considered as the norm rather than the exception, replete with their own standardized rituals of enclave.

In the case of the compound, regardless of geographic location, certain norms can be identified.  Clothing is western, the language is usually that of the previous colonial power, the electricity, water and sanitation systems, communications networks are self-contained, and the workday is scheduled according to the needs and demands of headquarters – in London, New York, or Amsterdam.

Certain exceptional behaviour is also permitting within the confine.  These do not only apply only to exceptional cultural practices such as the consumption of alcohol, but also to the categorization of workers into pay scales and privilege according to their place of birth. The distinction between local and international categories of staff goes beyond pay grade. It also dictates status within the organization, and the length of time spent in a place. While such differential practices can be (and are) justified in myriad ways the anecdotal evidence suggests that they may feed an image of the international community that is based on arbitrary, discriminatory and exceptional practices.[30]

iii) Gated Communities

Since the 1960s, defensive architectural techniques have been studied in the built form of the Gated Community (hereafter GCs). Atkinson & Blandy (2005) define GCs as a “housing development that restricts public access”  through physical and symbolic measures.  , usually through the use of gates, booms, walls and fences.  These residential areas may also employ security staff or CCTV systems to monitor access.  In addition, GCs may include a variety of services such as shops or leisure facilities.” (Atkinson & Blandy 2005, p. 177)  Most importantly, it is an “attempt at self-imposed exclusion from the wider neighbourhood, as well as the exclusion of others.” (Atkinson & Blandy 2005, p.178)

The immediate difference between the gated community and the proposed type of the international compound is that the latter is established with the purpose of accomplishing a particular labour outcome, while the former, is established primarily for residential and associated purposes such as increased social cohesion and quality of life.[31] However, research on gated communities may offer insight into the way in which the built form impacts social interaction and practice.

Luymes (1997) says that  “residential enclaves in all times and places share a basic characteristic of setting themselves off from the urban matrix around them, through control of access, and the solidification of their perimeters.” (p. 198).  Work on GCs in the UK reveals startling similarities with international compounds in the ways in which their residents interact with the local community. Atkinson and Flint (2004) detail the phenomena of connected “fortified residential and work spaces” which “resembles a seam of partition running spatially and temporally through cities.”[32]  (p. 877)  Their descriptions of the practices of residents of GCs apply nearly perfectly to the work and life patterns of individuals on humanitarian interventions ‘in the field’.  Movement is restricted between office, home and target project.  Contact is often limited with the recipient, and when it exists it is within highly codified interaction – often within humanitarian or government space.

The result of such practices, is that there is very little interaction between the international community ‘in country’ and the target beneficiaries outside the codified relationships of the donor-recipient. The impact that this has on internationals has an effect much like that of Atkinson and Blandy’s description of the inhabitants of gated communities.  “The process of gating surrounds an attempt, in part, to disengage with wider urban problems and responsibilities, both fiscal and social, in order to create a ‘weightless’ experience of the urban environment with elite fractions seamlessly moving between secure residential, workplace, education and leisure destinations.” (Atkinson & Blandy, 2005, p.180)[33] And while the intentionality is different, the effect is the same – the ability to leave, to come and go at will.[34]  While discussions of alternate modes of involvement of the international community with the public policy of their host countries lies beyond the ability of this paper, they do raise a salient yet largely unasked question:  If the objective of the humanitarian assistance is to better understand, relate to, assist, capacitate the other, is  this not completely at odds with the observed spatial prescriptions of the built environments of the internationals?

Not only do the modes of interaction and built forms described radically limit the spatial interactions of internationals with their broader environment, but evidence from work on American GCs, “suggests that living ‘behind the gates’ actually promotes fear of the unknown quantities of social contact outside them.” (Low 2003; Atkinson & Blandy 2005, p. 181)

Ironically, while the compound ensures a virtual elimination of violent crime within its confines, its diplomatic space of exception may encourage other types of non-violent crime such as graft, theft and fraud in such areas as procurement and contracting – jobs traditionally done by ‘local’ employees. And while, according to one reading, the ‘mobility’ and weightlessness of the internationals confers a power it is also opens up a space for the locals to exert power from below.  With a longer time horizon of employment, local employees may have the knowledge of local personalities, relationship, and affiliations that may help direct a project or funds to the groups or agencies most in need. However, it may also mean that certain local workers are in better positions to exploit loopholes in procurement systems, obscure nepotism and act as informers to the host governments.[35]When applied to the context of international humanitarian assistance how would such perceptions influence how the ideal ‘target beneficiary’ is perceived and understood and ultimately how policy and programme are designed?

 

It is less clear on how the host communities regard to physical presence of international compounds.  Research by Atkinson and Flint (2004) on perceptions by residents living near or around GCs were ambivalent, and tended to reinforce pre-existing socio-economic or cultural divides rather than create new ones.  In the case of international development work, there are similar ambivalences with the international compound both offering the possibility of employment, security, increased demand for certain goods and services (including prostitutes) and also the threat to local authority and custom.

Beyond the floodgates

The classic texts of post-disaster intervention point to the military spatial heritage of humanitarian relief and reconstruction:  the tents, the conception, layout and organization of refugee and relief camps. (Kent, Cuny, Davis)  However, they do not include an examination of older continuities – those that may exist between the built forms of colonial occupation and contemporary relief efforts.  In the current processes and practices of international assistance, the lived experiences and built environment of the international community are rarely examined despite there contributions to the humanitarian imaginary.[36] They may also be an important aspect of the way in which the international community is understood and interpreted at the local level.  In this way, although many theorists have cautioned against drawing historical continuities where none exist (between development and colonialism), I suggest that these parallels may be stronger than hitherto suggested and worthy of further sustained analysis.

There is the need, within international practice, to seriously consider the impact of particular spatial practices of the international community, and to foreground decisions regarding the built environment as a key variable in humanitarian intervention. With the increasingly convergence of security and humanitarian agendas, these considerations are becoming more and more pressing, by the day.  As long as the built forms that are being used continue to invoke and reproduce colonial power relations, is it unlikely that reconstruction sites will produce their stated objective of, in the jargon of the day, sustainable, equitable, emancipated communities or individuals.  Rather these sites will continue to service a vital need of the international community – the contribution to the construction of the Humanitarian Imaginary.

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[1] Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford:  Basil Blackwell, 1991)

[2] c.f. MAMDANI, M. (2007) The Politics of Naming:  Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency. London Review of Books. London. PUGH, M. (2005) Peacekeeping and Critical Theory IN BELLAMY, A. J. A. P. W. (Ed.) Peace Operations and Global Order. London and Oxford, Frank Cass and Routledge., CHANDLER, D. (2006) Empire in denial : the politics of state-building, London, Pluto.

[3] A notable exception here is BANKOFF, G. (2001) Rendering the World Unsafe:  ‘Vulnerability’ as Western Discourse. Disasters, 25, 19-35.

[4] For the human construction of famine, in particular, see works by KEEN, D. (1994) The benefits of famine : a political economy of famine and relief in southwestern Sudan, 1983-1989, Princeton, N.J. ; Chichester, Princeton University Press. EDKINS, J. (2000) Whose hunger? : concepts of famine, practices of aid, Minneapolis, Minn. ; London, University of Minnesota Press., WAAL, A. D. (2000) Democratic political process and the fight against famine, University of Sussex, Institute of Development Studies. Davis, DUFFIELD, M. R. (1991) War and famine in Africa, Oxford, Oxfam.

[5] For a discussion of the political nature of this term see EDKINS, J. (2000) Whose hunger? : concepts of famine, practices of aid, Minneapolis, Minn. ; London, University of Minnesota Press.131-132.

[6] Cuny includes a third type of disaster – ‘technological’ to refer to those events such as nuclear explosions, chemical spills, etc.. CUNY, F. C. & ABRAMS, S. (1983) Disasters and development, New York, Oxford University Press.

[7] C.f. O’KEEFE, P., KEN WESTGATE AND BEN WISNER (1976) Taking the naturalness out of natural disasters. Nature, 260.

[8] C.f. MORLEY, J. (2005) Tsunami Wipes Darfur Off Priority List. Washington Post. online ed. Washington. or http://www.dec.org.uk/index.cfm/asset_id,892/index.html (last accessed September 11, 2007)

[9] This may have been partly explained by timing:  the peak of the spatial turn in the late 1990s coincided with a renaissance in development assistance, and particularly in the realms of post-conflict intervention and peacekeeping.  With the publication of such agenda setting policy pieces as Boutros Ghali’s Agenda for Peace (1992) and the Brahimi Report (2000) the important questions were not whether the international community should intervene in and after conflict, but what was the most effective method.

[10] For a discussion of the distinction between hazard, vulnerability and disaster see  DAVIS, I. (1978) Shelter After Disaster, Oxford, Oxford Polytechnic Press.

[11]In this way, natural disasters have a similar logic to security threats in blocking off ‘normal politics’ and creating space in which emergency measures can be taken.  C.f. BUZAN, B., WÆVER, O. & WILDE, J. D. (1998) Security : a new framework for analysis, Boulder, Colo. ; London, Lynne Rienner.

[12] See also PUPUVAC, V. (2005) Human Security and the rise of global therapeutic governance Conflict, Security & Development, 5, 161-181.

[13] This logic is further intensified by the notion of an emergency— the ethical imperative for action justifying short-termist or normally inappropriate decisions.

[14] Taylor briefly discusses the “extension of the imaginary in space”, acknowledging both national and supra-national loci (Taylor 2005:  178) but fails to specify what constitutes such a loci.

[15] See also MERLEAU-PONTY, M. (1962) Phenomenology of perception, Routledge & K.Paul. and Heidegger’s iconic piece on ‘Building and Dwelling’ reprinted in LANE, B. M. (2007) Housing and dwelling : perspectives on modern domestic architecture, London, Routledge.

[16] The recent flurry of work on Agamben has introduced a wealth of study on the form of the ‘camp’ however rarely from a primarily spatial or architectural perspective.

[17] See CHANDRASEKARAN, R. (2006) Imperial Life in the Emerald City, New York, Alfred A. Knopt.

[18] This paper, is part of a larger piece, forthcoming, which considers the significance of particular built forms in the humanitarian imaginary.  On the idea of the social and emergency imaginary see CASTORIADIS, C. (1987) The Imaginary Institution of Society, Oxford, Polity in conjunction with Blackwell. CALHOUN, C. (2004) A World of Emergencies:  Fear, Intervention, and the Limits of Cosmopolitan Order. 35th Annual Sorokin Lecture. University of Saskatchewan, University of Saskatchewan. TAYLOR, C. (2005) Modern Social Imaginaries, Durham and London, Duke University Press.

[19] GRAHAM, S. & MARVIN, S. (2001) Splintering urbanism : networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition, London, Routledge.

[20] Some work has been on the environmental aspects of military compounds, and on the effects of UN peacekeeping operations on local socio-economic conditions.  A series of workshops has been done by NATO on the ‘Environmental Aspects of Military Compounds.’ See XXX

[21] Work is being done on improving the security of field missions in the “new terrorist threat environment” but how this may influence the humanitarian mission is not known. C.f. BOONE, J. (2008) Bars lose expats to safety bans. Financial Times. Online ed.

[22] For the purposes of this paper, the term ‘humanitarian’ refers to the full spectrum of relief to development work, from quasi military –  such as UN Peace Keeping Operations and Security Contractors – to relief operations such as the Red Cross or the World Food Programme. All use the form of the compound in their field operations.

[23] Logistically, a compound provides a base where supplies food and NFIs (non food ite ms) may be amassed prior to distribution.  Compounds secure the vehicles and delivery systems that are used to interact with the target beneficiaries and provide communications networks when others have been destroyed, or are not working.  Diplomatically, they provide a location where various types of meetings and information sharing may take place such as emergency or reconstructive planning processes take place.  The compound must also provide bodily security to the aid workers who are increasingly targeted by the elements of the populations they intent to assist. They also provide an environment in which the workers are able to carry out their tasks to a speed and level of efficiency required by their donor governments and agencies.  This means high-speed communications systems and a common working language.In the case of the UN this usually means the official colonial language for that area – English, French, Spanish, Portuguese. It also means that hygiene standards are such that foreign nationals are able to function without being sick – food and water is either flown in or provided to a standard that is acceptable to its occupants. In this way, the international humanitarian compound provides security as comfort. Scale will be determined by the size and the mandate of the organization in question.  The World Food Programme and the UN HCR require space to store the vehicles used for distribution and the items slated for distribution. This requires large warehouses, water and petrol storage facilities and even hangars. Power generation facilities will also be required in most developing contexts.  Programmes that are involved in ‘soft’ projects such as training and capacity building need less space.

[24]. If a country is highly insecure, or is generally lacking in basic amenities, it is more likely that living quarters and offices will be integrated. If a country is determined to be safe, there will be no official restrictions on where internationals live or move. In most countries, the level of security is determined at headquarters based on field level risk assessments.  The UN uses a 6 level security rating system from ‘No Phase’ or completely secure to ‘Phase 5’.The numerical risk rating is highly subjective, influenced by political and institutional factors. In the case of Rwanda, the initial security rating was revised downwards after complaints from the government over the negative image that it projected abroad. The low security rating meant that there was no budget for a highly securitized UN compound. The walls were low, the security low-key.  This was in contrast to the Presidents extensive security cordon around his property.  On some days, all streets within a one block radius of the President’s residence were barricaded with concrete bollards and armed guards.  The symbolic message was clear.  The UN is not a relevant actor in this country. The real power lies with the President.  This is in contrast to post-Tsunami Aceh where the UN security rating was, in the wake of Tsunami in 2004, Phase 5 despite it being simultaneously designated a post-conflict country, and (more tellingly) despite the impressions of local aid workers.  Here, the main international compound was the World Food Programme compound where the offices of the UN Office for Reconstruction and Coordination (UNORC) and other UN agencies were located.  The walls were high, there was a manned security booth and a watch tower, and barbed wire encircled it.  In the context of Banda Aceh, the extreme visual level of security raised questions of the threat.  While the Minimum Operating Security Standards (MOSS) for the UN cover the areas of telecommunications, equipment and security plan, specific guidance has not been given on building types. There are also Minimum Operating Residential Security Standards (MORSS) for staff, but these cover only the most basic of security aspects such as locks and lighting.

[25] Following the August 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi Kenya, the U.S. State Department created the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.  “In concert with other State Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies and Congress, OBO sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.” http://www.state.gov/obo In London, this required the installation of bollards in Upper Brook Street and Upper Grosvenor Street.  No irony can be detected when the US Embassy to the UK website proudly proclaims that the project “aims to enhance security for the Embassy and the surrounding neighborhood by making the Embassy a less attractive target.” USGOVERNMENT (2006) U.S. Embassy Breaks Ground on Perimeter Security Initiative. London, Embassy of the US in London, UK. Where existing embassies could not be upgraded, entirely new compounds were created, in locations that could be more easily secured – in the case of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan only reachable by car.

[26] In a 2003, ABC reporter Jill Colgan referred to the UN compound as the “UN fortress” COLGAN, J. (2003) Bush Talks Tough to UN. The 7:30 Report. Online ed., Australian Broadcasting Corporation. See also Lewis’ reference in LEWIS, I. M. (2001) Why the Warlords Won. Times Literary Supplement.

[27] Significant work has been done on the use of defensive, military architecture in the creation of an Israel (Yacobi, Weizman) in the defense of diplomatic space (Vale) and of spaces of incarceration or detainment. (Kaplan, Reid-Henry)

[28] In addition to its symbolic value, Hirst was interested in the possibility that the form of the fortress could have social significance that went beyond its originating ideas. (Hirst, 166) He seems to imply that the form of the fortress embodied certain values or norms through the effects of particular physical characteristics upon its inhabitants and host communities.

[29] C.f. KAPLAN, A. (2005) Where Is Guantanamo? American Quarterly (American Studies Assn) (Baltimore, MD), 57, 831, REID-HENRY, S. (2007) Exceptional Sovereignty? Guantanamo Bay and the Re-Colonial Present. Antipode, 39, 627-648, GREGORY, D. (2006) The black flag: Guantanamo Bay and the space of exception. Geografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography, 88, 405-427, ARADAU, C. (2007) Law transformed: Guantanamo and the ‘other’ exception. Third World Quarterly, 28, 489-501. ARADAU, C. (2007) Law transformed: Guantanamo and the ‘other’ exception. Third World Quarterly, 28, 489-501.

[30] This is based on informal discussions with ‘local’ workers in a variety of UN offices between the years 2000 and 2004.

[31] There is an extensive literature on Gated Communities including Gated Communities in the Developing World.  See the Special Issue of Housing Studies 20:2 (2005) and the special issue of Environment and Planning D:  Society and Space.  Within this literature there are well established debates regards whether it is possible to speak of a universal form of gated community, and authors such as Atkinson and Blandy caution against making universalist claims that ignore local history and context.

[32] In the UK and America such “premium network spaces” result in their  users – wealthy individuals who can afford to live and use such spaces – being “increasingly withdrawn from the wider citizenry.” ATKINSON, R. & FLINT, J. (2004) Fortress UK? Gated communities, the spatial revolt of the elites and time-space trajectories of segregation. Housing Studies, 19, 875-892. (p. 886)

[33] See also Ibid.

[34] Such differential rights to mobility lie at the heart of international practice.  In the case of the United Nations, “locally recruited staff members may be evacuated from the duty station in only the most exceptional cases in which their security is endangered as a direct consequence of their employment by the organizations of the United Nations. A decision in this regard can only be made by the Secretary-General, as recommended by UNSECOORD, based on a recommendation by the Designated Official.” UNITEDNATIONS (Not specified) Security in the Field:  Information for all staff members of the United Nations system. United Nations.

[35] The use of such weapons of the weak may give the impression that it is in fact the international community that is being directed – that the spaces of humanitarian exception are more tolerated than imposed.  However, it is important to remember that the introduction and establishment of an international humanitarian presence is most often within the context of a weak or failing central government, or where a disaster has overwhelmed the capacity of a government to act.  For example, the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami left the governments of several of the affected countries unable to defend themselves against the second Tsunami of aid funds, and international workers who flooded their shores in the days after the actual disaster.

[36] Another spatial consideration are the international networks that are created between what de Waal refers to as the ‘International