The homing of newcomers in Brussels at the intersection of bordering and urban speculation:

From survival strategies to infrastructures for civic imagination and urban inclusion

Tasneem Nagi, Heleen Verheyden, An Vandermeulen, Viviana d’Auria and Luce Beeckmans

Published in Issue 5.1 // The Long Read

Keywords: Homing, bordering, urban speculation, coalition-building, space-sharing


Informed by a year of participatory action research in Globe Aroma, an organisation supporting artists and art lovers with a background as newcomers in Brussels, this paper examines how newcomers negotiate their homing at the intersection of bordering and securitisation on the one side, and gentrification and urban speculation on the other. We argue that these exclusionary structures of power do not only challenge newcomers’ homing by restricting access to housing, but also by creating precarious conditions for supportive organisations, which are often housed in low-quality, temporary infrastructures. Our research explores how housing and socio-cultural organisations in Brussels begin to utilise coalition-building and space-sharing as survival strategies, that gradually transform into a common claim for permanent infrastructures and become tools for building solidarity and homing the city. In doing so, they foster an alternative vision of urban citizenship, grounded in community-building and decent housing and services for all. ​

Tasneem Nagi is a Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven, where she focuses on forced displacement and housing. With a background in civil society and the humanitarian-development sector, she explores the interplay between the multiscalar politics of bordering and everyday homing strategies of displaced populations and their collectives.

Heleen Verheyden (she/her) is a PhD candidate at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven. Her work being situated at the intersection of housing, architecture and displacement, she studies design methods for transcending the shelter paradigm and for enhancing our civic imagination.

An Vandermeulen is general coordinator of the Brussels based artistic work and meeting place Globe Aroma. She’s been working in the arts field in Flanders and Brussels since 2008 – bridging arts with activism and urban development – and has collaborated with different institutions such as Beursschouwburg, Bâtard Festival, Toestand, and Bronks.

Viviana d’Auria is Associate Professor of International Urbanism at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven. Exploring ‘lived-in’ architecture is integral to her research within a broader interest in the trans-disciplinary construction of contested urban spaces. To tackle questions of social and spatial justice, she endorses a collaborative and design-driven approach.

Luce Beeckmans is a research professor at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven. Studying the materialities of trans-national migration at multiple spatial scales, her research is situated at the intersection of migration, city and architecture. More specifically she focuses on the housing and home-making of refugees and migrants, while linking it to broader debates on urban diversity and inclusion.

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