Jennifer Ferng to Discuss Humanitarian Aid and Cambodian Thai Refugee Camps

February 12, 2018
Jennifer Ferng

Harvard Asia Center Visiting Scholar Jennifer Ferng (University of Sydney, Sydney School of Architecture, Design, and Planning) will be giving a talk Friday, February 16, on her project in progress for the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) that addresses historical and contemporary examples related to Australasian detention centers. The Asia Center Seminar Series talk, "Open Door: Humanitarian Aid and the Spatial Planning of Cambodian Thai Refugee Camps," will focus on the Cambodian-Thai camps of the 1980s, which drew a large amounts of humanitarian aid from Western countries. These camps served as a significant landmark in the history of modern humanitarianism amidst the fall of the Khmer Rouge and the genocide of approximately two million Cambodians. Much of the planning and management of these camps were defined by the spatial configurations of humanitarian aid, and in turn, these practices helped to shape how Khao I Dang, Sa Kaeo, and S2 functioned as border regions that attempted to regulate the flows of refugees moving between Cambodia and Thailand. More importantly, Jennifer notes, today’s contemporary treatment of international asylum seekers and refugees by the Cambodian government and local NGOs has been conditioned by these historical movements of internally displaced persons and Vietnamese and Thai military personnel. The seminar is chaired by Yee Mon Htun, a clinical instructor in the International Human Rights Clinic in Harvard Law. The event takes place Friday, February 16, at 12:15 p.m. in S153, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge St., Cambridge.

Ferng is a Lecturer in Architecture (assistant professor) who received her PhD from MIT and her professional degrees in architectural design from Princeton University and Rice University. She has published critical articles and essays on asylum seeker boat interceptions at Christmas Island, Australia; immigration detention centers on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea; and prefabricated housing systems as a service controlled by multinational contractors who build detention centers in Pacific countries. During her stay as a visiting Scholar at Harvard this year, she will be transforming her fieldwork and materials collected in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore into a book manuscript. She is also planning to formulate a collaborative research venture on the subject of refugees in architecture/law between the University of Sydney and Harvard University.