I’ll be one of the first to admit that “refugee science” is not decorated with a doctorate or other high degrees on any plain vanilla campus I’m aware of. However, we all see the giant camps, some of which persist for decades, because, in a lot of cases, these people have nowhere else to go that will accept them.
Two challenges live at the heart of Refugee Science: creating records and accounts for people; moving people to new opportunities.
Gone are the days when mountains of paperwork went with any large scale operation. We use bits and bytes today, however information harvesting remains a difficulty.
For one thing, people are naturally suspicious when there’s a lot of prodding and probing about personal and family information. For what purpose will these records be used? Who gets to see what information?
When it comes to “new opportunities” the obvious starting point is to point out that a refugee camp itself is an experiment in close quarters survival.
Camps deserve whole channels, were TV mature, both to broadcast to themselves, and to the outer world.
Given the internet, more camps than ever have some kind of channel. Editing together their output and airing the information to a broader public is what’s not getting done.
The design science model of the Global U is pretty simple: people are paid to prototype the future. Every day you go to work, you’re practicing for a better tomorrow, wherein your skills are even more stellar.
However, the suite of tools, the artifacts, the “stack” (in software development), are always changing. The jobs take different shapes. Some involve more risk, involve different talents. There’s a “dating game” about matching people to roles, that goes on all around us, more or less formalized.
We’re all familiar with advertising and understand how ads fade over into PR (public relations) which in turn fades into propaganda, this latter typically a term of opprobrium, but then advertising is not always loved either, by the author writing about it.
We understand the battle for hearts and minds, for recruits to an ideology or philosophy, a cult or company, a church, temple or political party, gets messy.
We’re free to join multiple groups, as well as to recruit for multiple groups.
I dwell on these allegiances and loyalties (their formation, their disruption) as a prelude to discussing transportation, which is another challenge in Refugee Science relating to moving people to new opportunities.
Typically, a war theater is divided into civilians and combatants, with ways devised to let civilians flee the scene.
Bus caravans are a typical tool of evacuation. Agreements must be reached to allow the buses egress from the theater, however these may be difficult to obtain. When civilians stay present, they act to keep a lid on the practice of violent lifestyles, whereas once a block is considered “combatants only” the level of risk tends to skyrocket.
We tend to see articles about “human shields” in connection with the intermixing of combatants with civilians. When combatants practice non-violence and civil disobedience, a different zoning applies, or so is the hope, given the minimal standards of whatever ambient civilization.
However, this first division into combatant and non-combatant is not the end of the Venn diagramming, which explains “allegiances and loyalties” as important to our graph. If we’re separating feuding parties, then moving both parties to the same refugee camp is hardly to diffuse the situation.
Warring gangs are seeking turf, areas of control, the freedom to enforce their own community standards.
In other words, we’re looking for ways to keep mutually hostile ethnic groups from wreaking havoc on one another, and sometimes separation is the only way, in the near term. We may need two bus caravans, at the very least, heading for different destinations.
In the Third Reich, the campus camps were concentration camps, forced labor camps with crematoria.
Lets go back to distrust of record keeping, or tabulation. What ethnographic information are you expecting to tabulate and to what end?
Given humanity’s track record, we have ample reason for worry.
Will our religion or some other feature of our identity follow us around like a criminal record, and keep us from performing in certain roles?
Also, who gets to keep the original digs? In the case of Syria, we had divided neighborhoods, civilians and combatants, evacuation convoys, and multiple destinations.
Someone wishing a PhD in Refugee Science would do well to immerse themselves in the case of Syria, a crisis that’s ongoing given the fuzzy world of Mesopotamia.
Or try the Balkans. Or Venezuela.
The general systems theory (GST) view of a “solved” ethnic tension situation is fairly fractal, meaning neighborhoods will clump together, yet deep within will be exotic elements of external groups.
Imagine Romeo and Juliet were successful in trying to hook up. The existence of a Capulet-Montague couple might be too anomalous for Verona, so why not elope in Chicago? Today, that would be doable, provided both Romeo and Juliet had green cards or student visas.
Indeed, what may lessen ethnic tensions over time are living examples of recognizably similar (or “the same”) ethnicities getting along in close quarters in another place, if not time.
The military services may themselves create a source of examples, as types A and B learn to live together on the same base or same ship. Screenwriters then remake this raw material into television programs (sitcoms, docudramas…) and spread the news of amicable relations twixt stereotypically warring factions.
Civilian services, such as T4P (Truckers for Peace), may likewise serve as a source of examples. You’ll find other stories of mine on Medium spelling out this citizen diplomacy opportunity.
In the science fiction future of Refugee Science, a common design pattern will possibly include [A] separating feuding parties, transporting them to separate camps [B] setting up mediating camps which experiment with having former opponents (enemies) get along and [C] reintegrating the feuding parties around a nucleus of mutually compatible mediating populations.
Implementing this pattern may mean doing the opposite of what we do in war theater: extracting the least compatible, the potential combatants, while leaving civilians in place.
However this is not about imprisoning family members and imposing long term separation. Reunification is the goal. We return to the old neighborhoods with new people skills.
A key question facing Refugee Science at the moment is the possibility of permanent camps with rotating populations.
Currently, a camp likely has no “end game” as it was developed in an ad hoc manner to solve some emergency, and thereby became permanent.
The idea of entire camps emptying out, yet refilling, with a different population in need of temporary facilities, is more of a future dream that might be fulfilled by cruise ship type operations in the near future.
A cruise ship might receive the bus caravan and then transport the refugees to another bus caravan on the other end.
Back to GST: remember we’re paying people to prototype, so that we all might learn what works and what doesn’t and better our own communities accordingly. Nature is ultimately footing the bill, in that Planet Earth is a thermodynamically open system, plugged into the Sun.
Product placement is a big part of the equation, whether done subtly through show and tell, or in the form of garish, in your face commercials.
Control over tastefulness in advertising is one of those ethnic community standards people will seek to enforce, as a manifestation of their right to set standards in the first place.
EPCOT by Disney was a first explicit introduction of the meme: Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
As mentioned, the current state of the art is not high. The Refugee Channel is hypothetical for the most part.
How refugees are to manage their own TV (self coverage) is an open question in many camps. What counts as a refugee camp likewise varies.
The word “camp” comes with connotations, as distinct from “neighborhood” or even “zip code”. Stay tuned.