The following article was taken from our Second Newsletter (pdf, 2.62 MB)

Report and photographs by Prof. Gilbert Beronneau, design akademie berlin

Forced migration and displacement are on the rise internationally, especially from crisis-hit countries such as Syria. This often produces sentiments of difference and foreignness for both refugees and host communities. It creates a phenomenon which is not limited to Lebanon, but also similar patterns are visible in Germany: the idea of foreignness. The project Foreign + Foreignness was an art and research project by design akademie berlin, SRH Hochschule für Kommunikation und Design in cooperation with alba Académie Libanaise Des Beaux-Arts, University of Balamand, Beirut and took place in 2017 in Beirut and Berlin. The fruitful cooperation between the two universities led to Foreign and Foreignness II: Community Space in 2018. The project was funded by Transformation Partnership of the DAAD. Central in the project were the wide range of ideas and social realities that foreignness encompasses. A total of eight teachers and around forty students, of twelve different nationalities with a diverse background of disciplines from arts and the humanities, participated in this project. In order to understand the sentiments that create foreignness, three methodological lenses were introduce in prepatory lectures: 1)artistic research 2) a psychoanalytic approach and 3) the socio political evaluation of migration.

These were discussed in initial workshops which took place in Beirut and Berlin. In Beirut, mixed teams of German and Lebanese students visited a refugee camp and were also able to experience the city and its diverse coexistence of different cultures and religious communities. For most of the participants, Lebanese and Germans, this was a new experience. Refugee camps often function as closed spaces with little interaction with the host community, this particularly feeds into the sense of foreignness.In Berlin, the students and teachers from Lebanon joined and the group dedicated themselves to a week of cooperative exploration – they visited a refugee housing facility, the film studios at Babelsberg, and explored Berlin and our immediate environment through the perspective of foreignness.

Results from the project phases were published in a book that provides insights and new perspectives in the concepts of foreign and foreignness.