In architectural history, just as in global politics, refugees have tended to exist as mere human surplus; histories of architecture, then, have usually reproduced the nation-state’s exclusion of refugees as people out of place. Andrew Herscher’s Displacements: Architecture and Refugee, the ninth book in the Critical Spatial Practice series, explores some of the usually disavowed but arguably decisive intersections of mass-population displacement and architecture through the twentieth century and into the present. This exploration aims to articulate and unfold a historical contradiction: while modernization is often (if ideologically) understood as process of withdrawing violence from everyday life, architecture’s modernization to some degree rested on housing populations displaced by violence that was nothing if not everyday.
"Displacements" thus suggests that populations created by violence usually normalized or marginalized in histories of modernity—from proletarianization, through colonization, to expulsion and other forms of coerced exile—were often the mass subjects that architecture engaged in the course of defining its modernity. This propositions puts into relation two historical phenomena: on the one hand, the mass population displacements caused by rural enclosure, colonial conquest, total war, and other forms of modern and contemporary political violence and, on the other hand, the arts and technologies of mass population placement imagined and enacted by modern and contemporary architecture.