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Digital City of Refuge is a visual story archive produced by LSE and Counterpoints Arts for the research project Resilient communities, resilient cities? (2018-2019).

Digital City of Refuge is a collection of visual stories mapping the ‘city of refuge’ as experienced and imagined by its actors in Athens, Berlin and London.

Digital City of Refuge is produced by The Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Counterpoints Arts with photographer Marcia Chandra. This website forms part of the wider research project Resilient communities, resilient cities? Digital makings of the city of refuge (2018-19), led by LSE in creative partnership with Counterpoints Arts and Proboscis. It is funded through the LSE's Institute of Global Affairs (IGA) as part of the Rockefeller Resilience Programme.

This visual archive shares a rich, even if incomplete, story of the ‘city of refuge.’ It is shaped by the voices of people and is layered with photographs that render visible the often hidden narratives, experiences and imaginings of cities together with the core themes that reflect the research findings. These immersive stories help to contextualise and visualise the results of the research, while also offering a way for visitors to engage directly with the people and narratives that contributed to it.

We hope that by sharing this archive we can offer opportunities for further reflection and analysis, and contribute to public and policy debates on migration, cultural diversity and inclusive societies.


A city of refuge is a city that receives newcomers after their (forced) migration and brings them into new constellations with each other and with those receiving them. The imagined and ideal city of refuge is a welcoming place: a new home, a place of hope, solidarity and discovery. But it is also a real city — constantly shifting and full of contradictions, with uneven access to resources, recognition and rights. In this context, the ‘digital’ forms a particular frame of reference with implications for the city and its people — supporting (or hindering) informed and connected communities within and across borders, creating opportunities for work and education, and democratising participation as active citizens in (trans)local spaces.

The research project largely focused on three urban neighbourhoods in Europe that have received significant numbers of newcomers over the past five years: Athens (Downtown), Berlin (Neukölln) and London (Haringey). Through conversations, focussed workshops and ethnographic 'story' walks, the research explored the role of digital technologies and connectivities in mediating and managing the city of refuge by exploring three critical questions:

— Who makes the city an engaging, welcoming, safe and inclusive space, and how?
— What are the obstacles to the city of refuge and how is it denied to those who need and desire it?
— How is the city of refuge imagined as a sustainable, inclusive and hopeful project?

Read more about the project's research methodology, results and publications here.


The stories presented in this visual archive are told through the voices of actors encountered in the three focus neighbourhoods in Athens (Downtown), Berlin (Neukölln) and London (Haringey). Newcomers that we met as part of the research led us on 'story' walks through their neighbourhoods. We retraced and photographed the places, memories and experiences that have mattered to them as they've navigated the emotional, social and bureaucratic landscapes of their new ‘home.’

We also spent time with front-line activists and volunteers (many of whom were also newcomers themselves) to reflect on the moments that have defined their understanding of the (digital) city as refuge. As our focus is on the personal responses and experiences of welcome and refuge, and as there are many overlaps between 'newcomer' and 'civil society,' we have presented the stories collectively.

The photographs and stories were collected in Berlin (September 2018), Athens (November 2018), and London (August 2018-February 2019) by Marcia Chandra (Counterpoints Arts) with researchsupport and translation from Deena Dajani (Arabic), Kristina Kolbe (German) and Afroditi Koulaxi (Greek) at LSE.

All of the stories publicly available in this visual archive have been reviewed by the contributors and appear as they wish them to be told. The archive includes only a selection of the numerous newcomer and civil society actors that have contributed to the research anonymously through interviews and workshops. We are grateful to all the contributors that shared their time, journeys and perspectives, and permitted us to share it with a wider audience.

Website designed by TEMPLO.