the living

Al Maeishah (“the living”, in Arabic) is a communal learning environment in which participants explore and practice neighbouring and hospitality as radical political acts. It creates temporary and critical platforms by engaging in conversation with people of similar social and political urgencies. Al Maeishah tackles these urgencies — related to displacement, diaspora, citizenship — with the imagination of a future beyond borders and the understanding of the challenges in prompting the common.
A political proposition forms each time by focusing gatherings on a topic based on the interests of the participants, who are the conveyors of experiences and perspectives. Al Maeishah considers diaspora and exile as rich experiences that we can learn from. They are also possibilities to stress the limitations of nation-States, by weaving a meshwork of relations and stories that defy identifications based on nationality or citizenship.

the room

The first conceptual and practical inspiration draws from the Arabic term for describing the living-room (ghorfat: room; al maeishah: living) – a shared home-space shaped to spend time together and to host. In Palestine we experienced its intimate, flexible and restorative possibilities, alongside its use as a place of negotiation, intensity and resolution. By bringing in the outside, it transgresses the distinction between private, public and common space.
These qualities inspire a dialogical and fertile environment to address mutual concern. Here we locate our investigative and editorial unit – a repository and emergent system of interconnected images, objects and ideas.

the threshold

Another spatial and symbolic reference is the threshold, brought into the discourse to envision a site of conflict, exchange, imagination and invention. At the threshold people encounter, judge, consider, react and negotiate. A threshold can be visible or invisible. It can stem from design, it can be locked or permeable. It is a physical and mental space where to identify the familiar and the unfamiliar and exercise an attitude on ourselves and the others.



To convene, we rely on mujaawarah (“gathering” or “neighboring” in Arabic). It is an integral part of life, where people converse about actions and experiences, critically reflect on them, and in so doing, gradually and freely build personal and communal meanings and understandings. It requires physical presence and can only happen between mureedeen and muraadeen: between those who want to learn in reciprocal ways.

collective dictionary

The Collective Dictionary is a series of publications containing definitions of concepts inspired from our background in Campus in Camps. The Collective Dictionary originally considered fundamental terms for the understanding of the contemporary condition of Palestinian refugee camps. As we played a central role in its conception and evolution, now the Collective Dictionary is one of the tools used in a broader way within Al Maeishah to manifest a form of collaborative knowledge springing from the journeys. During each experience a concept is chosen by participants to highlight and collectively assemble personal reflections.


We consider walks as a form of knowledge. Walking is one of the very first aesthetic gestures of human beings to explore, to know and to relate with the Earth. In form of detour, walking becomes a way to displace from the everyday, to find a new familiarity with the environment by opening to the unfamiliar, to find a new relation between body and space. Detouring is a physical practice to unfold the possibilities of inhabiting and being inhabited.


With design, we include the shaping of articulated experiences into material or immaterial outcomes. Design can be employed, for example, in the publication of the Collective Dictionary itself or in an exhibitory display, in spatial imagination and construction or in conceiving an object, as much as in planning and organizing a situation in time.

shifting image

To visually express the continuous journey of Al Maeishah, we link every stage by carrying an image of one place into the experience of another. We call it the shifting image – a mediating device between the place of departure and the place of arrival.


Isshaq Al-Barbary is a researcher who combines discourse, spatial intervention, education, collective learning and public meetings. Practicing critical pedagogy, his interests and projects revolve around representations of refugee camps and refugees in the West Bank camps.
Elena Isayev is a historian and professor at University of Exeter (UK) who uses the ancient Mediterranean to explore migration, belonging, displacement and spatial perception. Her research is based on the intersection of Hospitality and Asylum, Potency of Displaced Agency, Common and Public Space. Her interdisciplinar and inter-practice approaches lead to collective learning and research beyond the academy.
Diego Segatto is an architect and designer who activates and coordinates collaborative processes in the cultural and the artistic field. He focuses on diverse languages employed and combined in planning activities, privileging the visual and the textual narrative. Partaking and co-founding in collectives is for him a form of political engagement.