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By : Shahd Adnan M. Qzeih, Rafooneh Mokhtarshahi Sani

Wars and conflicts have caused millions of people to seek asylum outside their homelands and the issue of refugee camps has become a pressing subject in international policy discussions. Conflicts continue to escalate in different parts of the world, especially in Middle Eastern countries. In 1948, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict forced displacement of many Palestinian people. The resulting camps have developed into cluster camp shelters of three to four stories in the West Bank, Gaza, and other regions around historical Palestine; some are perceived to be like gated communities. Being self-sufficient environments, refugee camps have rarely been approached from the perspective of urban psychology. This research deals with sensory perceptual analysis of Balata, the largest refugee camp in the West Bank of Palestinian Territories. Balata is situated in Nablus and has raised four generations of refugees since its establishment. In order to explore the spatial characteristics of such specific environmental experiences, the research adopted a mixedmethod approach – systematically evaluating the related literature on sensory perceptual spaces and applying content analysis methods. The study modified the sensory slider tool of Malnar and Vodvarka according to the framework matrix based on the content analysis. Moreover, the case study analysis consisted of observation of the chosen area and 30 in-depth interviews with refugees who were forced out of their homes and settled in the camp as well as some who were born in the camp. The research results show that investigating what camp residents perceive of the five senses can capture meaningful sensory perceptual experiences and can generate a holistic mental image of the refugee camp. Particularly, perceptions of the built environment reflect the difficulty of life experiences. The study concludes that the characteristics of camps in this seventy-year-old conflict environment may not be found in other parts of the world.

Keywords: Sensory Perception, Sense of Space, Sensory Slider, Refugee Camps, Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

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