Diala Lteif

Study program:
PhD Urban Planning
Current affiliation:
University of Toronto

Diala Lteif (urban planning, University of Toronto) investigates how, in making Beirut their home, refugees and internally displaced populations in Lebanon have appropriated concepts of migration and citizenship.


Displacement and urbanization: Refugees practices and the making of Beirut, Lebanon (1915-2015)

With an unprecedented 65.5 million people forcibly displaced around the world, forced migration has today become a reality that is, for many, increasingly permanent. Beirut, Lebanon, has hosted refugees for more than a century, and with the current Syrian crisis has become the city with the largest proportion of refugees in the world. The Lebanese capital thus presents an ideal case for a historical analysis of displacement. Diala proposes to study the urban-political experiences of four different displaced communities—Armenian, Palestinian, internally displaced Lebanese, and Syrians—who have been resettled within Beirut over the last century (1915-2015). Her research explores how refugees inhabit their adopted city over time and claim their right to the city. In doing so, her research questions the distinction between the categories of refugee and citizen. By shifting the focus from one event to a continuous analysis, she acknowledges the longevity of displacement and highlights the various political and spatial practices of refugees in the city through time, as they endeavor to make it their home and invent their own form of citizenship.

Diala Lteif is an interdisciplinary researcher with over six years of teaching and research experience. Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Diala is today a PhD candidate in the department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on conflict-induced displacement with a particular focus on Beirut. Her research investigates the intersection of critical urban theory with issues of citizenship and human dignity in the city.

Prior to her doctoral research Diala served for three years as full-time faculty and Deputy Director to the Design Department at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA), where she taught the global design studio to first year masters students and supervised masters thesis students. Prior to her contribution to the Design Department, she was part-faculty in the Interior Design Department teaching undergraduate design courses.

In her professional design practice, Diala plays the role of an Information Architect, bridging between data and graphic design through infographics. She has collaborated with different NGOs to produce compelling visuals that make their data more accessible to a wider audience. Her portfolio includes a series of visuals in collaboration with Lebanon Support on collective action, and infographics on economy under occupation in collaboration with Visualizing Impact. She was also an active leader in the design community in Beirut and served as a board member of the MENA Design Research Center. Over the last few years, she developed her skills as a design trainer by leading interactive hands-on workshops to introduce design-thinking methodologies to a large audience. Among many other projects, she has helped organize several design events such as the Beirut Service Jam (Lebanese edition of the Global Service Jam), Disrupt!/Design!/ an initiative in partnership with Hivos, and Design Toolbox with GAIA heritage.

Her interest in refugee issues stems from her personal experience. Her paternal family was displaced during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), an event that has strongly marked her childhood and upbringing. Learning from her own family’s hardship, Diala has dedicated a large portion of her time to volunteer work with refugee communities in Lebanon and, more recently, in Canada. She is a Trillium awardee, a Fulbright scholar and holds an MFA in transdisciplinary Design from Parsons the New School for Design.

  • June 21, 2018
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