Suzanne Harris-Brandts

Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urbanism

Degrees:Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Office:Carleton University

Dr. Suzanne Harris-Brandts is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urbanism, and Faculty Associate at the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University. Her research brings together design and the social sciences to explore issues of power, equity, and collective identity in the built environment, focusing primarily on Eurasian cities. It covers topics as broad spanning as iconic city building, incentivized urbanism, contested place meanings, and design’s relationship to conflict-induced displacement—often foregrounding the role of designer agency. Suzanne is co-founder of the Tbilisi-based research initiative Collective Domain. She received her Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is a licensed architect in Canada.

Panel 2: Refugee Roles and Actions in Europe/Ukraine

Protracted Displacement in Georgia: Governance Issues and Ongoing Challenges to IDP Livelihood


Since the early 1990s, armed conflicts with Russia and separatist forces in regions of Georgia have forced over 300,000 people to become internally displaced persons (IDPs). Many settled on the outskirts of cities in state-provided, non-residential buildings called ‘Collective Centres’, which function as distinct neighbourhoods given their spatial segregation and community networks. This presentation charts the impacts of protracted displacement on IDPs in Georgia, foregrounding governance issues and ongoing challenges to IDP livelihood. In situations where IDPs have found ad-hoc forms of shelter in existing buildings, there are acute considerations due to the population influx and pressures for adequate housing. There are also important long-term concerns including overlaps between sites of heritage or urban renewal/gentrification and those still accommodating IDPs. These overlaps link to a different side of post-warfare reconstruction that is equally deserving of attention. This presentation addresses this concern by examining the history of Georgia’s collective centres over the past few decades. It provides an analysis of government and academic data on Georgian IDPs and complements this with first-hand focus group testimonies. The results show that IDPs are vulnerable not only during initial resettlement but also face long-term threats of tenure security and secondary displacement. It concludes with a synthesis of important governance issues tied to IDPs in Georgia and suggests possible lessons learned for the Ukrainian context.