Camps of Containment: A Genealogy of the Refugee Camp

Introduction As forced migration becomes an increasingly prominent global challenge, political responses to it demand closer scrutiny. This essay considers one of the most widely used responses to refugee flows, the refugee camp. For the past seventy years camps have been a primary response to forced migration. In 2016, several hundred camps and settlements existed worldwide, housing more than twelve million refugees and internally displaced.1 From the Algerian desert to the Thai forest, these camps vary in almost every dimension. Some are the size of Continue reading → Continue reading →

Spaces of Legal Ambiguity: Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Power

Introduction Scholars have long grappled with defining and conceptualizing refugee camps from a number of disciplines—political science, anthropology, human geography; few, however, have approached the issue from the perspective of international law.1 Because the refugee camp “label” may confer an array of legal, political, and bureaucratic implications for refugee protection, this lack of attention to refugee camps by international lawyers is rather peculiar. Traditionally, international human rights lawyers have focused on spaces often very similar to the idea of the refugee camp: places of confinement Continue reading → Continue reading →

The Refugee Camp as Warscape: Violent Cosmologies, “Rebelization,” and Humanitarian Governance in Kakuma, Kenya

Introduction Refugee camps and violence do not go well together, yet they are closely related. By intention, the camp is a place isolated from the violence of homeland wars. It is a separation: a controlled and politics-free space apart from both the homeland and the host country. This externalization is problematic. Instead of perceiving of violence as something exceptional to the camp, I argue that it should be understood as an essential aspect in its organization. In this essay I approach the refugee camp as Continue reading → Continue reading →

Camp, Ghetto, Zinco, Slum: Lebanon’s Transitional Zones of Emplacement

Worldwide there are more than one thousand camps in operation today, catering for an estimated fifteen million displaced people, mainly refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The sheer number of formal camps and encampments is staggering and makes it important to examine their humanitarian management.1 The importance of understanding camps, their growth, proliferation, and functions, is one reason why researchers have turned to the seminal works of Giorgio Agamben.2 However, recently there has been a growing critique of Agamben’s totalitarian camp studies, especially when applied Continue reading → Continue reading →

Afterword: What Contemporary Camps Tell Us about the World to Come

Our knowledge and understanding of contemporary camps developed significantly at the end of the 1990s, and the relative importance of this field of study today reflects not only the significance of encampment in the world but also the political concerns it raises. The history of encampment can be captured through some landmark studies (in French and in English) referenced here. In order to attempt a genealogical reading of the current literature on camps, I will outline three arguments that are central to the issues tackled Continue reading → Continue reading →

Evocative Objects: A Sexual Violence Primer

In her 2007 collection of essays Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, Sherry Turkle asked her contributors to explore their emotional and intellectual connections with everyday objects. According to the introduction, her book seeks to clarify “the inseparability of thought and feeling in our relationship to things.”1 The various chapters dwell on each of the authors’ felt relationship with the given object—a discarded pair of shoes, a beloved toy, a favorite car. The overall emphasis lies less on the instrumental power of each object than Continue reading → Continue reading →

Guarding The Guardians: Payoffs and Perils

The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire Susan Pedersen Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. xviii + 571 pp. The Guardians is an ambitious work of institutional history with a global reach by a world-class historian at the height of her powers. It is a tour de force. The first comprehensive history of the League of Nations’ mandate system in a half-century, it does not relate events in each mandatory territory but at the international level, when arguments and Continue reading → Continue reading →

Moralism and Its Discontents

The Right to Justification: Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice Rainer Forst, translated by Jeffrey Flynn New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. x + 351 pp. Race, Empire, and the Idea of Human Development Thomas McCarthy Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. viii + 254 pp. Radical Cosmopolitics: The Ethics and Politics of Democratic Universalism James D. Ingram New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. ix + 338 pp. The moralizing tone of contemporary politics is hard to ignore. From the smoldering ruins of a War Continue reading → Continue reading →

“Globalization,” what is it good for?

This piece has previously appeared in German translation in Heft 10 (Oktober 2016). When the global economic crisis erupted in 2008, it was not only historians who scurried in search of the lessons of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Nearly a decade later, as analysts of Britain’s departure from the EU diagnose the symptoms of an economic malaise called “globalization,” it is again worth considering what we can learn from the past. It might seem unimaginable—given the turn in present-day political rhetoric—but through the Continue reading →