6 Nov 2013 2:30pm - 4:30pm CRASSH, Seminar room SG2, Ground floor


Session Theme: Camps as Infrastructure: Spatial and Everyday Perspectives

Irit Katz Feigis  (Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge)
1) Infrastructure of suspended temporariness – Camps as the hidden spatio-political mechanism of the nation-state

Dr Silvia Pasquetti  (Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge)
2) Camp Infrastructure and The Production of Meanings and Emotions

Abstract 1
Infrastructure of suspended temporariness – Camps as the hidden spatio-political mechanism of the nation-state

Camps have been widely used by national and colonial powers in order to gain control over territories, create new settlements and manage local populations. The notion of ‘the camp’ relates to a piece of land which is included within the state’s territory yet placed outside the normal juridical order.  In a state of emergency temporary spaces have become an instrument which translates a strategic need, a humanitarian crisis or a political agenda into an ad-hoc act of construction where civilian life and military action interact.

Since the appearance of the first civic camps of colonial struggles in Africa and South America at the end of the nineteenth century, through World War II concentration and internment camps constructed in Europe, North America and elsewhere, until today’s refugee and detention camps for illegal or displaced people – camps were and still are erected in varied spatial forms, both formal and informal, to fence or defence specific populations.

This paper will examine the camp as an infrastructure of suspended temporariness, a hidden spatio-political mechanism which is globally used by nation-states to manage territory and population. Different camp types created in Israel/Palestine for varied purposes from past until present as well as other manifestations of camps created elsewhere will be used in order to analyse the common characteristics of ‘the camp’ and their meaning. The paper will also explore the inherent spatial diversity of the camps, which spans between rigid spaces of confinement and informal spaces of abandonment and neglect.


Abstract 2
Camp Infrastructure and The Production of Meanings and Emotions

During my first visit to an “unrecognized” Arab district in Lod, an Israeli city, the first thing I noticed was that the infrastructure of the district resembled that of a West Bank refugee camp where I had previously conducted fieldwork: unpaved roads, leaking sewage, unfinished buildings, and rusty trash cans. Yet, as I discovered during my staying in the city, similar infrastructures can be imbued with very different meanings and emotions by the people who use them as well as by external observers. This paper explores how the precarious and unfinished infrastructures of the urban district and those of the refugee camp—infrastructures that are “suspended in time” and remain “out of place” within the national order of things—intersect with broader ethnonational imaginaries and histories to produce distinct meanings and emotions among Palestinian refugees, Israeli Palestinians, and Jewish Israelis. Specifically it offers some comparative insights on the circulation of the image of “the camp” as it relates to the infrastructures of the urban district. First, I explore how Arab residents of the urban district evoke the image of the “refugee camp” in their comments on the infrastructures of their district to express their feelings of being stigmatized by the state or, in the aftermath of a house demolition, their fear of being displaced and becoming refugees. Second, I highlight how Jewish Israelis also express feelings of fear in relation to the physical conditions of the district through a two-step perceptual process linking dysfunctional infrastructures (for example, dirty roads or inadequate trash bins) and “refugee camps,” and then connecting “refugee camps” and the production of violent dispositions. Third, I discuss “the view” from the West Bank camp, focusing on the interpretive work done by camp dwellers to separate the meanings attached to the camp infrastructure—its deficiencies as well as its planned improvements—and the feelings of pride and the political claims that they attach to their group lives inside the camp.


Open to all. No registration required

Civic Matter: Infrastructure as Politic 

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