Aleatory Sovereignty and the Rule of Sensitive Spaces



Addressing life in borders and refugee camps requires understanding the way these spaces are ruled, the kinds of problems rule poses for the people who live there, and the abilities of inhabitants to remake their own lives. Recent literature on such spaces has been influenced by Agamben's notion of sovereignty, which reduces these spaces and their residents to abstractions. We propose an alternate framework focused on what we call aleatory sovereignty, or rule by chance. This allows us to see camps and borders not only as the outcomes of humanitarian projects but also of anxieties about governance and rule; to see their inhabitants not only as abject recipients of aid, but also as individuals who make decisions and choices in complex conditions; and to show that while the outcome of projects within such spaces is often unpredictable, the assumptions that undergird such projects create regular cycles of implementation and failure.