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Keywords:

  • refugee camp;
  • Agamben;
  • sovereignty;
  • assemblage;
  • everyday geopolitics;
  • Palestinian refugees

While the repressive geographies of asylum and refuge in Europe have been the focus of academic attention in recent years, much less work in geography has focused on the refugee camp as a distinctive political space. This paper sets out an analytical strategy for refugee camp space, focusing on the particular case of Palestinian camps in Lebanon. It takes three analytical cuts into the space of the camp: a critical take on Agamben’s ‘space of exception’ that accounts for the complex, multiple and hybrid sovereignties of the camp; an analysis of the camp as an assemblage of people, institutions, organisations, the built environment and the relations between them that produce particular values and practices; and an analysis of the constrained temporality of the camp, its enduring liminality and the particular time-space from which it draws meaning. This spatial analysis of the camp offers a way of grounding geopolitics, seeing its manifestations and negotiations in the everyday lives and practices of ordinary people. The camp is much more than an anonymous terrain of conflict or a tool of international agencies, and understanding its spatiality is essential for seeing the everyday politics and material practices of refugees.