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Conference Camp


The Camp: Disruptions of Space and Time in Labour and Refugee Camps

October 04-05, 2018

When labour compounds or refugee camps close their gates, inhabitants often experience dramatic changes of their perception of space and time. Mobility gets restricted and regulated. As a result new time regimes that range from forms of ‘time pass’ to ‘extreme waiting’ restructure the rhythm of everyday life. This workshop focuses on exploring the specific transformative capacity of such camps and the consequences for (temporary) labourers and refugees who are subjected to new spatial and temporal configurations.

Investigating the spatiality and temporality of the camp connects two aspects of a specific state of exception. From a spatial viewpoint, the camp marks a strong break with previous lifeworlds, radical displacement, as well as an abrupt stop of (sometimes involuntary) mobility. Sudden immobilization goes along with other forms of spatial constraints. A new organization of space and time through technologies of discipline (from fences to clock) affect the inmates’ working or waiting bodies. Moving on to the temporalities of labour and refugee camps, we investigate new time regimes that correspond with capitalist labour management. Yet we also consider the impact of extreme deceleration of time when inmates are waiting months and years for something to happen.

This workshop revisits the barracones of the slave trade, the plantation coolie camps, and the camps of colonial workforces, and juxtaposes such historical examples of the camp with present-day workers’ compounds in the Gulf States, camps on Europe’s industrial farms, and the refugee camps lining the Mediterranean.

We aim to carve out continuities and peculiarities, a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to trace the emergence of instrumental and disciplining time-space-regimes and their effects on human existence: Accelerations and slowdowns, forced immobilization, oppressive physical structures and intimate tightness, emotional hardship, shifting gender roles and strategies of resilience and solidarity.

It will be also important to discuss the actors besides the inmates: politicians, engineers and builders who envisage, plan and construct the camps and fences, overseers who enforce the new rules, are the key agents to shape the inmates’ disrupted spatial and temporal experience (along with the specific materiality of the place). The interplay between materiality and the affective dimension of camps – with time a significant factor for the camp as state of exception – results in distress, precarity, and violence. The question remains how labourers and refugees cope with such precarious conditions and try to make the best of it, for example through informal arrangements and new social networks.


Thursday, 4 October 2018

09:30 – 09:45
Welcome address (Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf and Oliver Tappe)

09:45 – 11:15

  • Sabine Damir-Geilsdorf (GSSC): "Reconfiguration of Spaces: Regular and Irregular Syrian Refugee Camps in Jordan"
  • Andrew Gardner (University of Puget Sound): "Labour Camps and Urban Modernity in Doha, Qatar"

11:15 – 11:30 Coffee break

11:30 – 13:00

  • Felix Wemheuer (GSSC): "Labor and Daily Life in the Chinese Laogai System"
  • Alberto Martí (University of Nottingham): "Materiality and memory of Cuban reconcentration camps"

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 15:30

  • Katharina Inhetveen (University of Siegen): "Flight trajectories and changing perceptions of the camp: Indications from Zambia and Angola"
  • Melanie Hartmann (University of Gießen): "Appropriation and resistance in refugee accomodations in Germany"

15:30 – 15:45 Coffee break

15:45 – 17:15

  • Michael Zeuske (GSSC): "Camps in Atlantic slavery"
  • Gesine Müller (GSSC): "Plantation as camp in the Caribbean: Literary stagings"

Friday, 5 October 2018

09:30 – 11:00

  • Simon Turner (University of Copenhagen): "Temporalities of Burundian refugees in Kenia and Tanzania"
  • Michael Hoffmann (University of Halle): "Industrial Labour, Sleep and Inequality: A Worm’s Eye View on a Labour Compound in a Modern Industrial Factory in Western Nepal"

11:00 – 11:15 Coffee break

11:15 – 12:45

  • Ulrike Lindner (GSSC): "The labour camps of diamond mine and railway construction workers in German South West Africa and British South Africa"
  • Oliver Tappe (GSSC): "Coolie camps: The French-Indochinese rubber plantation as medical laboratory and communist cell"

12:45 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 16:00

  • Colony, Camp, Border: Migration 2040, video performance by Monica van der Haagen-Wulff (University of Cologne)

Roundtable discussion