The camp

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Walter Benjamin has famously pointed out that we are living in a society in which the exception has become a norm. Giorgio Agamben adds to this claim another one, that the spatial ordering principle for this new order is the camp. This article focuses on this diagnosis. We do not, however, discuss its validity but rather unpack what is meant when the concept of camp is used. The camp is, we argue, given by three structuring principles that might contradict and overlap in various ways: a disciplinary disposit if according to which a distinction between inside and outside is established; a logic of transgression according to which the inside-outside distinction is deliberately blurred; and finally a biopolitical rationale according to which the distinction between inside and outside is re-established on each side so that the included are included as excluded (as bodies to be governed) and the excluded are excluded as included (within the realm of power). Finally, we claim that it is the combination of these three principles — discipline, transgression and biopolitics — that leads to a society in which the exception has become the norm. Such ‘society’ is, we show, given by a strange and paradoxical overlapping of bonding and un-bonding, of distinction and indistinction.

Keywords: biopolitics and state of exception; camp; indistinction; nomos

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, County College South, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK 2: Department of Political Science, University Aarhus, Denmark

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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