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From refugee camps to gated communities: biopolitics and the end of the city

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The article addresses the situation of the asylum seeker as an instantiation of the 'homo sacer', the ultimate biopolitical subject whose life is stripped of cultural and political forms. The focus is on the socio-spatial mechanisms that immobilize asylum seekers in 'non-places' such as accommodation centers in which they lead a life in a permanent state of exception and detention centers into which they are forced without trial. To offer a systematic account of this immobilization the article elaborates on the concept of the camp. It then moves on to discuss some significant convergences between refugee spaces and other more desirable contemporary 'camps' (for example, gated communities) that problematize the notions of the city and politics. To conclude, the consequences of the 'camp' as a form of positive power as well as restriction of freedom are discussed, relating this to a discussion of the 'end of the city' and the (im)possibilities of resistance to or 'escape' from camps.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2004

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