The Camp, the Coming Community, and We Refugees
The camp as a dislocating localization is the hidden matrix of the politics in which we are still living, and it is this structure of the camp which we must learn to recognize in all its metamorphoses…
The camp, which is now securely lodged within the City’s interior, is the new biopolitical nomos of the planet.
At the closure of his essay, The Camp as the Nomos of the Modern, Giorgio Agamben locates the biopolitical site of the camp not at the margins of the contemporary city, but in its very midst. In a horrible moment of clarity the camp and the city become indiscernible, and we discover ourselves no longer as citizens, but refugees. The refugee camp in the Australian socio-political context constitutes the kind of pressing problem Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari encourage us to confront in What is Philosophy? The political space of the refugee camp is a problem for which we must invent new concepts so as to find a way out, a means of escape. Agamben’s study of the paradox of the permanent state of exception at work in the logic of the emplacement and regulation of the refugee camp, which I will argue is further embedded in the paradox of an attendant process of ‘dislocating localization,’ becomes particularly pertinent here. The hidden matrix of the camp creates an impasse with respect to the potentialities of what Agamben has ventured to call ‘the coming community’, and suppresses any project for a philosophy of immanence. Agamben’s way out, I suggest, is through the figure of the refugee. The refugee, Agamben argues in his essay, “We Refugees,” is a border concept that arrives to shake up the trinity of state, nation, and territory, creating holes in this otherwise carefully sealed structure, holes through which we might begin to imagine the plane of immanence can leak. The refugee is that concept Agamben invents so as to find a way out of the camp we discover we all inhabit.
Giorgio Agamben, ““The Camp as the Nomos of the Modern,” Violence, Identity, and Self-Determination, ed. Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 114.
Ibid., p. 115.
Agamben cites Hannah Arendt’s article, “We Refugees,” published in 1943 in The Menorah Journal. Agamben, “We Refugees,” Symposium, vol. 94, no. 2 (Summer 1995).
The Italian Effect: Radical Thought, Biopolitics and Cultural Subversion, The University of Sydney, September 9-11, 2004.