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Environmentalising humanitarian governance in Za'atri Refugee Camp through 'interactive spaces': A posthuman approach

  • The University of Petra


This paper offers a theoretical perspective on how Za’atri refugee camp environment in Jordan is “governmentalized” (Burchell, Gordon, & Miller, 1991) by humanitarian nongovernmental technologies, but at the same time “environmentalized” (Agrawal, 2005) by refugees’ subjectivities. While Western humanitarian organizations are structured upon the definition of the “human”, they usually bring the western construct of basic definitions to other contexts without any accountability to the later original settings, such as culture and language. Thus, for a framework to be responsive and a technology to be “governmentalized” and “environmentalized”, I suggest that, they should speak the language of its subjects and discourse their culture. The posthuman, as critical subjectivity of embodied and embedded positions that are located somewhere situates subjectivities. By suggesting a new methodology that deals with complexities of our time it also disputes the Western exclusive construct of the “human” (Braidotti, 2013). Following a posthumanist approach, I deploy qualities that I have already acquired by being an Arabic speaking female and an architect to explore Za’atri refugee camp spaces and reconstruct what “environment” is in Humanitarian frameworks. By highlighting what I call “moments of interactivity”, I navigate spaces that witness a two-way activity between refugees and NGO actors. While my exploration incorporates a number of qualitative methods such as, walking, conducting interviews and mapping in one district in Za’atri camp, analysis is based upon concepts of governmentality and the art of government (Burchell, Gordon, & Miller, 1991). As I encounter refugees’ “environmental subjectivities” (Agrawal, 2005) through their spatial agencies, and by analyzing such agencies, I suggest these as nodes that facilitate artistic technologies of governing. In conclusion, this suggests a reinvention of the normative humanitarian construct from what a refugee camp environment is to what it can actually become.
Chapter 14
Environmentalising Humanitarian Governance in Za’atri Refugee Camp through
interactive spaces’: A Posthuman Approach
Aya Musmar
Humanitarian deafness
In Za’atri, a refugee camp with a population of almost 80,000, more than twenty Western
humanitarian NGOs have been working to respond to the Syrian refugees everyday needs.
review conducted by MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) in October 2013 to evaluate the quality
of the camp management contrasted the weighty administration and coordination of Za’atri with
the critical view taken by refugees of their circumstances there.
The report of that review
referred to refugees’ attitudes to different probabilities of failure by agencies in Za’atri to
effectively facilitate refugees’ participation in decision-making and their desired changes in the
Today, five years after the camp was established, Western NGOs in Za’atri still seem to struggle
to bridge the gap between what they think they should offer and what actual life in the
campground might require. It is apparent to visitors to the camp that refugees there are not
satisfied with how their lives are run by the NGOs; discussing camp governance with them
tends to elicit responses tinged with irritation. For example, one Syrian refugee complained to
me: we know how to do things if they ask us what we think! It is ironic for us how they come
up with some decisions while abandoning others without any logical reason; we just watch from
a distance and smile, waiting to see what happens next! Another refugee who was more
involved in the decision-making process said, Even if they do ask us what we want, they end
up doing what they think is right anyway!’ These objections address two main opinions among
refugees about camp governance: one sees the NGOs as strongly implicated in the currently
despised governance of the camp; the other opinion is that the refugees themselves need to be
included in the camp’s governance structure. The perception that NGO frameworks resist offers
of practical input and ideas from their clients widens the gap between the Western NGOs as the
camp governors and the refugees as the governed population. This gap gestures towards an
accountability that humanitarian NGOs have failed to achieve in the camp.
While Western humanitarian NGOs aim to respond to people in crisis, their legitimacy and
accountability should be questioned in light of their ideological and pragmatic paradigms.
legitimacy, which they seek with their governmental counterparts, is established in Za’atri by
their pledges to abide by the humanitarian principles of the UNHCR with which they are
While these principles are assumed to be universal, their accountability is still
measured against their ability to argue persuasively that they contribute to the welfare of the
To establish their accountability, many Western NGOs lean on their pragmatic
agendas to show how their frameworks work towards engaging with or representing those who
are governed. However, as suggested above the governed are often dissatisfied with the quality
of the services or programs delivered by the humanitarian NGOs.
Mindful that NGO activities tend to reflect their respective ideological frameworks, I argue that
Western NGOs are hampered by their ideological commitment to their humanistic approaches
with their presumed universal applicability. Since Western humanitarian NGOs are structured
upon a universal description of the human, they usually bring the Western construct of basic
definitions to other contexts without accounting for the culture, language, or belief systems of
those contexts. Derived from Eurocentric subjectivity, with reference to the Vitruvian white,
perfectly proportioned male human, such definitions have not only excluded others, they have
also failed to fulfil subsequent promises to incorporate otherness.
The Eurocentric mind-set
has glorified the Europeans vision of themselves as imperial powers, and it has also led them
to objectify the other.
When Western NGOs address the agency of the victimised refugees
out of pity’, they become blinded by their certainty of knowing the answer to how best to offer
aid, and by their superior, egotistic attitude when responding to criticism, especially criticism
coming from those they seek to help.
As a result, this disposition, which assumes the embedded
privilege of the white as a saviour,
causes what Geoffrey Pfeifer and Chioke I’Anson describe
as dialectical deafness.
As their humanistic mode of thought is built into their frameworks,
they are not only blind, but also deaf to refugees’ authentic needs, desires, and aspirations, as
well as unable to identify new effective technologies that can be learned from the refugees
Politics of Location
The posthumanist critical stance has emerged not only to refute a long lasting humanistic
attitude that is exclusive, but also to provide a methodology to construct posthuman
When introducing her account of the posthuman, Rosi Braidotti proposes the
practice of ‘the politics of location or situated and accountable knowledge practices’ as a
methodology to facilitate the process of becoming a posthuman.
Questions that address
located complexities and multiplicities of place and time are an important point of departure in
her thought. For example, how we can constitute ourselves without an emphasis on self-centred
and instead acknowledge our relations with others?
Interrelations with
others are not limited to other humans, but also include all non-anthropomorphic elements,
allowing other elements to be species, ecologies, or even machines.
A situated approach that
is based upon a heterogeneous politics’ imposes an ethical responsibility on the researcher to
look for channels of communication with all forms of otherness’. In the following section, I
will address the complexity of Za’atri refugee camp where I position myself as a visitor to the
Za’atri as a hybrid organism
Mindful of the complexity amidst which the life of the camp materialises, Za’atri refugee camp
can be described as what Michel Agier calls a ‘hybrid organism.
The life of Za’atri as an
‘organism’ does not reproduce any existent form of life but its own. Conditioned by its
and ‘exceptionalism’
that were destined when its boundaries were
decided by the UNHCR and the Jordanian government, Za’atri camp has opted out of the
normative order of life to develop its own norms. It has developed as a composition of diverse
bodies, materials, technologies, spaces, and languages. Due to the dialectical deafness that the
Western NGO frameworks suffer from, the composition of this lively organism is fractured into
two structures: on the one hand, the structure of Western NGOs as suppliers of aid, and on the
other hand, the new social structure of refugees who receive the aid and are governed by the
Each of these structures features its own bodies, equipment, mobility, and
technologies. Whenever each of these multiplicities confronts the other, hierarchies are upset.
In this chapter I want to ask: How can such fractures between the two structures be approached
with a level of sensitivity to the refugee subject? How might an approach to the posthuman
subject enable the dialogue between the Western NGOs and the refugee community to avoid
the stalemate of ‘dialectical deafness?
In his essay Can the Subaltern be Heard?,
which is a reading of Gayatri Spivak’s well-known
essay Can the Subaltern Speak?,
J. Maggio argues that the subaltern subject already speaks,
it is just a matter of hearing her. To displace the limited transcendental Western subject,
Spivak challenges in her essay, Maggio suggests the concept of translation as a way to approach
and understand other cultures; cultures that Western discourse usually stands at a distance
The significance of translation lies in its intermediate position in enabling an open
intellectual dialogue.
According to Walter Benjamin, translation cannot give the full meaning
of the original, but can only echo it.
To be made accountable, translation needs to exceed the
emptiness of a literal conversion to involve instead the translation of a people’s culture and
social practices.
Gayatri Spivak argues that to interpret a people’s everyday practices requires
the translator to inhabit the host language.
A real understanding of language takes place
through the interconnections between the translator and the environment of everyday spatial
and social forms.
So for the posthuman, understood as a mediated body that is interconnected with human, non-
human and earth others,
translation as non-systematic and a non-linear approach
is a
responsibility that the posthuman subject not only takes on, but is ethically accountable for. By
translating the language of the refugee subject through its vitalist and materialist interrelations
in the camp environment, posthuman experiments can break away from the Western
Eurocentric framework to work with other alternatives. This experimentation of the posthuman
subjectivity actualises the virtual possibilities of an expanded, relational self that functions as
a natureculture continuum and is technologically mediated.
How does the posthuman
subject’s inhabitation of the linguistic, social, and spatial forms of life in Za’atri Camp offer an
alternative to Western NGOs accountability? While ‘environment’ is constructed in Western
NGOs’ frameworks to indicate a place that surrounds passive subjectivities, how can the
posthuman subject’s experience contribute to redefining the environmentas a more dynamic
milieu that is inhabited by intentional subjectivities? What other alternatives does this
posthuman approach suggest?
Linguistic deafness
‘Environment’ can be related to the verb, to environ, which also means to surround.
‘Environment’ indicates circumstantial variables that surround persons and things in a generic
form. Mindful of the controversy that envelopes the inactive representation of refugees inside
the temporal boundaries of a refugee camp,
I argue that associating ‘environment’ as given in
its western construct to a ‘refugee camp’ contributes to a further reduction of the camp’s
subjects as passive recipients, rather than as active actors. Western NGOs are deafened by their
own language and discourse. They become unable to hear other languages, such as those spoken
by refugees. Nevertheless, ‘environment’ understood as ‘Bee’ah-  in the Arabic linguistic
discourse is derived from the verb ‘bawa’a-, which indicates any intentional inhabitation of
spaces, relations, or ideologies. This linguistic variation offers a new alternative for a
consideration of the context of the camp environment by activating the subjectivity of the
refugees inside the camp, and by understanding the environment less as generic than as concrete
and specific.
Spatial deafness
The spatiality of the refugee camp has always been related to the way in which the camp is
governed. How space presents itself in the camp is captured in two main images. The first is an
image of a policed life and large-scale technologies: fortified and policed gates with guards and
checkpoints; an asphalted wide ring road encircling twelve districts; long, tight queues hemmed
in with wired fences and watch towers leading to large-scale nongovernmental spatial units that
provide food items and non-food items; fenced-in hospitals, fenced-in schools, toilet units, and
so forth. The other is an image of a social life and small-scale technologies: people chatting
while sitting together at the side of a street; planted backyards and small front gardens; shaded
courtyards where coffee and tea is served; laundry lines suspended between vertical surfaces;
busy markets and mobile street merchants, and shops to hire and sell wedding dresses.
The refugee camp as a built environment has been structured in accordance with specific
guidelines that follow humanitarian frameworks. Regardless of the prevailing circumstances of
its location, geography, environment or inhabitants, the physical design of refugee camps
originates from a single UN design manual applied and adapted in different contexts.
Humanitarian government initiatives that construct, manage, and control camps by
corresponding to priorities that are concerned with controlling undesirable populations, have
long used the same UN design manual to sketch out the main principles for the layout of refugee
These principles are then associated with the agenda of local or international NGOs.
Referring to the work of the architect Manuel Herz, Eyal Weizman describes a development of
refugee camp spaces following medical and military logics:
Hygiene, sanitation, the management and containment of plague, the circulation of
services, infrastructure and the provision of water, electricity, medicine and nutrition,
along with the disposal of sewage and waste, all become the organisational principles of
a new spatial regime of multiple separations and regimentation of time and space,
intersecting quasi-military with quasi-medical principles.
The problem with the UN design manual, and with the technologies of the hastily produced
spatial regimes of humanitarian management, is their practice of total governmental control,
whether the goal of this government-through-the-construction-of-refugee-camps is perceived
as the production of what Rony Brauman, a former president of MSF, calls ‘humanitarian
spaces’ or is closer to what Agier calls waiting rooms.
Whether the apparatuses deployed
towards achieving these respective ends are administrative programs or sets of necessary
operations, humanitarian government action homogenises a whole population into the figure of
a refugee, a victim, or a beneficiary figure. This macro scale approach de-socialises refugee
subjects. Through the following section and by discussing field explorations I have undertaken,
I aim to counter the assumed narrative about the camp as a place of mass representation. I will
argue that in spite of the managerial representationthat humanitarian governments inflict on
the refugee camp, understood as a large space that confines a large number of people,
can develop their own micro-scaled environmental subjectivities.
To reveal these micro-
scaled ‘environmental subjectivities’,
I will dwell on linguistic and physically embodied
approaches as new lenses through which I search for alternatives.
Linguistically and physically embodied situated knowledges
I am attentive to the criticism that linguistic approaches might receive where they risk being
uninformed in relation to the practical demands of the built environment. As Amos Rapoport
has argued, ‘in linguistics itself, there has been increasing criticism of the neglect of
The sociolinguistic approach that I follow is accompanied by a situated position
whereby I physically inhabit the context, both as Braidotti’s posthuman subject, and as Spivak’s
translator. Inhabiting the context is part of being inside Za’atri camp, of positioning my own
subject position there. This subject position I inhabit and perform is not only conditioned by
attending to the daily life in the camp, but also by speaking the Arabic language, living in the
culture, and practicing a similar religion.
I present this section by reflecting on my field experience, enabled after I volunteered with one
of the NGOs working inside Za’atri camp, within a component called Community Mobilisation.
Community Mobilisers work as mediators to facilitate platforms of dialogue between refugees
and NGO management. Mediators are responsible for both disseminating NGO operational
decisions to refugees, and transmitting refugees needs to NGO management. Community
mobilisers apply walking as a methodical approach to observing and engaging with the
everyday life of people inside of Za’atri. By following in the steps of community mobilisers for
two months, my aim was to observe the role of different spaces in steering the dialogue between
refugees and NGOs, specifically through an acknowledgement of everyday embodied practices
in these spaces. By highlighting what I call moments of interactivity, I critically analyse how
a space relevant to a specific moment becomes interactive, and thus socially productive in
developing relations between NGO representatives and refugees.
To achieve the aim of the
walks I undertook, I commenced my study by mapping out the possible scenarios that might
support such moments. For example, the occurrences of those moments varied in tactic (social,
organisational), frequency (on a daily basis, occasionally), activity (verbal, physical), scale
(between two persons, three to ten persons, more than fifteen persons), actors (community
mobilisers, men, women, or children), and spatial settings (a refugee’s place, street, NGO
centre). At the same time as encountering spaces in which moments of interactivity occur, my
concern is also with any representation of agency.
Below, illustrations of two such moments
of interactivity, Moment 1 and Moment 2 capture glimpses of spaces where acts of interest
As Anthony Giddens explains, the agency of actions is linked to the ability of that action to
influence a specific process or state of affairs.
To act with agency is to transform a flow of
procedures by exercising some sort of power whether this happens by intervening or refraining
from intervention.
In the context of the camp where I look at existing NGO frameworks as
the representation of what Giddens describes as a state of affairs, an act of agency is that which
has the capacity to affect a state of affairs. These affects may be produced by deterritorialising
a situation’s structured hierarchies, by abstaining from attending to its order, or by forming a
new state of affairs that counters the current one.
The significance of the two moments lies in
the overlapped processes that bring into that space other moments and actors. By coming
together they form the force of a multiplicity that can challenge the regulated structure inside
the camp.
By presenting these moments of interactivity, the attempt is to describe each within its setting.
To unknot how a space’s configuration rendered these moments as important, I will describe
the occurrence of these moments. Despite the stagnancy attributed to the image as a static form
of representation, moments of interactivity will be recalled with spontaneity, or as they were
encountered in the field. I will arouse each of the moments by attending to both movement and
<Figure 14:1 Moment 1: Al- Madafah>
Moment 1: This moment is captured in the ‘Madafah’ of Abu Al Waleed, one of the respected
leaders in Za’atri. ‘Madafah’ [] is a noun in Arabic that designates a place that is derived
from the verb ‘Daf’ [ ]; Daf’ [ ]means visited as a guest. Madafah is the place of
guests’, with specific spatial arrangements in which a powerful man in a community hosts
guests from the same community to discuss their issues and use his connections to resolve them.
Sitting there in his own Madafah, Abu Al Waleed spends most of his time in expectation of
visitors. He has never been an official leader and never aspired to be one. However, people in
his community trust him and look up to him. During the time I spent in the camp, many of the
formal and the informal meetings between refugees and NGO representatives took place there.
While I was sitting there with NGO representatives, many of his neighbours came in to discuss
their daily issues. Abu Al Waleed listens to people carefully and when he speaks it is always
with confidence. With his euphonic and assertive voice, when he speaks everyone listens. It is
only when he mentions NGOs, that his tone become tense. When I ask him about how happy
he is with the NGO services inside the camp, he says: ‘I have never needed an NGO to provide
me with aid and I will not ask for it. They owe me, I do not owe them. I know how to sustain
myself and keep my extended family sustained too.’
Reflection: While it is assumed that NGOs dominate a place at the top of the power structure
in the camp, I suggest that the encounter in Moment 1 destabilises this hypothesis. The space
of Madafah opens up a new position that NGOs find they must adapt to. Madafah has not been
limited to the visits of people from the refugee community, but has also served as a stage for
other actors to politically perform their agencies. While refugees and NGO representatives sat
there together, Abu Al Waleed succeeded in mediating the discussion between them.
<Figure 14:2 Moment 2: The Wagon.>
Moment 2: This moment was captured as we stopped by a mobile street merchant to look at his
vegetables. At the same time and in the same place where he had stopped at the edge of a main
street, a few women came along to check the wares in his wagon. One woman walked towards
the wagon and was joined by other women, ‘this is the time my daughter returns from school;
I am here to pick her up’ she said. One of the NGO representatives asked the seller about his
vegetable prices. Vegetables here are much cheaper than vegetables in Amman. I usually shop
for groceries from the camp’, she whispered into my ear. When I asked the seller about the
source of his vegetables, he simply said from outside.’ I used to see wagons in the camp before,
but not with such frequency. Some wagons are pushed by mobile street merchants, other
wagons are pulled by donkeys.
Reflection: Emerging from previous social constructs that are based upon gender distinctions,
women’s movement is bounded to specific spaces and restricted to a few specific practices.
However, the arrival of the street merchant’s wagon and the situation it creates interrupts this
construct. For example, while women find it hard to visit the market to get their groceries
without a male companion, the wagon, as a mobile spatial element, deconstructs the boundaries
constraining womens movements by providing them with a temporal space that performs like
a market place.
Human vs Posthuman
Both the Madafah and the Wagon and the moments of interactivity they manifest represent
spaces that were initiated by refugees. Although each has its own specificity, both were
configured, created, made, remade, or collected in response to an embryonic need for such
spaces. In both moments acts of agency can be witnessed at a micro scale. Agency according
to Giddens’ notion of Structuration Theory is fundamentally linked to the power of an action
and how it holds a transformative capacity; a capacity that involves a logic and intention that
precedes the emergence of a given subjectivity.
Structuration Theory, according to Giddens, situates the body of the human as a medium
interconnected with its surroundings, where human acts take place.
This deliberation gestures
towards the mediation of the body that Braidotti has described in many places through her work
on the posthuman, and yet it is substantially different.
Where agency in Giddens’ terms is
restricted to human beings, limiting intermediation to human bodies, Braidotti’s approach to
the posthuman also acknowledges actors that are other than human. Braidotti aims to destabilise
the limited focus on the human subject, questioning the assumption that the human subject is
the only actor that exerts influence in a situation.
How can the agency manifested in Moment
1 and Moment 2 be reread through the lens of the posthuman? What alternatives does this new
approach avail us with? Will this rereading of space and situation illustrate a new layer of agents
that have otherwise remained invisible?
To destabilise the limits that the human subject occupies, the posthuman subject position aims
to break down the boundaries surrounding the human by flattening structures and opening up
spaces for alternative points of view.
What follows is a possible subversion of power
structures revealing how subject-positions come to be located. By allowing a consideration of
the posthuman into the scene, a cartography of epistemic and ethical accountabilities emerges,
which not only offers a critique of such locations, but an alternative representation of the subject
as a dynamic non-unitary entity.
Now, looking back at Moment 1 and Moment 2, which I highlight as moments of interactivity,
the emerging acts of agency witnessed in each extends beyond the human actor, to include the
nonhuman, which in turn requires recomposing and reconceptualising each moment’s
assembled parts.
Each of the moments should instead be witnessed as a dynamic collective,
that is, an assemblage of human and non-human actors.
Environmental Subjectivities
By being immersed in the camp, whether by walking, socialising or formally interviewing
refugees or community mobilisers, I have been exposed to different complexities that are
associated with the camp as a hybrid environment. An exposition through which I had to locate
myself in a position, interrelate to its actors, materials, and adapt to its surrounding
circumstances, only to dislocate myself again through acts of transposition, reconfiguring my
own subject position in relation to others.
The significance of the different accounts amidst
which I have transposed myself lies in their capacity to draw attention to other possible
substitutions that may allow a better understanding of the refugee subject-position as one that
is not fixed or pre-determined. Understanding refugees’ subjectivities in the camp is
conditioned by understanding their relations to their surrounding environment. Their
subjectivities are rendered vivid through these transpositions. They are not passively confined
by camp boundaries, but become active subjects through their everyday life practices.
Refugees are dynamic environmental subjects.
Despite the ‘dialectical deafness’
and the homogeneity that Za’atri suffers from as a UN
refugee camp, Syrian refugees in Za’atri have produced spaces, however minor and fleeting,
that correspond to their own specific needs in the everyday life of the camp. These are spaces,
or dynamic assemblages, that feature refugee environmental subjectivities. As many of these
spaces reproduce and influence other subjectivities inside the camp, a careful reading of specific
spaces and situations, what I have called ‘moments of interactivity is crucial for an
understanding of how alternatives are actively produced through the spatial configurations
created by refugees. Following a posthuman approach is one tentative step towards a careful
reading of such moments and spaces.
UNHCR. Za'atri Refugee Camp.
Sean Healy and Sandrine Tiller. ‘A review of the humanitarian response to the Syrian
refugee crisis in Jordan, 2012-13’. msf. October 2013.
Ibid., 9.
Michel Feher, with Gaëlle Krikorian and Yates McKee, Nongovernmental Politics (New
York: Zone Books, 2007).
Ibid., 16.
Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013).
Chioke I’Anson and Geoff Pfeifer, ‘A Critique of Humanitarian Reason: Agency, Power,
and Privilege’, The Journal of Global Ethics 9, no. 1 (2013): 4963.
Teju Cole, ‘The White-Savior Industrial Complex’, The Atlantic, March 2012,
I’Anson and Pfeifer, ‘A Critique of Humanitarian Reason’, 4.
Braidotti, The Posthuman.
Ibid., 51.
Ibid., 48.
Rosi Braidotti, Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006).
Braidotti, The Posthuman, 60.
Michel Agier, Managing the Undesirables: Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Governance
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011), 53.
Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2005).
Agier, Managing the Undesirables, 64.
Eyal Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence From Arendt to
Gaza (London, New York: Verso, 2011).
I’Anson and Pfeifer, ‘A Critique of Humanitarian Reason’.
Joe Maggio, ‘ “Can the Subaltern Be Heard?”: Political Theory, Translation, Representation
and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’, Alternatives 32, no. 4 (2007): 41943.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in Colonial Discourse and Post-
Colonial Theory: A Reader, ed. P. Williams and L. Chrisman (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1992), 66111.
Donna Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and The
Privilege of Partial Perspective’, Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (1988): 57599.
Maggio, ‘Can the Subaltern Be Heard?’, 432.
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1968).
Maggio, ‘Can the Subaltern Be Heard?’.
Ibid., 434.
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1984).
Braidotti, The Posthuman, 48.
Maggio, ‘Can the Subaltern Be Heard?’.
Braidotti, The Posthuman, 61.
Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, ed. Werner Hamacher and
David E Wellbery, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
Michel Agier, On the Margins of the World: The Refugee Experience Today (Cambridge:
Polity Press, 2008).
Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils, 139.
Agier, Managing the Undesirables, 201.
Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils, 139.
Ibid.,134, 135.
Agier, Managing the Undesirables, 182.
Arun Agrawal, Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects
(Durham, NC:Duke University Press, 2005).
Amos Rapoport, The Meaning of The Built Environment: A Non Verbal Communication
Approach, second edition (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1990), 43.
Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford:
Blackwell, 1991).
Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1984).
Ibid., 14.
Braidotti, The Posthuman.
Ibid., 164.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari . 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian
Massumi. London, Minneapolis: continuum.
Braidotti, Transpositions.
Agrawal, Environmentality.
I’Anson and Pfeifer, “A Critique of Humanitarian Reason.”
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"In the first quarter of the twentieth century, massive forest fires raged throughout Kumaon in the western Indian Himalaya. Only some of these fires were the usual summer fires. Between 1911 and 1916, the colonial state had reclassified nearly 80 percent of Kumaon's forests into reserves. Villagers found that they had limited or no rights left in the reserves. In response they set fires in the newly classified reserves in a vivid spectacle of challenge to new forms of government over nature. Official reports and surviving accounts of villagers' actions suggest that many fires were deliberate protests against state interventions."
This paper offers a critical analysis of the work of western humanitarian NGOs operating in the African continent. We argue that in most cases, NGOs and their supporters are deaf to the actual wants, needs, and desires – or, in other words, the agency – of those they are trying to aid. We do this by first offering a series of ways of understanding the ideological commitments that inform the work of many humanitarian NGOs and those who donate to them. In this, we expose the reasons leading to the failure of such individuals and organizations to recognize and take account of the agency of those they seek to help. Second, we offer evidence of the problematic outcome of this failure when coupled with a lack of recognition of the wider context of many of the conflicts that lead to the suffering of those that such NGOs intend to aid. In doing this, we expose the ways in which an NGO's own position can reinforce and contribute to the continuance of this suffering. This, we argue results from the simplified, inaccurate, and de-politicized ways in which NGOs tend to portray the problem of suffering both to those they solicit for donations and in their own conception of the problems and the ‘moral’ role that the organization itself plays in its work.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” questions the notion of the colonial (and Western) “subject” and provides an example of the limits of the ability of Western discourse, even postcolonial discourse, to interact with disparate cultures. This article suggests that these limits can be (partially) overcome. Where much commentary on Spivak focuses on her reading of Marx through the prism of Derrida, and on her contention that the “native informant” is simultaneously created and destroyed, I contends that Spivak's terms of engagement always imply a liberal-independent subject that is actively speaking. Moreover, given the limits of understanding implied by Spivak's essay, I advocate a reading of culture(s) based on the assumption that all actions offer a communicative role, and that one can understand cultures by translating the various conducts of their culture. On this basis I argue that the title of Spivak's essay might be more accurately stated as “Can the Subaltern Be Heard?”
Two months after the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration, in the midst of what it perceived to be a state of emergency, authorized the indefinite detention of noncitizens suspected of terrorist activities and their subsequent trials by a military commission. Here, distinguished Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben uses such circumstances to argue that this unusual extension of power, or "state of exception," has historically been an underexamined and powerful strategy that has the potential to transform democracies into totalitarian states. The sequel to Agamben's Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, State of Exception is the first book to theorize the state of exception in historical and philosophical context. In Agamben's view, the majority of legal scholars and policymakers in Europe as well as the United States have wrongly rejected the necessity of such a theory, claiming instead that the state of exception is a pragmatic question. Agamben argues here that the state of exception, which was meant to be a provisional measure, became in the course of the twentieth century a normal paradigm of government. Writing nothing less than the history of the state of exception in its various national contexts throughout Western Europe and the United States, Agamben uses the work of Carl Schmitt as a foil for his reflections as well as that of Derrida, Benjamin, and Arendt. In this highly topical book, Agamben ultimately arrives at original ideas about the future of democracy and casts a new light on the hidden relationship that ties law to violence.
A review of the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan
  • Sean Healy
  • Sandrine Tiller
Sean Healy and Sandrine Tiller. 'A review of the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan, 2012-13'. msf. October 2013.