Biopolitics at Play: Locating Human Rights, Refugees and Grassroots Humanitarianism in the Calais Jungle

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:24
Oral Presentation
Darragh MCGEE, University of Bath, United Kingdom
Juliette PELHAM, University of Bath, United Kingdom
This paper examines the biopolitical footprint of a new wave of grassroots humanitarian organisations in the informal refugee camp, popularly dubbed ‘The Jungle’, in Calais, northern France. Set against the formal humanitarian void created by the French state barring of international aid agencies, and the abject conditions of camp life, we trace the shifting socio-spatial remit and progressive politicisation of these ‘apolitical’, volunteer-based organisations as they encounter a crisis of human rights in the Jungle, prior to its violent demolition by state decree in October 2016. In foregrounding the quotidian perspective of two organisations, Play4Calais and the Refugee Youth Service, and their unorthodox deployment of physical cultural forms such as play, sport, cinema and art, we reveal a grassroots humanitarian praxis which not only stands in tension with the violent border sovereignties of neoliberal states, but which opens up the inchoate possibility for political struggle and refugee-centred claims-making over the right to inhabit the ‘exceptional’ space of the camp.