The urgent, temporary and seemingly ahistorical character of refugee camps overshadows the histories of camps as devices for the care and control of mobile people. In this panel we will interrogate the history of encampment of refugees and others in colonial and post-colonial Africa.
Hosting refugees in camps has significant impacts, not only on the refugees themselves, but also on the constitution and evolution of post-colonial African nation-states. Refugees - the outcasts in a world of nation-states - occupy an important role in the construction of national belonging. Following decolonization, procedures, techniques and methods of refugee encampment were transferred by international aid agencies from the European post-WWII context to Africa. But there is a longer history of encampment in Africa: concentration camps in southern Africa, camps for war refugees, internees and prisoners of war, isolation camps for sick people, labour camps for tax defaulters and anti-colonial insurgents, to name but a few. In the African post-colonial situation these experiences intersected and developed into new forms of control and care for itinerant populations. What were the differences and commonalities in the treatment, perception and experience of camp inmates around the shift from the colonial to the post-colonial era? Refugee camps are not only a device of migration management, but also a site where diverse actors come into contact. Representatives of international organisations, government officials, refugees and members of the host population all interact and 'make' the camp. What social dynamics were evolving within the camps? What hierarchies, cleavages, categorizations and identifications did multiple actors within camps experience? In this panel we want to interrogate the transfers of camp expertise and the interactions of actors within camps. We welcome case studies or conceptual papers engaging with the history of encampment in Africa.