Accepted paper:

Living it both: bare life's agency in 'nomad camps' in Rome


Simona Pagano

Paper short abstract:

This presentation deals with a camp form that usually falls out of common notions of refugee camps which are Italian authorised Roma camps, ethnically defined spaces that indeed served as ‘reception’ facilities. I analyse how women negotiate this space, as being both a space of bare life and agency.

Paper long abstract:

Agamben's philosophical elaboration of the camp has been widely discussed within migration studies and camp literature, even though he refers to the camp as paradigmatic example for modern sovereignty and is not being concerned with an empirical study of camps. Yet, Agamben's notions of the camp as materialization of the state of exception and the camp dweller as reduced to bare life are still widely discussed and have also lead to widespread criticism as these conceptualizations would not account for the variety of camps and the camp dwellers' agency. In my presentation that draws on my research in camps for Romani people in Italy I would like to suggest to go beyond this dichotomous approach, of bare life on the one side and agency on the other, as both dimensions can co-exist. As I will show the concept of bare life is useful to conceive of the structural violence that is inherent in camps for Romani people - the 'nomad camp' established as a space for the protection of 'Roma culture' is a space of marginalisation and disenfranchisement with camp dwellers life expectancy lower than the average. At the same time, people live there: people that act and re-act, people that appropriate the space of the camp and make it a space of sociality. Drawing on interviews I conducted with alone living women in different authorised 'nomad camps' in Rome, I want to show how everyday life between structural violence and constraints and molecular movements of escape are being negotiated.

panel Mig06
Jungles, squats, camps and houses: ethnographic accounts of refugee dwelling practices in the context of the recent "refugee crisis" in Europe and the Middle East