The Hosting State and Its Restless Guests: Cartographies of Care and Regimes of Im/Mobility in Two Refugee Camps in Northern Ethiopia

Authors: Jennifer Riggan*, Arcadia University, Amanda Poole*, Indiana University Of Pennsylvania
Topics: Africa, Immigration/Transnationalism, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Ethiopia, Refugee Camps
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Hierarchies of international humanitarian governmentality are inscribed on the physical infrastructure of the refugee camp (Agier 2011, Feldman 2015, Turner 2016). These cartographies of care, often designed for “efficient” service provision and security, also arrange relationships between refugees, government officials, NGO and IGO staff according to hierarchies of intimacy. Different categories of people have access to different spaces which enables different kinds of relationships. Hierarchies of intimacy are configured by the capacity for mobility both within and outside the camp. Understanding the intimate hierarchies embedded in cartographies of care is important in light of radically changing refugee management policies. As practices of what we might think of as “humanitarian borderwork” (Little and Vaughn-Williams 2016; Pallister-Wilkins 2016; Rumford 2008) shift southwards, large refugee hosting states in the south are incentivized to be “good hosts” by focusing on local integration rather than encampment in order to encourage refuges to stay rather than migrate to Europe. Drawing from ethnographic research with Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia conducted over the past two years, we explore how policies of local integration involve a reconfiguration of the materiality of refugees lives - shifting toward a developmentalist model that envisions refugees as self-sufficient workers contributing to the industrialization of Ethiopia; and a reconfiguration of the intimacies of care that, at least in the near-term, hold the promises of desired mobility but may produce precarity and erode the communities that have grown within (if not in spite of) encampment.

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