Reducibility of Black African Life in the Camp

Authors: Ampson Hagan*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Topics: Black Geographies, Migration, Africa
Keywords: Black African, Migration, Camp, Humanitarianism, Repatriation, Reduced Life
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) camp in Agadez, Niger, the largest migrant camp in the Nigerien Sahara, represents a site of migration management and facilitated repatriation. Where the physical space of the camp determines certain acceptable behaviors among migrants (including playing football on the space between two netted goals, washing clothes near the water pump, and sleeping in the men’s barracks or women’s dormitories), the production of travel documents, travel-required health clearances, and international cooperation between IOM, Niger, and other countries, reproduce temporal anxieties, geographic possibilities, and ontological uncertainties that migrants then carry. The procedures and institutional imperatives of IOM reduce all migrant subjectivities into medically legible affective complaints or traumas, and the various documents produced and procedures enacted to facilitate migrant travel ironically only occur after migrants have agreed to voluntarily repatriate, a re-ordering by Europe and North Africa of wayward Blackness. The flattened subjectivities of migrants are made to reproduce both certain affective states (e.g. sickness, “health”) and the ontological impossibility of Black life in an otherwise anti-Black world, supported by an exploitative post-colonial Euro-African relation. The camp and documents produced therein contribute to limited horizons of expectations and geographic possibilities for Black Africans, while reinforcing the European anti-Black dictum of “facilitating voluntary repatriation”. I contend that the metaphysical labor the camp and documents perform reconfigures Black African migrants’ medical conditions and traumas to expedite “return,” while reducing Black ontological value to that of the travel documents and the camp.

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