Civitas, polis, and urbs: reimagining the refugee camp as the city
The refugee camp, positioned between formality and informality, mobility and immobility, permanence and impermanence, is a space of paradox. In the process of contextualizing this paradox, the academic literature often juxtaposes the “camp (as exception) and the city (as norm) in contradiction with one another” (Sanyal 2010:879). As these tent cities develop into urban environments, there is a need to evaluate the urbanity of the camp space by considering the ways in which refugee spaces come to take on a hybrid nature where “refugeeness and agency have worked simultaneously to create ‘spaces of exception’ that are able to transgress the boundaries of place and non-place” (880). Drawing on a Lefebvrian conceptualization of space, I establish an analytical approach to the refugee camp “in which the city [is] a political space for claiming rights for social groups” (Isin 2000:13). I argue that reimagining the refugee camp as an urban space allows for the possibility of thinking of it as a space in which particular rights, namely the right to the city, can be conceived and realized.