Feeling the refugee camp: affectual research, bodies, and suspicion
This article advances debates in camp geographies and forced migration studies by centring the methodological import of emotions and affect in research on refugee camps. Camps are often spatial expressions of compassion, fear, care, suspicion, but also incubate hope, solidarity, and feelings of belonging among encamped communities. Researchers are never insulated from these complex emotions and affects. While qualitative, ethnographic, experiential, or otherwise sensory methods continue to be widely used in this field of study, the emotional entanglements that arise from the embodied encounters between researchers, residents, and camp spaces are not yet well understood. The article argues that it is methodologically pertinent to not simply incorporate such affectual intensities into existing readings of the camp as an exceptional space, but to understand people’s differentially experienced feelings as actively shaping the camp’s geography. It illustrates this argument by engaging with feelings of suspicion that pervaded my long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Ultimately, the article urges scholars to explore camps beyond their known capacities for controlling mobility and motion as spaces that are also imbued with feelings and sensibilities.