Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Europäische Ethnologie

Abstract Melanye Garland

From spaces of exception / non places to informal settlements / social places through Liminality

The current border regime crisis can result in the formation of many new refugee and migrant camps, both legal and illegal (De Genova, 2011). This project examines three illegal camps in Europe and South America: The Jungle in France, Ex-Hotel Africa in Italy and El Bosque in Chile, which were established by migrants in transit and remained self-organized with no initial governmental involvement. In occupying formerly "empty" landscapes, these migrants have transformed such "empty zones" into places (Massey,1993) and neighborhoods. This project investigates how these three illegal camps--so-called "non-places" (Auge,1992)--change and evolve into "social places," and how the concept of liminality (Von Gennep,1960, Turner,1974) might play a role in their transformation. The project analyzes this transformation process at the micro-macro and spatial-architectural level. Based on migration, postcolonial studies and art practice studies, the project explores how non-places and "places of exception" (Agamben,1995) generate liminal places in urban areas. The methodological design relied on a  combination of  qualitative methods and art practices, based on migration, postcolonial and art practice studies. Rather than testing theory, this approach was based on inductive reasoning to discuss and elaborate on new theoretical perspectives for the study of refugee camps as places of exception. The qualitative nature of this research called for a combination of methods, and therefore employed anarrayed of qualitative and artistic tools: documentary evidence, direct observation, interviews and the use of artistic artifacts.One relevant outcome of this research will be the development of theoretical links between liminality and decolonization, examining the formation of liminal places as one possible response to colonial legacy. The development of these illegal camps forms a new narrative about how migrants can survive hardship and become empowered. Liminal places are not only waiting spaces; they are also safe spaces that foster the generation of  ideas, strategies and new knowledge, creating new ways of living, redefining identities and encouraging political empowerment.