Refugees, Prisoners and Camps: A Functional Analysis of the Phenomenon of Encampment

Refugees, Prisoners and Camps: A Functional Analysis of the Phenomenon of Encampment
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Caryl Phillips interview with Pulitano The trauma of forced displacement complexifies the refugee figure. Hence, it becomes a signifier of perennial dislocation, rootlessness and loss. Linking memory with trauma, Geoffrey Hartman states:.

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What do refugee and concentration camps, prisons, terrorist and guerrilla training camps and A Functional Analysis of the Phenomenon of Encampment. Download Citation on ResearchGate | Refugees, prisoners and camps: A functional analysis of the phenomenon of encampment | What do refugee and.

The knowledge of trauma is composed of two contradictory elements. Hartman Solomon summarises his suffering and pain as follows:.

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I would wake from my slumber shaking with consternation […] it appeared that my dreams were permanently cursed. I remembered my father and my sisters being shot like animals. My dreams contained my history. Night and day I tried not to think of these things any more.

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I tried not to think of these people anymore. By developing coping mechanisms, Solomon painstakingly tries to forget and suppress his past. His invisible private self counteracts his public position as a refugee—a position he actively connives in, and that aligns with his duplicity about his African past as only a victim.

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By elaborating on this inner conflict, the novel also highlights the problematic issue of authenticity, in a post-factual world where the subjective, expressive narrativizing of identity is often given far more credence and positive valuation than inner conflicts and truths. He is forced to live in a sort of liminal space and is denied belonging in his host nation. Solomon is never fully able to fit in British society:. My only real regret was the lack of anybody from my own country with whom I might talk.

My language was drying up in my mouth, and sometimes, when nobody was around, I would place my language on my tongue and speak some words so that I could be sure that I was still in possession of it.

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It also symbolizes how the host nation is transforming him both deliberately and unwittingly. Non-verbal communication as well as silence plays a significant role in the convivial encounters which pervade the novel. Both Dorothy and Solomon are outsiders in Weston.

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This nurtures in them a willingness to engage in unfamiliar patterns of social communication that is crucial for the construction of a convivial culture. Their repeated and sustained encounters transgress the constraints imposed on them by their specific cultural and ethnic ties. Even if transient, these encounters gain significance and allow them to negotiate cultural differences in contrast to the stifling and alienating atmosphere of Weston. Their frequent car trips together produce an iterative form of interaction that gradually establishes a routine practice offering them the company that they were looking for in this strange town.

Everything is done with such a precision. She looks at him and she understands. I look at him and understand that he is only speaking to me because he wishes to help. I try again and tell them that Solomon treated me with respect… I just wanted to be happy, I say, and I could tell that Solomon was a man who could have made me happy.

This motif of security runs through the novel as a counter-narrative to the bleak settings and the descriptions of everyday racism, placing hope in individual pursuits to create extra-ordinary friendships in ordinary situations. He appreciates Dorothy for keeping her confidence at all times. Conviviality allows them to maintain their desired distance and reserve because it is free from any prescriptions and rules.

Hence, it contains possibilities for new and spontaneous ways to engage with the others without any obligation of divulging personal secrets and truths. This favourable setting can also eventually enable the strangers to speak out their painful memories by building on common trust and faith. Similarly in the novel, Solomon eventually thinks of breaking his silence and articulating his experiences of trauma in front of Dorothy, after he has tried to scrupulously police or suppress his past to meet the expectations of those surrounding him.

This is a woman to whom I might tell my story. If I do not share my story, then I have only this one year to my life. I am a one-year old man who walks with heavy steps. I am a man burdened with a hidden history. I look in the mirror and straighten my shirt collar and then I adjust my tie. I leave my bungalow and walk across the neatly trimmed grass towards her house.

I knock on her door. Solomon identifies his refugee-hood as a site of re-naissance. She becomes a listener as well as an agent to redeem Solomon from his trauma.

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Conviviality here, even if temporary, is successfully enacted, practised and maintained beyond the ordinary local spaces and every-day encounters in the home space. However, before their friendship matures, Solomon is brutally attacked by local skinheads and killed, and Dorothy slips away into madness remembering his only friend Solomon.

Denise is a young girl who is subjected to regular torture at the hands of her father and is in need of refuge.

Yet his initial anger is dissipated when he sees in her a vulnerable and a victimized teenager:. Gabriel puts his hand on her bare arm. You are safe here. Especially market-oriented camel herders use other complementary technologies such as tanker trucks, GPS and satellite phones. The historical constraints related to water provision for camels are addressed by developing new wells, mechanization pumps and tanker trucks that bring water to the herds, which obviates the need to move herds to water. There is generally increased reliance on owned or rented tanker trucks both among refugees and nomadic herders, particularly for larger, market-oriented herds.

Herds can exploit grazing resources in the liberated territories that would otherwise be too distant from water points, whereas in the camps, it permits large herds to be maintained on the periphery where water is deposited in large tanks.


Although historically, the Sahrawi traded surplus camels, an unprecedented process of commodification of camels and camel products is occurring among refugees. Camels are no longer bartered for food and other essentials but are sold for profit; meat is sold in butcher shops and milk, which it was formerly taboo to sell, is subject to widespread trade and high consumer demand. As trade gave rise to an informal economy in the camps, camel milk has become at least partly commoditized, as have other natural products that were previously not subject to monetary exchange, such as plant medicines and desert truffles Volpato et al.

The commodification of camel milk in Sahrawi refugee camps reflects trends reported in urban markets across Saharan Africa Faye et al. The second particularly applies to Sahrawi refugees; camels had to be fed purchased fodder. Sahrawi refugees were forced to incorporate fixed and variable capital to substitute resources otherwise obtained for free in their traditional territories.

In order to obtain the capital needed to maintain camels in the camps, refugees began to sell at least part of their milk. In a few but far-reaching cases, this led some refugees to develop large herds and seek profits.


At the same time, these changes have been met with resistance on the part of some refugees with a nomadic background who challenge changes that have occurred such as the commodification of camel milk, which has fundamentally altered social relations and challenged traditional values and beliefs. Indeed, the Sahrawi have maintained a more traditional approach in nomadic conditions e.

Major social and political change commenced with colonialism and war and culminated with exile and the creation of a Sahrawi nation-state, the SADR see footnote h. Historically, the Sahrawi were organized politically in tribes, where several inhabited the traditional territories e. Tribal relations determined access to pasture where each tribe controlled a customary nomadic area. Decision-making institutions and networks of mutual support functioned along tribal lines and especially within branches Caratini [ ]. Although this political organization was disrupted with colonialism, it was in the mids that it was completely overturned by events: with exile and the establishment of the camps, the Polisario banned tribes and reorganized the Sahrawi under a newly declared nation-state in which each refugee became a citizen of the SADR and pledged allegiance to the Polisario, which controls and grants refugees access to the liberated territories and manages food aid Wilson [ ]; Caratini [ ].

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While kinship continues to have considerable importance among contemporary Sahrawi, tribal affiliation gave way to Polisario allegiance, and the Polisario Front de facto assumed the functions previously assumed by tribes and extended this to incorporate other functions of the modern nation-state, e. The process transforming tribal authority to a nation-state is exemplified by the changes that occurred in camel brands.

Brands are also essential elements of identity in pastoral societies, as their collective character serves as an assertion of collective rights e. Among Sahrawi nomads, the process of branding camels was known as mhar nar in Arabic or elama ; camels were usually branded on the neck or the thigh, or on the head or other visible part of the body Caro Baroja [ ]; Boyer [ ]. Each tribe had its own brand, while larger tribes e.

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Monteil [ ] recorded more than 25 brands used by Sahrawi tribes or their bands, about half of which incorporated letters or combinations of letters from the Arabic alphabet e. Camel brands conveyed the power of a tribe not only in terms of the number of camels held but also the location of camel herds in the territory - an indicator of territorial control.