In the multi-ethnic refugee camp of Kakuma, in Kenya, which has been in existence since 1992, the refugees, humanitarian organisations and Kenyans are together creating a place that is becoming increasingly ‘normal’. While refugees come and go, the camp is beginning to look like an accidental city – one populated by refugee-citizens with privileges as distinct from the local population, and with its own regulations, facilities, economy and history. For his doctoral study, during two years of independent anthropological field research Bram Jansen investigated the social organisation of the camp.
Refugees in camps are not just victims, as they are often portrayed. Refugees seek access to the humanitarian organisations that have become a de facto government by bargaining about their identity. Because of this, vulnerability becomes a resource in the humanitarian economy. This is chiefly visible in relocation processes.
The 4000 ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ and 15,000 Somali-Bantus who were relocated in the US have left the camp. The relocation of one of these Lost Boys is the subject of the well-received novel What is the What? by Dave Eggers. It indicates how Kakuma became linked in with the rest of the world, which is expressed in currents of information, money and people.
Bram Jansenis an anthropologist interested in conflict, humanitarian and refugee studies. In the past ten years he has conducted fieldwork in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Somalia. His PhD thesis focused on social ordering processes in refugee camps as accidental cities in Kenya (Wageningen University). Currently, he is doing research on humanitarian governance and decision making in South Sudan.
Date: October 5, 2011, start 19.30 hrs.
Location: USVA, Munnekeholm 10
The lecture is in Dutch
Dr. Bram J. Jansen
Photo: Rhett A. Butler