Managing the Undesirables
Managing the Undesirables
Official figures classify some fifty million of the world’s people as 'victims of forced displacement'. Refugees, asylum seekers, disaster victims, the internally displaced and the temporarily tolerated - categories of the excluded proliferate, but many more are left out of count. In the face of this tragedy, humanitarian action increasingly seems the only possible response. On the ground, however, the 'facilities' put in place are more reminiscent of the logic of totalitarianism. In a situation of permanent catastrophe and endless emergency, 'undesirables' are kept apart and out of sight, while the care dispensed is designed to control, filter and confine. How should we interpret the disturbing symbiosis between the hand that cares and the hand that strikes?

After seven years of study in the refugee camps, Michel Agier reveals their 'disquieting ambiguity' and stresses the imperative need to take into account forms of improvisation and challenge that are currently transforming the camps, sometimes making them into towns and heralding the emergence of political subjects.

A radical critique of the foundations, contexts, and political effects of humanitarian action.
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  • January 2011
  • 300 pages
  • 160 x 237 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9780745649016
  • Paperback $28.95
  • 9780745649023
Table of Contents
List of acronyms
Introduction: From Vulnerable to Undesirable
Part One: A World of Undesirables, a System of Camps
Chapter 1. Refugees, Displaced, Expelled: the Itinerary of the Stateless
Chapter 2. Refugee Camps Today. An Attempted Inventory
Part Two: Everyday Life in the Twenty-First Century's Refugee Camps
Chapter 3. An Ethnologist in the Refugee Camps
Chapter 4. The Interminable Insomnia of Exile. The Camp as an Ordinary Exceptionalism
Chapter 5. Experiences of Wandering, Borders and Camps: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea
Chapter 6. Surviving, Reviving, Leaving, Remaining. The Long Life of Angolan Refugees in Zambia
Chapter 7. The Camp-Towns. Somalia in Kenya
Chapter 8. In the Name of the Refugees. Political Representation and Action in the Camps
Chapter 9. Who Will Speak Out in the Camp? A Study of Refugees' Testimony
Part Three: After the Camps
Chapter 10. If this is a town
Chapter 11. If this is a world
Chapter 12. If this is a government
About the Author
Michel Agier is an anthropologist and director of studies at the Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
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"One of the most important books on humanitarian assistance to emerge in several years."

"An impassioned and tireless explorer of 'useless' and hence 'undesirable' populations, Michel Agier asks here about their future: how can they be returned to the human family, brought back from non-existence into the social world, from the camp to the town, from a life without time into history? How can they rediscover a place on the map of the world, and pass from the status of reject to that of subject? Urgent and indispensable reading for all who reflect on action to be taken, or are called on to take such action."

Zygmunt Bauman

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