The not-so-concrete Jungle: material precarity in the Calais refugee camp

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On the outskirts of Calais, the refugee camp known as ‘the Jungle’ was recently demolished, the final violent act in a long history of enforced precarity. In recent years, the camp had massively increased in inhabitants, and through the collective actions of these inhabitants, along with the volunteers that helped there, the Jungle inculcated what Doreen Massey would have described as a ‘progressive sense of place’, in that it espoused cultural and social richness, but also violent conflict. Richness in that the camp was a site where home is constantly made by the refugees and asylum seekers with help from the volunteers, but also of conflict because it was under constant attack from the authorities and prefecture of the site, culminating in its eventual demolition. They enacted domicidal and home ‘un-making’ practices, which meant that the inhabitants had to continually (re)make their notions of home. This home-making/un-making/re-making cycle was played out most readily via its materiality which was highly precarious. Through ethnographic and participative methods conducted as a volunteer, I posit that the Jungle was, and arguably still is, a site with material precarity embedded throughout, making it a ‘progressive’ place that mixed hope and despair, richness and conflict, home-making and un-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-409
Number of pages17
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number3
Early online date21 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

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