Campus in Camps

Posted: July 2, 2012 by Rex Brynen in Uncategorized
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According to its website, Campus in Camps is:

…an experimental educational program that aims at transgressing, without eliminating, the distinction between camp and city, refugee and citizen, center and periphery, theory and practice, teacher and student. Every year Campus in Camps brings together fifteen participants from the West Bank’s refugee camps in an attempt to explore and produce a new form of representation of camps and refugees beyond the static and traditional symbols of victimization, passivity and poverty. This initiative stems from the recognition that refugee camps in the West Bank are in a process of a historical political, social and spatial transformation. Despite adverse political and social conditions Palestinian refugee camps have developed a relatively autonomous and independent social and political space: no longer a simple recipient of humanitarian intervention but rather as an active political subject. The camp becomes a site of social invention and suggests new political and spatial configurations. The refugee camp is transformed from a marginalized urban area to a center of social and political life. More notable is that such radical transformations have not normalized the political condition of being exiled. For decades, the effects of the political discourse around the right of return, such as the rise of a resolute imperative to stagnate living circumstances in refugee camps in order to reaffirm the temporariness of the camps, forced many refugees to live in terrible conditions. What emerges today is a reconsideration of this imperative where refugees are re-inventing social and political practices that improve their everyday life without normalizing the political exceptional condition of the camp itself. After sixty years of exile, the camps are now viewed as the village of origin: a cultural and social product to preserve and remember. What is at stake in this program is the possibility for the participants to realize interventions in camps without normalizing their conditions or simply blending the camp with the rest of the city. Campus in Camps aims at providing a protected context in which to accompany and reinforce such complex and crucial changes in social practices and representations. We believe that the future of the refugee camps and their associated spatial, social and political regime force us to re-think the very idea of the city as a space of political representation through the consideration of the camp as a counter-laboratory for new spatial and social practices.

While I’m none too fond of the unnecessarily dense jargon (which only acts as a barrier), the project is nonetheless an interesting one whereby selected young Palestinians are engaged in a process of dialogue, learning, and discussion. You’ll find You Tube videos of some of their discussions here, with sample ones presented below.

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