Agency and Subjectivity in Refugee Camps: The Case of Buduburam Refugee Camp

  • Riley Black


Since the 20th century, refugee camps have become the predominant means for dealing with the mass migration of refugees. The structure of these camps serves to depoliticize and de-individuate refugees. Thus, it would appear as though Agamben’s (1998) understanding of camps as a place of “bare life” and Arendt’s (1976) notion of the right-less refugee are true. However, by analyzing the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana, I find that refugee camps are a space of political contestation in which refugees exercise their agency and shape their subjectivity. Despite this, these aspects are constrained by humanitarian and statist notions about refugees’ political agency and subjectivity.