Kakuma Refugee Camp

Humanitarian Urbanism in Kenya’s Accidental City

Bram J. Jansen

Kakuma Refugee Camp

Bram J. Jansen

Distributed for Zed Books

288 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 3/4 | © 2018
Cloth $95.00 ISBN: 9781786991898 Published June 2018 For sale in North and South America only

Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp is one of the world’s largest, home to more than 100,000 people drawn from across east and central Africa. Though notionally still a “temporary” camp, it has become a permanent urban space in all but name with businesses, schools, a hospital, and its own court system. Such places, Bram J. Jansen argues, should be recognized as “accidental cities,” a unique form of urbanization that has so far been overlooked by scholars. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Jansen’s book explores the dynamics of everyday life in these accidental cities. The result is a holistic socioeconomic picture, moving beyond the conventional view of such spaces as transitory and desolate to demonstrate how their inhabitants can develop a permanent society and a distinctive identity. Crucially, the book offers important insights into one of the greatest challenges facing humanitarian and international development workers: how we might develop more effective strategies for managing refugee camps in the Global South and beyond.

An original take on African urbanism, Kakuma Refugee Camp will appeal to practitioners and academics across the social sciences interested in the social and economic issues that are increasingly at the heart of contemporary development.

Review Quotes
AbdouMaliq Simone, Goldsmiths, University of London
“An incisively argued study of humanitarian urbanism. Through Jansen’s carefully crafted observations, the extraordinary manages to find a productive ordinariness.”
Gabrielle Lynch, University of Warwick
“An unrivalled and insightful account of Kakuma as a space in which people seek refuge, but also live and change. The book highlights the camp’s place in the region’s political economy as a home, a rear base, and as a stage in longer refugee journeys.”
Barbara Harrell-Bond, founder of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
“Mandatory reading for those concerned with humanitarian aid.”
Roger Zetter, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford (Emeritus)
“Jansen’s concept of humanitarian urbanism offers significant and much needed insight into refugee camps and the biopolitics that dominate the lives of the people who live in them.”
Michel Agier, director of studies, EHESS, Paris
“The findings of Jansen’s rich and original ethnography of Kakuma show how such camps create their own environment of stability and cosmopolitanism through everyday life. At a time when Europeans are discovering the brutal reality of their policies on migrant camps, this book should open the minds of politicians, activists, and students alike.”
Oliver Bakewell, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester
“Jansen challenges the notion of the camp as a place of exception, instead presenting it as a dynamic experiment of social organisation. His argument is underpinned by the rich ethnographic material presented in this clear, compelling and very well-written volume.”
Didier Fassin, author of Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present
“Refugee camps are the defining spaces of contemporary humanitarianism. In this vivid ethnography, Jansen cogently shows how the camp evolved into an improbable city, and how refugees became potential migrants.”
Angela G. Subulwa, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
“A much needed account of the complexities and ambiguities of protracted refugee spaces.  The text is an excellent contribution to the existing literature on refugees, and challenges many assumptions within refugee studies.”
Nando Sigona, coauthor of Unravelling Europe’s ‘Migration Crisis’
“A fascinating and insightful examination of the protracted life of a refugee camp and its inhabitants. This highly readable book shows how the Kakuma camp came to be an accidental city.”
Claudio Minca, Macquarie University
“A must read for anyone interested in the transformation of refugee camps into new manifestations of the urban. Empirically rich, illustrative, and provocative, this is a welcome contribution to debates on the workings of refugee camps today.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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