Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp is one of the world's largest, home to over 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 recognised 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 such accidental cities. The result is a holistic socio-economic 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 social and economic issues increasingly at the heart of contemporary development.
'Mandatory reading for those concerned with humanitarian aid.' Barbara Harrell-Bond, founder of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford 'Jansen's concept of humanitarian urbanism offers significant and much needed insight into refugee camps and the biopolitics which dominate the lives of the people who live in them. ' Roger Zetter, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford (Emeritus) 'Refugee camps are the defining spaces of contemporary humanitarianism. In this vivid ethnography, Bram Jansen cogently shows how the camp evolved into an improbable city, and how refugees became potential migrants.' Didier Fassin, author of Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present '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.' Michel Agier, Director of Studies, EHESS, Paris 'An incisively argued study of humanitarian urbanism. Through Jansen's carefully crafted observations, the extra-ordinary manages to find a productive ordinariness.' AbdouMaliq Simone, Goldsmiths, University of London '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.' Gabrielle Lynch, University of Warwick