Internment Camps: The (Enforced) Placement and “Custody” of Refugees in the Past and the Present
Annual Conference of the Austrian Association for Exile Research (öge) in cooperation with the Department for Contemporary History (University of Vienna) and the research network “Migration, Citizenship and Belonging” (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Vienna)
3-4 December 2020, Vienna
The placement and detention, often through force, of refugees and asylum-seeking
individuals in camps is not a practice that has only recently been used by states to
regulate and control the movement of humans across borders. During World War I,
for example, tens of thousands of civilians were kept in internment camps as so-called “enemy aliens”. Before and during World War II, Jewish refugees and other individuals persecuted by the National Socialist regime were also targeted by such measures. A wide network of camps for displaced persons emerged in 1945, after the liberation. Displaced persons included, amongst others, Jewish survivors of the Shoah. Furthermore, in other cases of flight and exile in the postwar period, camps of various types proved to be a crucial instrument for the limitation and control of the
movements of refugees.
The internment of refugees and asylum seekers continues today, yet the concrete
circumstances are continuously changing: Both inside and outside Europe, various
types and concepts of camps, guaranteeing the internment of refugees, are currently
being discussed, trialed, and realized on a massive scale. The recent practices of
immobilization and “encampment” (Michel Agier) of refugees reflect a general
development within the areas of asylum and migration: States and governments are
treating the individuals looking for protection and asylum primarily as a potential
source of danger, a notion which corresponds with repressive policies, with detention
pending deportation and forced deportation itself having become very commonly
applied measures employed by migration and asylum regimes worldwide today.
These measures often contradict fundamental human rights and are at odds with the
agendas of NGOs aiming to support and help refugees.
In its annual conference in 2020, the Austrian Association for Exile Research aims to
facilitate an extensive engagement with the past and present of the organized, stateled, and forced placement of refugees. The emphasis will be on a comparative
perspective – synchronic as well as diachronic. One aim of the conference is to make visible parallels and differences between the practices and types of internment in the past and the present in different countries – while considering the specific historical contexts. Another focus will lie on the nexus of relationships and agencies which constitute the camps in question as transitory spaces.
The call for papers is addressed to academics of various disciplines, to members of
civil society, as well as to people working within an artistic or cultural domain who deal with the topics of camps and forced placement of refugees in their work. The
contributions should engage with one of the… READ MORE