Archipelago of Extra-Territoriality



Michel Agier

PhD Roundtable, Centre for Research Architecture (London)

7-8 October 2011

In the present moment of history, when the process of human globalization seems to have just begun, the politics of fear expressed by the richest nations especially in Europe has lead to the end of the universal promise of hospitality and the right to asylum. Affluent countries wall themselves in, keeping out undesirable foreigners whom they consider as enemies, culprits or victims. Consequently refugee and IDP camps, clandestine encampments, urban invasions, that is to say, all places of refuge, become a part of habitat and living.

Michel Agier Bio


The day’s seminar will be structured in three parts; each session beginning with a 20-30 minute intervention by Michel Agier followed by responses from members of the Centre for Research Architecture as well as general discussion.

Intervention One – The Aid Archipelago: Refugee camps and humanitarian government

In this presentation Michel Agier will discuss the condition of “inhabiting and dwelling in precarity”, — what are the force fields and modes of operation of camps and other humanitarian spaces and how are precarious places inhabited. Refugee camps are “out-places (hors-lieux) of a large proportion of the world’s population. The presentation will be accompanied by images from fieldwork in African camps. 

Required readings:

1) Agier, Michel. “Humanity as an Identity and Its Political Effects (A Note on Camps and Humanitarian Government)” in Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, Volume 1, Number 1, Fall 2010, pp. 29-45. 

2) Agier, Michel. “From Refuge the Ghetto is Born: Contemporary Figures of Heterotopias, pp. 265-292. 

Supplementary reading: je me suis réfugié là ! Michel Agier Entretien avec Christine Delory-Momberger 


Intervention TwoAgier on Philosophy and its Fieldwork 

“Has philosophy a fieldwork?” Methodological notes and a reading of a text by Michel Foucault. Michel Agier will present a short paper discussing Foucault and Agamben’s biopolitic, and introducing the ethnography of theses forms: Le biopouvoir à l’épreuve de ses formes sensibles

 Background readings:

1) Agier, Michel. The Undesirables of the World and How Universality Changed Camp.

2) Foucault, Michel. Chp. 11. “Society Must Be Defended” Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76

3) [PDF] Bussolini, Jeffrey. “What Is a Dispositive?” Foucault Studies 10 Special Issue: Foucault and Agamben (2010): 85-107. 


Intervention Three – Agier on Mediteranean Migration, Refuges and Detention Centres

Presentation of fieldwork and notations from the Agier-Prestianni co-authored book Je me suis refugié la! Bors de routes en exil followed by the presentation of a photo essay on the same fieldwork by Sara Prestianni.

Background readings/links:

On The Margins of the World by Michael Agier (Polity Books)

Corridors of Exile: a worldwide web of camps


Responses: Thomas Keenan, Eyal Weizman, Manuel Herz, Karen Mirza