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The Jungle: Calais's Camps and Migrants

The Jungle: Calais's Camps and Migrants

Michel Agier

ISBN: 978-1-509-53060-1 December 2018 Polity 200 Pages


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For nearly two decades, the area surrounding the French port of Calais has been a temporary staging post for thousands of migrants and refugees hoping to cross the Channel to Britain. It achieved global attention when, at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, all those living there were transferred to a single camp that became known as ‘the Jungle’. Until its dismantling in October 2016, this precarious site, intended to make its inhabitants as invisible as possible, was instead the focal point of international concern about the plight of migrants and refugees. 

This new book is the first full account of life inside the Jungle and its relation to the global migration crisis. Anthropologist Michel Agier and his colleagues use the particular circumstances of the Jungle, localized in space and time, to analyse broader changes under way in our societies, both locally and globally. They examine the architecture of the camp, reconstruct how everyday life and routine operated and analyse the mixed reactions to the Jungle, from hostile government policies to movements of solidarity.  

This comprehensive account of the life and death of Europe’s most infamous camp for migrants and refugees demonstrates that, far from being an isolated case, the Jungle of Calais brings into sharp relief the issues that confront us all today, in a world where the large-scale movement of people has become, and is likely to remain, a central feature of social and political life.

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  • List of illustrations
  • Introduction: For a better understanding
  • A longer history of the Jungle
  • Europe and the migration question
  • Calais as metonym for European crisisÉ and solidarity
  • Chapter 1. Movement To and Fro: The Calais Region from 1986 to 2016
  • 1986 – 1997: the indifference of the French authorities
  • 1997 – 999: a growing attention
  • 1999–2000: the Sangatte moment
  • 2002: British control at the port of Calais
  • The long years of eviction
  • 2009 – ‘the closing of the Calais jungle’ : a new media sequence
  • The network of voluntary organizations
  • A brief ray of light
  • The rise of the far right
  • September 2014 onward: concentrate, disperse, control
  • Chapter 2. From Sangatte to Calais: inhabiting the ‘Jungles’
  • Sangatte, 1999-2002
  • March 2015: Jungles, camps, squats
  • April 2015 to October 2016: The Jungle or ‘The Art of Building Towns’
  • Chapter 3. A Sociology of the Jungle: Everyday Life in a Precarious Space
  • Society under precarious conditions
  • Settling in the shantytown
  • Economic and social life
  • Making a community
  • Chapter 4. A Jungle of Solidarities
  • Calais as a cosmopolitan crossroads of solidarities
  • The situation in other encampments
  • Mobilization networks: from local to national
  • Chapter 5. Destruction, Dispersal, Returns
  • ‘The biggest shantytown in Europe’
  • The sheltering operation as spectacle
  • Dispersal
  • After the demolition: returns and rejections
  • Conclusion: The Calais Event
  • The camp as hypertrophy of the border
  • Cosmopolitics of the Jungle
  • Postscript: How this Book was Written
  • The Authors
  • Notes
  • Index

‘In this detailed depiction of life in “the Jungle”, Michel Agier and colleagues offer a powerful, poetic argument about the power and value of place. Taking seriously the lives of those in the camp, this work is a much-needed recognition of their experience and an acknowledgement of their humanity.’
Michael Collyer, University of Sussex

‘In this work, Michel Agier brings his formidable intellect to bear on how we should understand the Calais “Jungle”. The result is a notable contribution to contemporary discussions of mobility, solidarity, precarity and, most importantly, how we think about Europe itself.’
Matthew J. Gibney, University of Oxford