Research Team

Rodolfo Marcos Rocha Rueda Gallego, Elisa Maria Morais Sarmento Pato de Macedo, Mamadú Jao, Filipa Alexandra Barata Ferreira de Almeida, Tiago Pedro Viegas Cabral Gonçalves, Ana Cláudia da Silva Barrinha, Joelma Margarida Barata d´Almeida, Jorge Emanuel Simões Teixeira Cardoso


forced migration, humanitarian intervention, collapse of society, management of violence


Refugees may have become the fastest growing population category in the world (Bauman). In Africa, armed civil conflicts and state collapse cause massive forced migrations (Mbembe). In these “new wars” violence and abuses against civil populations cause massive dislocations. Forced migrations have become a decisive factor of societal transformations in the places of origin of the migrants as well as at their destinations. Mass exodus is often closely followed by international humanitarian intervention, often in the form of camps for refugees or displaced persons. Designed for the protection of the population (to ensure safety, shelter, food and basic health care), the camps are also a way to discipline and segregate uprooted people from the population of their host societies. The time of permanence in the camps has become very superior to the duration of the humanitarian catastrophe at its origin (Agier), because the people can neither return nor can they integrate in the host societies. The camps have become a constant of the African landscape, a new form of organization of the social space, with truly structural character (Mbembe). This results in profound transformations of societies. The camps are conceived as states of exception, states of transition and therefore they entail the suspension of social and political rights (employment, property, education) of their inhabitants. The transformation of what was transitory (the stay in the camps) into a permanent condition, condemns their inhabitants to a time without future, with profound and serious consequences on the individual and collective level, frequently generating violence. Humanitarian aid ensures only the individuals’ biological survival. To the humanitarian agencies the refugees are indistinct beings, without political, economic and social past (Agier). The camp is constituted as a space removed from the social, economic and political life, taking away from the individuals their human condition, in the sense that they are reduced to what Agamben calls “bare life”, to their mere biological condition. But in spite of the “social elimination” of the individuals exposed to the camp and the interruption of the socialization process, the process of social construction does not stop. Out of the social “plasma”, created by the collapse of the societies of origin, and out of the new conditions in the camp, profound transformations take place, in the societies of origin as well as in the hosting societies. Angola, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique allow to study three different situations: in Angola the wide ranging efforts to dissolve the camps and repatriate and reintegrate their inhabitants; in Guinea Bissau long duration camps and refugees registered within UNHCR; in Mozambique the (apparently successful) integration of refugees from Zimbabwe.