TWO IMPORTANT POINTS:
1. Although the photographs presented here are meant to contribute to a larger imaginary about the Calais’s “Jungle,” they represent only a fragment of it and, as such, can be misleading, the reason being that I did not want to take pictures of people. Is missing, among other things, the Jungle’s ‘main streets’ with its Afghani and Kurdish restaurants, its small shops and its religious buildings (three of which were demolished two days ago). The audacious inventiveness deployed to build these buildings and urbanity is therefore invisible on the photographs presented here.
2. In the same way than I did for a past article, I exceptionally decided to reserve all rights when it comes to these photographs (other pictures that I publish on this blog are licensed under creative commons), as I’m wary that their use could be instrumentalized for political ideologies with which I fundamentally disagree. If you would like to use them, feel free to send me an email to ask for authorization (info.funambulistATgmailDOTcom).
This article can be read in the continuity of the one entitled “Mud, Water & Steel: Migrant Bodies, Policed Environment and Humanitarian Architecture in Calais,” published on January 14, 2016. It constitutes an attempt to organize a few thought after a visit to Calais and Dunkirk yesterday. These thoughts do not address the individual and collective experiences of duress of the refugees who currently live in Calais’s so-called “Jungle” and Dunkirk’s Grande Synthe encampment but, rather, the massive deliberate means undertaken by the national and local authorities to write a new chapter of hardship for them. This rejoins an intuition that I have been able to express here in the past: when it comes to refugees, a radical politics that the European Union could adopt is…doing nothing. By this provocative statement, I mean that a significant part of hardship that refugee individuals and families currently experience is due to the various means deployed against them by the European Union (borders, walls, police harassment, and racism) and that the dismantlement of these means would drastically transform their daily lives and endeavors. This is not to say that their flee from various forms of individual and collective persecution should be met with indifference, but simply that the efforts that are currently put in antagonizing migrants and refugees are much greater than the ones necessary to provide adequate welcoming conditions to their temporary or permanent resettling.Read more
This article can be read in the continuity of a previous one, written on December 12, 2015 and published under the title, “State of Emergency in France: An Architectural Reading of the Police Perquisitions.”
It has now been 50 days that France is living in the state of emergency, declared in the wake of the November 13, 2015 attacks and voted in the form of a law by the Parliament on November 27. Although the duration of this state of exception was fixed to three months, and should therefore be ended by the end of this month, the government already announced its intention to push for an extension — “until we get rid of ISIS” even said Prime Minister Manuel Valls to the BBC a few days ago! — which should transform the exception into a rule as it is often the case in this kind of situations. A recent poll have shown that a majority of French citizens are in favor of such an extension. What this poll does not reflect in any way, is the extreme inequality of application of the state of emergency on different bodies. For many, the sole experience of this state of exception consists in seeing armed soldiers and police officers in the streets and accepting the search of bags at the entrance of large shops. Others who live in the various banlieues of the country (in large cities just like in small towns, on metropolitan territory just like on ultramarine territories) may experience the exceptional latitude given to the police forces in its racist violence. More than 3,000 individuals, families, companies and Muslim communities have thus seen their private space violated by the brutal intervention (50% of the time, at night) of police squads leading administrative perquisitions, sometimes breaking doors (see previous article) and turning the space ‘upside down’ to finally find nothing of interest in the overwhelming majority of cases.
If most of theses searches leads to no conclusive results, it is neither because people whose homes are searched would be too smart to leave tracks of potential relation with future attack projects, nor because the secret services would be incompetent: it is because most of these perquisitions does not aim at finding anything in particular. They are used as an intimidation method against persons and communities considered as practicing a radical interpretation of Islam — in the context of a quasi-religious republicanism and its secularism, such practice is considered as sociopathic, if not illegal, by the authorities — but, also, as a means to construct a police cartography of private spaces, which is an opportunity that only rises during the application of a state of exception.Read more
If I had composed this Atlas of the Israeli Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem a few years ago, I would have insisted that this inventory of colonial urban typologies constituted an evidence of the Israeli violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, I would have reminded the history of the invasion of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (as well as the Gaza Strip, the Sinai and the Golan Heights) in 1967 and the military rule that subjugated and continues to subjugated the Palestinian bodies since then, I would have refer to these colonized territories as “Palestinian land as recognized by the International Community,” etc. This is however not what I am going to do here, because I am convinced that this narrative and the imaginary it conveys is ultimately harmful to all Palestinians and, for the same reasons, to non-Zionist Israelis too. On the contrary (or, rather, in an apparent contradiction), I would like to undertake the rather perilous exercise of praising the Israeli settlements for the scenario of the post-apartheid future they accidentally allow.Read more
Illustration: Newly ‘built’ refugee camp in Calais’s “Jungle” (source of the photo)
Calais and Dunkerque are the two French cities closest to Dover in England. As such, they are are the main ferry ports towards England and the entrance to the Channel Tunnel is situated only a few kilometers away from the city center of Calais. The name of “Jungle” designates a large muddy vacant area of the Calais outskirts (see the OpenStreetMap drawn by students of the Belleville School of Architecture) where about 6,000 migrants and refugees are currently living, often waiting an opportunity to finish their long and tiresome journey in the United Kingdom (there are also two other similar sites near Dunkerque). This name is a distorted translation of the farsi term jangla (originally given by Afghani and Iranian refugees to the place) that, despite a common root with jungle refers more simply to a forest. The name of “jungle” was first spread by local associations helping its population, and we can already see here how humanitarian interventions can be problematic: in this case, it coins a term that triggers a primitive if not racist imaginary of a place, already antagonized by a part of the local and (bi)national population and politicians.
Last Monday, a camp made of a hundred steel containers opened to host 1,500 people after that local associations and other humanitarian organizations pushed for it. This camp reminds us of the Sangatte one that had been opened the Jospin government in 1999 and whose sanitary conditions had quickly reached a deplorable level because of a lack of fundings until it was shut down three years later by Nicolas Sarkozy when he became Minister of Interior. In an article published in Libération last October, Cyrille Hanappe who teaches the seminar that lead to the mapping referred above, regrets that the camp (then only planned) had been designed without any architect’s contribution and that the people in charge’s incompetence had lead to a design that “considers human as cattle” and only think of the camp “for bodies to be managed, to eat and defecate.” Hanappe insists that the camp should have integrated space of sociality and gathering, something that, according to him, many architects would have been able to proposed if asked to contribute.Read more
Above: La Marie-Séraphine (1770) / Excerpt from Bertrand Guillet, La Marie-Séraphine: Navire négrier, Nantes: Editions MeMo, 2009.
Writing about the open wound that the history of slavery constitutes is always a painful exercise. It is also doomed to fail making us fathom the formidable sustainability of violence that the three centuries of legalized slavery implemented — but would we ever recover from such a fathoming? This article is the fifth one about the abysmal Atlantic crossing and its architectural technology, the slave ship. While two of them were comparing (without ever equating) the Atlantic abyss with the current Mediterranean one (see “The Mediterranean Abyss: South Wall of Fortress Europe and Cemetery of the Poors” and “The Politics of Overpopulated Spaces“), two others focused on the historical crossing of the slave trade, citing the three Carribean authors C.L.R. James, Édouard Glissant, and Patrick Chamoiseau (see “The Slave Ship Is Architecture” and “Abysmal Atlantic: The Slave Ships’ Genocide“).
The argument of these articles in the broader context of the research exposed on this platform is simple: although architecture and design (and through them, architects and designers) cannot be held responsible for the founding logic of the genocide that constitutes the slave trade, the latter could simply have never existed without their active contribution and, as such, architecture is fundamentally responsible for the operativity of slavery. Here, more than ever, we need to forget any dissociation between the various scales of design: the plantation cabin is architecture, of course (see Clifton Ellis and Rebecca Ginsburg (eds), Cabin, Quarter, Plantation, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) but more broadly, any materialized form of whatever size or nature implementing the organization of bodies in space is also architecture. This includes the slave ship and its inherent tension between the fundamental cruelty of its design and the economization of life that its function requires vis-a-vis its “human cargo.”
What the example of slave ship allows, because of the world in itself it constitutes, is a representation of the holistic dimension of the weaponization of its architecture. In other words, every component of the slave ship is designed to contribute to the organization of bodies in a spatial configuration optimizing its function, as the illustrations (above and below) of the French slave ship La Marie-Séraphine (1769-1776), show well. This includes the bodies themselves: the sailors’ bodies, in their choreographed accomplishment of navigating this “vast machine” (see Rediker, 2007), the daily ‘care’ of the hundreds of bodies living under the deck, as well as the individualized or collective deadly suppression of potential forms of revolt. In The Slave Ship: A Human History (Penguin, 2007), Marcus Rediker describes the frequent deaths of these bodies during the triangular crossings, which we can interpret through a logic that shares some similarities with slavery itself: not considering bodies individually but rather, through their muscular operativity as a whole by the ship’s captain and owners. Nevertheless, the sailors’ bodies are not the only one engaged in the holistic optimization of the slave ship through its design. The imprisoned African bodies themselves, through the deliberate overpopulation of their space (see past article), were involuntarily acting as as much walls for each other — the illustrations presented here was drawn by the ship’s officer, not an abolitionist and, as such, is very likely to have minimized the amount of bodies present — in particular when these bodies were handcuffed by two, as Rediker describes in his book.Read more
After a reinvigorating large meeting against islamophobia and the state of emergency in Saint Denis (Paris’ immediate Northern banlieue) yesterday, I want to attempt giving an architectural account of the 2,500 police perquisitions and the 400 house/town arrests that have been led since the promulgation of the State of Emergency following the November 13 attacks. Let’s start by reminding ourselves that only six parliamentary representatives out of 558 voted against the ratification of the state of emergency that is (for now) scheduled to end on February 26, 2016. What this essentially means is that these 552 representatives are more attached to the executive power and its police, than the legislative one they collectively form. Consequently, France is currently living in a society stripped from fundamental rights, as the government itself is willing to acknowledge since it wrote to the European Council on November 26 to officially declare that the country will not abide by the Human Rights European Convention during the time of the state of emergency — again we cannot be sure that it will ‘only’ last three months and we already know that something significant will forever remain from it. For many people, such a state does not involve a drastic change in their daily lives if we except the visual confrontation with the newly acquired police weaponry and the presence of armed soldiers in the street — until a few days ago, I had to systematically cross a police checkpoint to go home, with a different level of scrutiny depending on the officers’ mood/zeal.
For some others however, the state of emergency corresponds to the last withdrawal of already challenged rights when it comes to encounters with the police. Manuel Valls’ government does not even try to disguise its abuse of power, made legitimate by the Parliament, when it arrests, searches and puts in house-arrest ecologist activists during the COP21 summit. Of course, the most concerned figures of the police state’s violence are however not the ecologists, but, rather, the French Muslim community (5 millions of people, i.e. 7.5% of the country’s population), predominantly originating from the former French colonial empire and that has been therefore historically the subject of the state violence for the last two hundreds years. Although the ‘socialist’ government is currently multiplying discourses against the stigmatization of this community — the second round of the regional elections are on Sunday and the Socialist Party needs the Muslim vote — this same government has barely differentiated itself from the previous decade of right wing governments (2002-2012) which had drastically accelerated institutional and structural islamophobia through the fetishist invocation of the so-called “Republican principles.” On the contrary, and despite the fact another state of emergency had been promulgated in 2005 during the banlieues revolt (see past article), these former governments never had “the chance” to exercises a quasi-absolute power on this community as it currently does through the state of emergency.Read more
On November 10th, I was invited by friend Meriem Chabani to give a small lecture in Paris in the context of the exhibition New South that she curated around six architecture students’ thesis projects engaging cities of the Global South in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Burkina Faso, Morocco and the Canaries. I started writing a digest of this presentation here the next day but the Nov. 13 attacks occurred and I am profoundly sadden to announce that, Amine Ibnolmobarak, the brilliant and kind author of the project for Mecca in this exhibition, was killed in the shootings. Despite the shock of this news and the difficulty to mourn in the maddening noise of the journalistic and political state of emergency, his friends gathered around his family, and remembered with emotion his life in the great hall of the Beaux Arts school last Friday.
This presentation constitutes a rather shallow examination of five cities’ reciprocal influence between their urban fabric and their insurrections and counter-insurrections operations. In order to make the presentation clearer, I produced a few new maps and thus propose to include my slides here, as well as a few notes to explain them.Read more
This article is a sequel of the one written on October 26 about the weaponized architecture of police stations in Paris’ Northern banlieues. Now that the state of emergency has been declared (see previous article), the power granted to the police is even stronger and the imaginary created by their antagonism crystallized into architecture seems to be even more relevant. As described in the part 1 of this research, architecture, through its usual codes (material, spatiality, aesthetics, etc.) attempts to disguise with more or less success the militarized function that these eight police stations clearly fulfill. A future study should show that police stations in Paris Western banlieues, where most of the wealthiest municipalities are located, drastically differ from this weaponized paradigm of the Northern banlieues, where live the most economic precarious populations partially constituted by a stigmatized Black and Arab youth.
SITUATION MAP ///
North is on the right side / The length of the map is 20 kilometers / Red squares are the cités (see past map/article) / Blue squares are the photographed police stationsRead more
Soldiers in the corridors of the subway / Photo by Léopold Lambert (Nov. 16, 2015)
After last January’s double attack (political assassination of journalists, and antisemitic carnage) in Paris, I had not written anything, in order not to add more noise to the astonishing brouhaha that followed them. The brouhaha, that had gradually lost some strength (but certainly not disappeared) is now back to full volume after last Friday’s (November 13) six deadly attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and injured more than 400 others. Perhaps, the present article will do what I then feared in January: adding useless noise that will only convince the convinced, but just like my series of articles in the summer 2014 when the Israeli bombs on Gaza were killing dozens of Palestinians every day, I simply feel compelled to write, if only for its cathartic function. To you who will read this text, please only know that my argument is full of doubts and that, on the contrary of the many self-declared prophets and experts that saturate our medias, I claim doubt as the only dignified position one can adopt in this situation.
After the attacks that both President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls experienced themselves from relatively close (Hollande was attending the football game between France and Germany at the Stade de France where three bombs were detonated, and Valls lives only 200 meters away from one of the attack sites), the French government decreed the State of Emergency, that suspends large public gatherings — although, fortunately, no gatherings at the sites of the attacks or on the Place de la République have been dismissed — and allows the deployment of additional police and military force in the city. On the contrary of the United States, France does not have a constitutional obstacle to have soldiers patrol in the city and, since the series of bombs exploding in Paris in 1995, Parisians are used to regularly see a few of them in the spaces of national train stations. Since January, the military presence was much more visible, in train stations and airports, but also in the vicinity of synagogues and Jewish schools (see the photograph below taken a month ago). In the last days, an important amount of heavily armed police officers and soldiers operates in the city (see photos at the end of this article), implement checkpoints, while others close at will entire neighborhoods (cf. Saint Denis in the Paris banlieue and Molenbeek in Brussels) to lead arrests and assaults in areas defined by the media as “cradle of terrorism.” People who know the beautiful cities of Saint Denis and Molenbeek can only sigh in front of this ineptness. Such terminology associating its largely Muslim inhabiting population to the deadly action of some individuals, can only lead to the numerous acts of islamophobia we are currently observing in France and elsewhere.Read more
The recent outcry that blamed the Western (social and press) media to bring a disproportionate attention to Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris (Nov. 13, 2015) compared to the two bombs that exploded in Beirut a few hours earlier, can only be denied through disingenuous responses. Such disproportion finds it source in what journalists call in a brutal manifestation of cynism “the amount of deads per kilometers,” i.e. as the distance grows between the deadly event, there ‘needs’ to be a bigger amount of people who die to be considered relevant by a given newspaper or TV news broadcast. This cynical affirmation is furthermore inaccurate as it forgets the Westerno-centric component to it, which makes the death of an Israeli soldier more likely to be reported than the one of a Palestinian civilian despite the same distance. However, only affirming that we should pay attention to what happened in Beirut, and doing so, only after the Paris attacks occurred, is not enough and can fall into the same perverse logic than the one it pretends to fight, since it seems that it is only in the context of the comparison than an event (in this case, the double bombing in Beirut) seems to acquire importance. It also creates a false opposition between two cities, attacked by the same armed group and by doing so also forgets the folds of complexity of the situation: for example, the fact that many people feel connected de facto to the two events (there are 36,000 Lebanese people living in France, many of which resides in the Paris region).
So, before addressing in the coming days the extremely grave and tragically predictable decisions that the French government is currently undertaking, let’s talk indeed of the way the situation in Beirut has been discursively described by the media. The double bombing conducted by Daech members and that occurred in the Burj al-Barajneh municipality (see map below), which killed 45 people and injured more than 200 others — the intervention of Adel Termos who tackled the second bomber certainly avoided that these figures would reach even more dramatic level — was described by many press organizations as occurring in a “Hezbollah stronghold,” or “Hezbollah bastion.” What follows therefore consists in examining how such a terminology is extremely problematic and heavily consequential in what it implies, as well as describing the minimum degree of complexity that any serious media should consider when describing the current situation in Lebanon in general and Beirut in particular.Read more