These samples are reprinted with permission from:
Lubura, Borjana. "Altermobilites: Everyday Life on the Move in the Western Balkans." PhD Thesis, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2022
The people on the move discovered the park in the summer of 2015 when thousands of migrants arrived in Beograd by organized buses. During those initial days of migrations through Beograd, the park was flooded with people all over. At that time, the park, especially its grassy area, was covered with tents and many people slept in them at night and hung around during the day. On September 15, 2015, a non-governmental organization, that was a grassroot initiative, placed a little wooden kiosk in the park where they were giving away information (that is how organization got the name Info Park from being in the park) and food to the people on the move as they were arriving daily. This organization was the first contact with newcomers, and they (Info Park) served as the link between the people on the move and the state where they conveyed the message on how many people were in the park and what were the peoples’ needs at any given moment. Sometimes in October of the same year, the government started forbidding people from grouping in the park but continued to allow them to stay until the following summer. However, in the summer of 2016 the governmental decision to not allow people in the park became stricter. The people moved their tents off the park grounds and into the adjacent parking lot. Soon after, the people discovered the abandoned barracks behind the main bus station nearby, and started moving to that location where they created one of their first self-made squats that became a famous squat called Barake. Every day the people tried to improve their life in Barake and part of the process was coming to the Afghan Park to exchange information, find a smuggler, connect with other people on the move, local humanitarian and non-governmental organization as well as the international organizations that were working on migrations and helping the people on the move, etc. The Info Park stopped with the work in the wooden kiosk on October 24, 2016, and moved to a multifunctional space in a building across from the park, and continued to operate as one of the people on the move’s first-stop hub with the information desk, education and safe space for girls and women, offered an internet space, family drop zone and other services (An Interview - Info Park humanitarian organization, Summer 2017).]
The people on the move discovered the park in the summer of 2015, after thousands of migrants began arriving in Beograd by bus. In those first days, the park was flooded with people—the grassy areas were covered with tents. People slept in the park at night and hung around during the day. On September 15, 2015, a non-governmental grassroots initiative placed a little wooden kiosk in the park to give out information and food to the people on the move who were arriving daily. Info Park, as it later came to be known, was the newcomers’ first point of contact; it served as a link between the people on the move and the state. The organization conveyed data about how many people were in the park and what their needs were at any given moment. However, just one month later (in October), the government began to forbid people from gathering in the park (but people were allowed to stay until the following summer). In the summer of 2016, the government began enforcing stricter park rules. People on the move first relocated their tents into the adjacent parking lot. Soon thereafter, they discovered abandoned barracks behind the main bus station; this would eventually become Barake, one of the first self-made squats.
Every day, people tried to improve their life in Barake. This involved coming to Afghan Park to exchange information, find a smuggler, and connect with other people on the move, local humanitarians and non-governmental organizations, and international organizations. Info Park moved from their wooden kiosk to a multifunctional space in a building across from the park in October 2016. They continued to serve as the people’s information desk, while also providing education, a safe space for girls and women, an internet space, a family drop zone, and other services (interview with Branislava Đonin - Info Park humanitarian organization, Summer 2017). Even if migrants did not know anything else about Srbija or Beograd, they knew to find Afghan Park. Mohammed, an Afghan man, told me that he learned about Afghan Park from his cousin, who was already in the country and came to the park regularly.
Camps literature overview:
Throughout history the prevention of motion has been a fundamental way of controlling human bodies through open (borders) and enclosed lines (prisons, camps) which requires certain forces that affect human bodies (Netz, 2004). Not only humans were subject to the control, but other species too are used to inflicting pain and suffering upon them (Netz, 2004). In the past century, a myriad of camps emerged, seeing from the topographical perspective as the enclosed spaces of refugee camps, detentions camps, youth camps, asylum seeking camps and the list goes on, where all these spaces represent the enclosed areas with the walls (Netz, 2004). The study of these enclosed spaces came to the spotlight in the past few decades, especially after cold war and 9/11 (Hyndman and Gilles, 2017).
More recent calls to rethink camps from a topological level came to the surface because this approach sees “space as a matter of relationality, redistribution, layering, transformation, or virtuality” (Debrix, 2015 p. 444). This way of seeing camps departs from seeing it as a space through the prism of topography with lines and clear demarcation of a certain. For topology, the location of a certain landscape, or territories, is not important per se. What matters to topology is how certain landscapes are made and remade through individual or social actions (Jones, 2009). The topology does not see a camp space as indefinite territory bounded by the fixed edges, it rather focuses on interconnected and interdependent people, objects, and circumstances that contribute to the reshaping of a camps to become “always potential-that is, both capable of becoming and not becoming” (Belcher et al, 2008 pg. 502). Also, distance always remains valuable, especially distance between affluent and impoverished areas so these camps where the sovereign state power is practiced must stay away from the affluent societies (Netz, 2004). This politics where the global North cannot know about the struggles of global South is resulting in the lack of “mutually recognition and engagement” (Hyndman and Gilles, 2017 p.xiv). Western states, European, make their way of keeping people away from the public eyes as the harsh reality of people and people will go away that way (Hyndman and Gilles, 2017).
Camps in theory
Throughout history, the selective prevention of motion (e.g., (open) borders and enclosed lines like prisons, camps) has been fundamental in controlling human bodies (Netz, 2004). Humans (and other species) have been subjected to control, pain, and suffering (Netz, 2004). Over the past century, myriad camps have emerged; topographically, they are seen as enclosed or walled spaces (e.g., refugee camps, detention camps, youth camps, asylum-seeking camps, etc.) (Netz, 2004). Research on these enclosed spaces has become more prevalent in the last few decades, especially in the post-Cold War and 9/11 era (Hyndman and Gilles, 2017).
The topological approach to camps sees “space as a matter of relationality, redistribution, layering, transformation, or virtuality” (Debrix, 2015, p. 444). This departs from the prism of topography, with its clear lines and demarcations. Topology does not investigate a landscape’s exact location per se; rather, it foregrounds how certain landscapes are made and remade through individual or social actions (Jones, 2009). From a topological perspective, camps are not a definite territory bounded by fixed edges—they are interconnected and interdependent, shaped by people, objects, and circumstances that make them “always potential-that is, both capable of becoming and not becoming” (Belcher et al., 2008, p. 502).
The concept of distance, however, remains valuable in this approach. Camps represent the distance between affluent and impoverished areas. They cannot be constructed where sovereign state power is practiced and must stay away from affluent societies (Netz, 2004). Distance also centers the lack of “mutual recognition and engagement” between the global North and struggles in the global South (Hyndman and Gilles, 2017, p. xiv). Western European states keep people on the move out of the public eye (as if this will solve the harsh realities being obscured (Hyndman and Gilles, 2017)).