AUP graduation ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

George and Irina Schaeffer Center

Refugees and the politics of participation in the Calais Jungle and beyond

University Room: David T. McGovern Grand Salon (C-104)
Monday, September 17, 2018 - 18:30

In 2016 a group of academics and students from the University of East London (UEL) taught a university course, Life Stories, in the Calais Jungle. At that time, political formations took place in the Jungle refugee camp as the camp reached its peak population. Hall et al (Forthcoming) consider four ways in which the politics in the camp emerged: (1) the use of ‘rights’ language in constituting the camp residents as political citizens (2) coalitions between residents and volunteers as a political practice (3) the politics of commons and  deliberative processes; and (4) associative spaces linked to political practices within the camp. While the course was framed outside of research and political agendas and placed within a right to education framework, it could not escape these political processes. National politics, everyday bordering, politics of (mis)representation and the (ab)use of refugee stories were constantly present in the running of the Life Stories course, and the creation of its by-products, such as ‘Voices from the Jungle’, a book co-authored by 22 students and residents of the Calais Jungle.

In 2016 the camp was demolished and some of the politics that emerged within it dissolved. These practices have some potential to extend the concept of citizenship in the European context and problematize assumptions of what makes up European politics. A course UEL currently runs for refugees wishing to apply for UK universities reveals some of these contentions: politics of bordering, participation, integration and representation cannot be separated from human rights discourses and practices in these educational initiatives.

Dr Aura Lounasmaa will be joined by some authors of the book, Voices from the Jungle, and refugee activists from France.


Dr Aura Lounasmaa is a lecturer in the Social Sciences, teaching on the foundations program and in Psychosocial Studies at the University of East London. She coordinates the Erasmus+ funded Open Learning Initiative course for refugees and asylum seekers. She was also a member of teaching staff on award-winning Life Stories in the Jungle short course in the Calais refugee camp. Aura's PhD research is on Moroccan women's NGO activism. In it she examined the activism and discursive strategies of rights-based and faith-based women's organizations in Morocco. Her current research interests include ethics and methodologies of refugee activism and education.


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