Politics & Political Theory

Peripheral humanitarianism: Ephemerality, experimentation, and effects of refugee provisioning in Paris

This article examines the place-based assemblages of humanitarian care, which emerge at neighbourhood scales in response to a wider politics of exclusion. We ground our discussion in the variegated humanitarian efforts and solidarities that took place in a working-class neighbourhood on the periphery of Paris, which brought into sharp relief the combination of precarity and provisioning in the wake of the 2015 ‘refugee crisis’. Drawing on ethnographic encounters, we recount the combination of reactive, emergency humanitarian logics (between 2016 and 2017) and experimental humanitarian strategies contesting wider exclusionary and deterrence-based asylum practices (2018 to the present). We show how modes of ephemeral and experimental humanitarianism operated across local spatiotemporal nodes – inside a welcome centre (the ‘Bubble’), and on the surrounding streets. We argue that attention to the effects of the ephemeral and experimental solidarities and encounters that formed outside the formal infrastructure of humanitarian care in Paris were in part palliative, but profound in their re-imagining of a progressive politics of solidarity amidst protracted and overlapping precarities. We propose peripheral humanitarianism to describe these effects, a spatially and temporally contingent humanitarian assemblage engaging with both traditional and DIY humanitarian responses that challenges structural exclusions of racialized ‘others’.

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Volume 40 Issue 5

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