'Digging aid': The camp as an option in east and the horn of Africa

Bram J. Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The 22-year-old Kenyan refugee camp of Kakuma has in many ways developed into an accidental city, and challenges the imagery of refugee camps as seclusion sites and warehouses of wasted lives. Conceptually, the camp is not only a physical structure, but also indicates a relation between humanitarian actors and beneficiaries of aid. In the camp, this relation is intimate, but the relation between refugees and aid actors does not stop at the camp's boundaries. Increasingly, humanitarian and other actors are recognizing that the refugee camps in Kenya are becoming a 'normal' part of the regional socio-economic landscape. People strategize and/or find themselves, as individuals or as part of social networks, in different proximities to humanitarian action. This is a fluid process. People are sometimes in the camp, sometimes in the city and sometimes in South Sudan, Uganda or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they relate in different ways to aid. This article explores the ways in which people seek and maintain access to the camp and how the Kenyan camps become a part of livelihood options available in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-165
JournalJournal of refugee studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Anthropology
  • Kenya
  • Protracted refugee camps
  • Refugee camp economies


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