Not that long ago, not that far away: concentration camps and areas of segregation in and around the Mediterranean (late 19th -21st century)

Francesco CORREALE's picture
Call for Papers
June 15, 2020 to June 17, 2020
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Contemporary History, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Social Sciences

Not that long ago, not that far away: concentration camps and areas of segregation in and around the Mediterranean (late 19th -21st century)



Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Val de Loire,

15-17 June 2020





Since the 1990s, migratory flows to Europe have led to widespread recourse to internment, justified by the need to control the populations who reach the European shores. Although every country, having a peculiar detention management history, tends to rely on its own domestic laws, shares similar logics of governance: concentrating in spaces of detention a human mass that needs to be identified, regulated and, ultimately, admitted or expelled from the European territory. This logic finds its political legitimacy in the principles enumerated by the European Commission itself on the occasion of the adoption of the Schengen agreements in 1985 regarding the control of the external borders of the "Schengen Area" ( ).

The existence of such detention spaces – so to speak, real internment camps where migrants are detained for months in a state of deprivation of liberty and arbitrary violation of rights - is reminiscent of other past forms of detention. Present detention spaces clearly recall a concentration camp universe (Rousset, 1945) which involves, among its predecessors, the different typologies of internment camps created in the colonies (Agamben, 1996, Kramer, 2018).

Moreover, in countries that implement anti-camp policies, camps are not officially established, but they are still bounded spaces either isolated from populated areas or difficultly separable from their surroundings. In this sense, confinement occurs in spaces that are conceived to be exceptional in the framework of a city or a village, even though they are not physically configured as official camps (Carpi, 2017).


These considerations are the starting point for the structuring of a project financed by the MSH Val de Loire de Tours to weave a valuable scientific network. This conference is therefore part of this project, which aims to be interdisciplinary and international bringing together researchers working on historical and contemporary perspectives. Our primary aim is to propose a comparative analysis of the forms of internment established by Southern European colonies (Eg. France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal) within today’s national boundaries as well as within the boundaries of their ancient empires. The project is also aimed at unfolding the contemporary morphologies of migrants and refugees’ imprisonment.


During the conference we will discuss the combination of control mechanisms with the identification of categories considered "dangerous" that the authorities wish to limit in their action creates a system of power and control of states over populations. This system has become paradigmatic with the consolidation of modern colonial empires over the 19th century (Forth, 2017). The discussion will be triggered by the notion of "coloniality", whereby the term refers not only to a particular form of political and economic domination exercised over "other" societies, but also to a project of intellectual and symbolic hegemony that seeks to dehumanize its members in order to justify instruments and processes of subjugation.


Paper submissions


Proposals should cover one or more of the following themes:


(a) Histories and memoirs of colonial imprisonment regimes

This section involves a study of the morphology of segregation systems as the ultimate expression of colonial violence. It will also analyse the social impact of these systems on territories and populations, as well as their legacies on local and regional memory organizations. When relevant, on the one hand, it will highlight the age and gender aspects of confinement, including the elaboration of memories and, on the other, it will try to define an "economy of confinement" from both a micro-historical and a global perspective.


(b) The colonial legacy in the creation? of internment migrant centres


Contemporary migrant detention practices throughout the Mediterranean respond to the presumed need to control the migration flows towards Europe. Such practices tend to turn into long-lasting segregation areas whose impact on local contexts often goes unheeded. Also, what is the response of the people who reside right outside of these areas without experiencing confinement? What sort of changes do these spaces produce in their surroundings at a social and economic level?  It therefore emerges as indispensable to enquire the possible legacies of the colonial segregation system in the way such punitive and repressive instruments of control are configured. The objective is thus to unfold the repressive logics subtending these internment mechanisms and to analyse the social and political morphologies of migrants detention centres in the Maghreb countries as well as in most European countries of the Mediterranean, often relying on the EU financial support.


(c) Jurisdiction of past and contemporary internment spaces


An analysis of the legal apparatus that legitimized the concentration systems during the colonial era will also shed light on the importance of its legacy on contemporary internment practices. Thus, first, it will be necessary to verify whether the confinement arrangements put in place by the colonial authorities after the Great War tailored their regulations to the treatment of civilian and military prisoners as established in the 1949 Geneva Convention. Second, an assessment of how the gender aspects play out in the development of such legal instruments and the derived internment practices will be paramount. Finally, papers will seek to trace a genealogy of the existing legislation governing the Frontex system and its links with the European Asylum Support Office and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.


(d) Knowledge transfer and the globalization of internment


The politics of internment varies through space and time up to the present day. It however remains important to capture what can be defined as the "circulation of transnational internment techniques": is it possible to identify continuity, and therefore links between internment strategies implemented in different countries? Are there individuals and public or private institutions able to facilitate exchanges between different countries and at different times, such as the knowledge transfer happening with the implementation of internment policies? Are there shared practices that characterize the establishment of internment policies? What are the channels of transmission of this knowledge and how do they change over time? 


(e) Internment theory


The practice of internment has been complying with logics that subtend all societies and are not limited to the consensus for the creation of imprisonment forms for "offenders". The reasons behind the creation of the first concentration camps at the end of the 19th century primarily fell in the domain of military strategies (Hyslop, 2011). Furthermore, their creation also takes the social and political hierarchy in which the relationship between dominators and dominated is reflected to extreme consequences. In colonized countries, this archetype is obvious; whereas, in colonial countries, during and after decolonization, it is often merged with the security paradigm which, in turn, goes hand in hand with alleged modernization, contributing to state-crafting. This section therefore aims to highlight: 1) what can actually be defined as a "philosophy" of internment, its origins and its evolution, defining the role it plays not only with regard to confinement spaces, but also outside of them – that is as a lever for the social and political repressive provisions implemented by governments; 2) what can be called the "ontology" of internees: so to speak, the ways in which the social categories targeted by internment strategies (Eg. rebels, insurgents, homosexuals, prostitutes, illegal migrants, terrorists, etc.) are classified, and their spatial and temporal change.



Guidelines for submission of proposals


Proposals, in French, Spanish or English - the official languages of the conference - must be approximately 4,000 characters. They need to be sent to along with a 2-page CV by March 15 2020. The selected papers will be announced by March 30 2020.


Scientific Committee


Estella Carpi, University College London (UCL), Londres

Francesco Correale, CNRS, UMR 7324 CITERES, Tours

Eduardo González Calleja, Université Carlos III, Madrid

Mercedes Gema Jimenez Alvarez, Univ. Complutense Madrid/Centre ACRES, Tanger

Miguel Hernando de Larramendi, Université de Castilla-La Mancha, Tolède

Alberto López Bargados, Univ. Barcelone

Anna Madoeuf, Univ. Tours, UMR 7324 CITERES, Tours

Antonio M. Morone, Italie, Univ. Pavie

Anna Perraudin, CNRS, UMR 7324 CITERES, Tours

Mathilde Pette, Université de Perpignan, ART-Dev, IC Migrations

Luca Queirolo Palmas, Italie, Univ. Gênes

María Ángeles Ramírez Fernández, Univ. Autonome de Madrid

Fabien Sacriste, Univ. Toulouse, FRAMESPA, Toulouse

Andreas Stucky, Univ. Berne, Berne

Sylvie Thénault, CNRS, UMR 8058 CHS, Paris



Francesco Correale:




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Contact Info: 

Francesco Correale

Équipe EMAM
33-35 allée Ferdinand de Lesseps
37200 TOURS
Tlf: (+33)(0)247361534