Imaging the Jungles of Calais: Media Visuality and the Refugee Camp
Calais became a space of renewed media interest in the summer of 2015, with an increased visuality into the state of refugees’ living conditions and their lives. We examine the images of the camps dubbed ‘the Jungle’ over time, when media started reporting on the camp which was demolished in 2009 and the more recent resurrections termed as ‘Jungle II’ or the ‘new Jungle’, thereafter. Earlier media coverage of the Jungle accompanied less visual depictions of their living conditions or daily existence beyond the threat they posed to their immediate environment. However, compared to 2009 there has been a surge in the number of images of the refugees, particularly a steep rise in 2014 and 2015. The refugee as an object of suffering and trauma is the subject of an abject gaze where the corporeal body is both a non-entity and invisible. Both death and the accident are ascribed to it, as inhabitants in this ‘state of exception’. We examine these aesthetics of trauma and violence in the liminal space of Calais. The increased visuality and curiosity in the camps since 2015 reinscribed the refugee as a political by-product of border politics, accentuating the refugee camp as a violent and dissonant space in civilised Europe. Despite the intimacy of the imagery, the increased visuality showcased the madness and futility produced through a border politics of legitimacy and ‘bare life’.