Humanitarian Space

Humanitarian space could be defined as an element of modern political technology, or biopolitical technology in the Foucaultian sense (1978), whose primary goal is, on the one hand, the supervision and care for bodies and their biological processes, and on the other, the supervision of security and the establishment of order, and, in the context of migration, the confinement and segregation of refugee and migrant groups. In that space, sympathy and care are mixed with authority and dosed cruelty, which sometimes manifests itself as violence, but more often as indifference, indolence, distance. This kind of humanitarian space could be seen in the formalized, internationally coordinated Balkan refugee corridor used by states to more fully exercise control over the movement of people during the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016, when, among other things, as a result of Croatia’s agreement with Slovenia and Serbia, a special railway line was introduced, connecting Šid with Dobova via the camp in Slavonski Brod. The humanitarian space of the corridor was a space with special status, beyond the usual social and legal frameworks, and was created by the application of humanitarian power. The space was marked by several important features: 1. It spanned the borders and territories of sovereign states; 2. Special systems of rules, management, supervision and enhanced control that are not common in the so-called normal social space were in force within the space; 3. It was defined as a temporary one-way flow in which rights were partially and temporarily suspended (cf. humanitarian exception), more precisely, the legal status of most people was unclear; 4. It was dominated by care for bodies (health, nutrition, physical suffering and pain) and the life of groups and individuals; 5. It was established for the purpose of humanitarian care, but also for supervision and the establishment of order (cf. Petrović 2018).



Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality. Volume I. An Introduction. New York: Pantheon Books. Translated by Robert Hurley.

Petrović, Duško. 2018. "Humanitarian Exceptionalism. Normalization of Suspension of Law in Camp and Corridor". In Formation and Disintegration of the Balkan Refugee Corridor. Camps, Routes and Borders in Croatian Context. Emina Bužinkić and Marijana Hameršak, eds. Zagreb, Munchen: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Centre for Peace Studies, Faculty of Political Science University of Zagreb – Centre for Ethnicity, Citizenship and Migration, e.V., 43-63. 

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