The project "Remembering Spaces of Internment" (RESI) brings together a historian, a political scientist and an architect-artist around research on spaces of confinement and their administrating organizations.
ReSI's main objective is to contribute to current theorization of these places of internment and their administration. It proposes a synthesis of the various studies of the last decades centered on places of internment as a structural phenomenon of the XXth century, and to bring together academics who work on this topic. RESI members are particularly interested in a specific dimension of internment sites—their erasure and delayed reactivation through remembering. In addition RESI is interested in architectural factors of internment sites at different times and in different countries.
RESI’s transdisciplinary approach builds upon the combined research of the project's co-founders—Nicolas Fischer (political science), Aurélie Audeval (history) and Beth Weinstein (art and architecture).
RESI is a general program that will host a series of more specialized projects over the next few years, focusing on case studies or cross-cutting themes. In particular, it will provide the framework for a series of research events organized between 2023 and 2024 (symposia and conferences in Paris, France and Tucson, USA). It seeks to foster the creation of a broader research network focused on the study of internment.
If you work on these topics and would like to join us, please contact us!
The use of the term "remembering" is intended to mark the implication taken by this project in the construction of the memory of these spaces. If we aim to study memorial processes and their imbrications with the history of the studied places, we do not extract ourselves from it. It is a question here of taking into account and affirming our participation in the construction of a scientific memory of these places of internment. While not wishing to adopt a precarious position, ReSI proposes to initiate avenues for what could be a scientific memory.
Internment takes place, meaning it seizes, occupies, and fills specific spaces during a determined period of time. These spaces are most often innocuous, familiar, existing structures repurposed as locations of house arrest, detention, internment. At times they are purpose built yet, like many military structures, highly generic, allowing them to house shifting activities over time. The activities that transpired in these places leave traces in the physical, material reality of sites and structures, turning the built (or demolished) into forms of evidence. The daily practices and unique events that transpired in sites of internment also register in diverse media—photographs, new reports, personal journals, official memos—often as unimportant and mundane events; yet these may prove to be essential to piecing together data to produce proof connecting internment sites and stories. ReSI is dedicated to research concerning sites and spaces of internment across geography and time, and values spatial, architectural and trans-media methods, in addition to a broad range of social science methods that take space as their object of study.
The social sciences today analyze administrative internment as an institution designed to limit and control the mobility of individuals and, more frequently, of populations whose very presence on a territory is considered problematic for social, political or sanitary reasons —refugees, unwanted foreigners or colonial indigenes, hoboes or prostitutes. Contrary to prisons, internment facilities—often designated as "camps"—are not penal institutions and their main objective is not to punish or rehabilitate, but to regroup unwanted populations and set them apart permanently or prepare them for deportation.
This is why internment places are provisional ones—they are created and run informally by police authorities as emergency, make-do facilities, they only provide basic accommodation, and are meant to be destroyed and leave as few traces as the displaced populations they received. By analyzing such traces, ReSI will also better understand the political logic of the invisibilization of populations.