Azraq refugee camp, built in 2014 and host to forty thousand refugees, is one of two official humanitarian refugee camps for Syrian refugees in Jordan. Time and Power in Azraq Refugee Camp: A Nine-To-Five Emergency (American University of Cairo Press, 2023) by Dr. Melissa Gatter investigates the relationship between time and power in Azraq, asking how a politics of time shapes, limits, or enables everyday life for the displaced and for aid workers.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork, carried out during 2017–2018, the book challenges the perceptions of Azraq as the ‘ideal’ refugee camp. Dr. Gatter argues that the camp operates as a ‘nine-to-five emergency’ where mundane bureaucratic procedures serve to sustain a power system in which refugees are socialized to endure a cynical wait—both for everyday services and for their return—without expectations for a better outcome.
Time and Power in Azraq Refugee Camp also explores how refugees navigate this system, both in the day-to-day and over years, by evaluating various layers of waiting as they affect refugee perceptions of time in the camp—not only in the present, but the past, near future, and far future. Far from an ‘ideal’ camp, Azraq and its politics of time constitute a cruel reality in which a power system meant to aid refugees is one that suppresses, foreclosing futures that it is supposed to preserve.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.