Which Way 18b - Crucibles of Resistive Solidarity


‘Crucibles of Resistive Solidarity’

An illustration by Mahmoud Salameh of the moon viewed from behind a chain-linked fence and razor wire. The moon, which for some has become a symbol of connections through, across and over fences, shines brightly.

[imagecaption] ‘Same Moon’, 2017. Artist: Mahmoud Salameh. [/imagecaption]


In establishing offshore detention sites as places of unrelenting isolation, where inmates were held incommunicado, in alien and mostly hostile surrounds, the Australian government also unwittingly established the conditions for these sites to function as crucibles of resistive solidarity. Alice Krupa, a former social worker at the camp, notes that at Manus camp, ‘There was a collective experience of separation and displacement which united the men…The refugees were farmers, accountants, journalists, artists, programmers, veterans and students. They spoke multiple languages, watched the news closely, debated politics, had heated cricket and soccer tournaments, sung, composed, drew, crafted and painted with whatever materials they could access…One of the refugees called Manus his “university”’ (Krupa 2017).

The refugees form a focused and highly mobilized community able to harness its collective energies in a highly organized manner. Held incommunicado they drew on their internal strengths, using them to build networks with activists, artists and academics outside, through groups such as Writing Through Fences and Behind the Wire. The space of appearance claimed by the inmates of Manus prison suggests the forms of agency and resistance that may yet be mobilized even within the unrelenting structures of the camp and the black site.


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