Tent
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63 Tent Andreas Folkers and Nadine Marquardt The tent is a nomadic thing. When folded, it is versatile and ready to move at any time; in its unfolded form, the tent gathers people and materials and creates a transient dwelling. As such, the tent has served both nomadic peoples and important parts of sedentary societies throughout history. But recently the tent has become truly international as a contested political technology and as a thing that shapes the global. In military interventions and in emergency responses by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), tents serve a worldwide humanitarian regime as a standardized item of equipment to provide shelter for the exposed lives of refugees, soldiers, or people affected by natural disasters . The tent is a material element and paradigmatic spatial form of the contemporary ambulant biopolitics of crisis and emergency. At the same time, in the recent waves of social struggle from Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, from Rothschild Boulevard to Puerta del Sol, the tent also acts as a mobile resistance technology that challenges inadequate crisis management. The tent is the thing that connects different social movements and transgresses diverse aims and locational specificities; it is both a shared symbol and a shared strategic tool. In this contribution, we propose to follow the tent as a way of understanding how the global is made, to highlight the tent’s relation to world politics, its position in global assemblages of crisis management, and its role in creating networks of resistance. We propose to follow the tent rather than define it, because we are more interested in its trajectory than in its properties. This perspective is inspired by Arjun Appadurai’s notion of following things: “we have to follow the things themselves, for their meanings are inscribed in their forms, their uses, their trajectories [implying] in part a corrective to the tendency to excessively sociologize transactions in things.”1 Rather than simply placing the tent in the framework of the international, be it global humanitarian interventions or new forms of social struggle, we propose to look at the spaces that are made up by the tent. Drawing on the assumption that things enable and articulate forms of sociality, we discuss the vital qualities realized 64 Andreas Folkers and Nadine Marquardt in tent design and follow the tent to those locations where it has recently organized different kinds of social experiment. In the first section, we will meditate on the ontology and topology of the tent. We argue that the tent-­ thing has the capacity to make spaces. This capacity cannot be reduced to the uses we make of the tent, but stems from the material elegance of tensile structures that spur unique tent designs and enable the tent’s current internationalization. In the second section, we take a look at the social and architectural history of the tent. This genealogy of the tent will serve as a backdrop to elucidate the significance of contemporary uses of the tent as an element in spatial technologies of exception. In the third section, we follow the tent as an international thing used to manage exceptions—­ ranging from events of spectacle to natural, humanitarian, or economic catastrophes —­ on a global scale. In recent years, protesters around the world have assembled their resistance to the governing of and through crises in and around tents. We will turn to these springs of protest in 2011 that also globalized the tent as an item of resistance equipment. Ontology and Topology of the Tent What is a tent, and what is the thingness of it? The tent is first and foremost an ordinary thing. The social needs delegated to tent design are simple ones. Most of the time, a tent gathers people and materials not because it introduces something unfamiliar and critical that creates a public problem but simply by opening up a location for dwelling, a space for profane needs and everyday practices . The tent is so ordinary that it has ceased to be noticed; it is not a “matter of concern” but a matter of habit.2 The tent needs a tent dweller who acquires specific skills in making a home in and with the tent. There is a tent-­ habitus as much as the tent itself is a habitat. But this habitus/habitat is not just the property of an individual. Perhaps you don’t want to assemble a tent on your own or sleep in it alone. When the tent is assembled collaboratively and when a campsite is constructed...


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