In his essay "What Is a Camp?", Giorgio Agamben attempts to locate a political-juridical structure of the camp form that allowed and facilitated the atrocities and crimes against humanity committed in their spaces. But rather than a sad footnote consigned to the archives of history, he suggests, the camp endures as a diagram of the biopolitical condition located throughout the contemporary global context of what we have referred to elsewhere as Empire.
To be sure, in excavating those sites of horror such as Dachau or Auschwitz, Agamben does not mean to suggest that each of us today lives the embodied politics and naked existence of those who have ever been embroiled in the concentration camp or refugee camp. Rather, in developing earlier work by Hannah Arendt he illustrates how the camp-as-form operates "as the hidden matrix of the politics in which we still live, and we must learn to recognize it in all of its metamorphoses" (Means Without End: Notes on Politics, p. 44).
Tattoo on my ankle of a basketball with my university jersey number inside.
Most assuredly, the metamorphoses of which Agamben describes can and should be located on a spectrum of trauma, pain, embodiment and what he refers to as the sheer reduction to zoe or naked life. In drawing the matrixial relations between the concentration camp proper and the camp-as-form that structures other biopolitical contexts — as I will suggest, for example, with postmodern sport and the contemporary stadium — I do not mean to draw an equivalence between the Holocaust victim and the high performance athlete. Rather, I wish to identify in a non-trivial sense those structuring principles found in the most extreme version of the camp and how they, in their metamorphosis to the ludic arena, may also be found to structure and govern the biopolitics of those most purportedly noble pursuits we call sport.
(from chapter one in "body+politics: towards a sporting multitude," a work-in-progress doctoral dissertation for the european graduate school of media and communications)