Detention in Camps in Asia: An Overview

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Detention camps are administrative institutions created by states to contain and segregate people whom they consider dangerous because of their actions, their potential actions or their identity. Camps have held both prisoners of war and civilian internees. It is often claimed that camps benefit detainees by protecting them from hostile elements in broader society and by training them for eventual integration. In practice detention disempowers detainees because it subjects them to unaccountable discipline, to a loss of hope and often to physical conditions that are spartan at best. The term ‘camp’ was once a synonym for temporary accommodation outside urban areas. During the nineteenth century, state authorities began to use camps as places for the mass detention of people whose liberty they had reason to fear, both their own civilians and enemy soldiers captured in war. The international historiography of detention camps has focussed on the extermination camps of Nazi Germany and the counter-insurgency camps of Euro-American colonial powers. Although detention camps in Asia have been structurally similar to those in other parts of the world, the prime justification offered by state authorities in Asia for inflicting conditions resembling judicial punishment on formally innocent people has been the need to protect detainees and the rest of society. Detainees often live in terrible conditions, but the core purpose of the camps is social segregation. Agamben and Foucault see camps as a mirror reflecting broader repressive trends in society. The ‘world-system’ theory of Wallerstein, by contrast, suggests that they can be seen as oppressive institutions that enable freedom in other parts of society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDetention Camps in Asia: The Conditions of Confinement in Modern Asian History
    Editors Robert Cribb, Christina Twomey and Sandra Wilson
    Place of PublicationThe Netherlands
    PublisherKoninklijke Brill
    ISBN (Print)978-90-04-47172-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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