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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.

In: Detention Camps in Asia
In: The State and Illegality in Indonesia
In: Roots of Violence in Indonesia
In: Paper Landscapes
In: Paper Landscapes
The Conditions of Confinement in Modern Asian History
Volume Editors: , , and
Why have Asian states – colonial and independent – imprisoned people on a massive scale in detention camps? How have detainees experienced the long months and years of captivity? And what does the creation of camps and the segregation of people in them mean for society as a whole? This ambitious book surveys the systems of detention camps set up in Asia from the beginning of the 20th century in The Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Malaya, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, Timor, Korea and China.
Scholarly reference works on the histories and cultures of Southeast Asia.

This series is indexed in Scopus.

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