By Florence Bernault

Over the final 30 years, a considerable literature at the historical past of yankee and eu prisons has built. This assortment is one of the first in English to build a historical past of prisons in Africa. themes comprise precolonial punishments, dwelling stipulations in prisons and mining camps, ethnic mapping, modern refugee camps, and the political use of felony from the period of the slave exchange to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

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Sample text

However, the averarehing meaning of punishnlent changed radically. Forced Iabor as "compensation" no Ionger contributed to the resolution of local conflicts, but only signaled the foreign, arbitrary power of the whites. Racial inequality, physical punishment performed by colonizers . and the whites' impunity probably weakened the normative force of the principle of standardized, fair imprisonment. But evidence exists that suggests how the colonial prison contaminated local taxonomy and the popular imagination.

Should prison administrators, discipline the natives as a controlled, subaltem Iabor force? Or should colonial prisons participate in the education and moral upbringing of Africans? All evidence demonstrates that coloniaJ regimes focused on the second option in Africa, until at least the Second World War. The rehabilitation of prisoners, but also the repression of civil crimes, remained marginal; colonial prisons served primarily as a tool for economic oppression. The Iack of resources explains to some extent the limitations of penal objectives.

These transient, localized tactics of incarceration strengthen local networks of power. Their ubiquity speaks to the existence of many zones where the state does not penetrate, and where unregulated juridical and social innovation proliferates. On a different scale, the extraordinary proliferation of refugee camps testifies to the state 's loss of control over national territories. Yet, the case of the Sahrawi and Tuareg camps in Algeria, Mali, and Libya (Boilley), 151 suggest how sites of massive fixation and physical constraint forged out of contemporary disasters can foster considerable social renewal.

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