17 January, 2015

Enemy Aliens | Lapham’s Quarterly

Enemy Aliens | Lapham’s Quarterly: The attempt to standardize and humanize internment conditions had also rehabilitated the idea of concentration camps and eroded memories of the brutality of the colonial camps. Indeed, once the public had adjusted to the idea of imprisoning innocent foreigners preemptively, governments learned how to harness anxiety of a foreign danger—with the underlying fear of crime, degeneracy, and disease—and assign it to other target groups, often domestic enemies. The identification of a pariah class, the registration and rules limiting conduct, followed by mass arrests and civilian detentions; the roll calls and prisoner numbers, the barracks, the watchtowers, the armed guards…civilians everywhere had experienced it all before as a seemingly necessary tragedy in the service of a national cause. Camps had become part of a formal process of dehumanization.