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By Florence Bernault

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

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In Uganda, the Central African Republic, and Guinea, to cite but a few cases, post-colonial dictators have built sites of detention and torture that speak to no other logic than that of megalomaniacal and murderaus power. Spectacular and mediatized descriptions of Sekou Toure's Camp Boiro in Conakry (Guinea), Bokassa's prison at Ngaragba (CentraJ African Republic), and Idi Amin Dada's jails in Kampala (Uganda) have repeatedly evoked the sinister images of Nazi camps or Soviet gulags to westem audiences.

In these isolated, disciplinary communities, young people extirpated from the vices of the modern city were supposed to become model farrners, and replenish the declining peasantry. 162 Hundreds of administrative repons, briefings, and memoranda invoked the modemizing virtues and civilizing spirit of such spatial enterprises. ColoniaJ tenitories themselves were oftentimes ponrayed as wild archipelagos progressively encircled and penetrated by roads, trails, administrative posts, schools, medical dispensaries, and mission stations.

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. European missionaries and African catechists served as zealous intermedianes in this rhetorical diffusion: in I 936, for example, a ten-year-old plaintiff accused a catechist in the village of Zouma (Gabon), of having accused her of singing badiy during the night prayers~ ordering her "to stay in prison" in his own house, and raping her.

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