Two tropes circulating in discussions of the types of architecture that were purpose-built for confinement are the carceral archipelago and the panopticon prison, both used in scholarship on disciplinary institutions in ways useful for our focus. They are not as evident in discussions of Pacific War incarceration environments. For this volume, a wide arc of the Pacific geography interpreted through carceral sites conjures a network of isolated camps reminiscent of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s description of the Soviet gulag system under Stalin.Footnote 1 The analogy likewise resonates with Michel Foucault’s account of the proliferation of disciplinary institutions such as prisons, asylums and clinics in the urban fabric of nineteenth-century Paris, spatializing the substantial links between incarceration and citizenship in ways useful for our disciplinary lens.Footnote 2 Foucault uses the example of the panopticon prison’s centralized surveillance and cellular isolation to describe the institutionalized biopolitical control imposed on social deviants and, by extension, citizens of the bourgeois state during the Enlightenment era.Footnote 3 The significance of both these examples is in their analysis of penal environments as characterizing attributes of nation-state sovereignty in the systems these authors sought to critique. Similar analogies could be sought for the wartime prisoner-of-war (POW) and internment camps during World War II; however, in dealing with camps rather than urban penal institutions, we encounter a different interpretation of social deviance that is excised as inimical to nation-state sovereignty. In Giorgio Agamben’s thesis on homo sacer,Footnote 4 which reflects on the horrors of the Holocaust, the camp is presented as a nomos of modernity – an exception to sovereignty – where political subjects are excluded from the protections of the state and reduced to bare life. His interpretation is quite different to the opaque and pervasive repackaging of sovereign power described by Foucault. Agamben, by examining groups rendered stateless and deprived of civil liberties, exposes the racialized biases of that normative sovereignty. In both these examples of how certain minorities not conforming to majoritarian social norms were criminalized, freedoms related to the accumulation of land, labor and capital are denied.
The ephemeral physical contexts for human displacement, along with contemporary processes of excision and punishment, have earned considerable interest globally. Agamben’s work is increasingly applied to studies of offshore detention spaces where unauthorized asylum seekers are incarcerated at the nation’s outer limits.Footnote 5 Their criminalization for deviating from designated citizenship pathways is governed by new border-control regimes; and these in turn appear pronounced in liberal democracies that were formerly settler-colonies. The literal displacement of asylum seekers into carceral island-facilities reproducing the technologies of gulag-like oppression suggests that these two modes of punitive segregation overlap. Their lessons prove useful for exploring how sovereignty was instrumentalized under conditions of greater exigency in wartime concentration camps. In unsettled political environments of global conflict, sovereignty was asserted defensively as well as through territorial expansion, and the push and pull of these two opposite forces was felt in the POW and internment camps.
This chapter explores how the discipline of architectural history might contribute to knowledge of global conflict through attention to physical and material phenomena. Whereas Twomey and Koh use the term “assemblage,” to draw the various Pacific Basin conflicts into a protracted event called “The Pacific War,” this chapter reconsiders the “archipelago” as a metaphor for envisioning a parallel unfolding of the military camp geography, and with it the creation of punitive, segregated enclaves.Footnote 6 The historical background to the conflict and the key legislations governing captive accommodations, at the time, are important for understanding why the camps were first established and whether their attributes are traceable in the civilian detention environments operative today. The chapter’s central argument is that the Pacific War’s imperial border contestations were inscribed in those populations alienated or disenfranchised by new hostilities, through experiences uncovered in analyses of the wartime treatment of so-called enemy aliens, racialized minority citizens and POWs in three settler/colonial contexts: Australia, Singapore and the USA. The patterns for disenfranchisement had much to do with how race and labor were organized in settler/colonial societies, attributes of which were shared to different degrees across these three geographical localities. While comparison of these evidently different settlement structures is unusual, it captures representative historical insights into aspects of liberal democratic government.
The camp populations responded dynamically to the military regimes that confined them. Unlike the overdetermined carceral environments described by Foucault or Agamben, camps in the Pacific theater of World War II were not intended either for punishment or extermination, and need to be treated as holding spaces run by the respective governments’ militaries. Because their forced removal and incarceration was part of the punishment, there was a degree of laxity within camps that enabled their populations to practice forms of defiance, dissidence and cultural recovery. While corporeal violence was indeed evident, this book’s focus is on the structural violence that these physical environments facilitated beneath cruder forms of coercion, such as forced population removals, the severity of camp designs, the regulation and discipline of captives and forced or unfree labor.
While intended for creating docile, disciplined subjects, penal environments have historically proven to be creative sites of resistance, politicization and productivity because of inherent flaws in disciplinary regimes.Footnote 7 Systemic failures often reveal forms of human agency within carceral systems. Similarly, the notion of a subject reduced to bare life, stripped of personal complexities and identity, raises, and also reinforces, statelessness as a subject category antithetical to liberal personhood in discomfiting ways. Although deprived of sovereign care, the depoliticized and incarcerated modern subject does not necessarily lose the residual and intersecting social and cultural histories and processes attached to identity. Popular and informal accounts and practices highlight subversion and resistance in the most forbidding facilities. Physical changes instigated by captive populations are revelatory.
Given the archipelagic metaphor’s overuse in emphasizing the instrumentality of carceral conditions, particularly as a means of conveying oppression through isolation, the concept of a multivocal and creolized “archipelagic consciousness,” a term introduced by Eduard Glissant in studies of Caribbean societies, offers a useful counterpoint.Footnote 8 Brian Bernards and Paul Carter have applied this term in identifying similar heterogeneity and creolized sensibilities in societies linked by the South China Sea across Southeast Asia, strengthening Glissant’s argument that various strains of imperialism have produced a plural cultural geography with myriad social and cultural overlays.Footnote 9 Despite its racialized colonial history, archipelagic consciousness is argued to be antithetical to the gulag or continentalist mentality that constrains or controls diversity that, in Carter’s interpretation, is seen as significant for decolonization processes.Footnote 10 The archipelago is reconceptualized as a powerful metaphor for multiplicity or geopolitical diversity, contrary to the gulag system, although both British and Japanese imperialists, the key protagonists in the Pacific conflict, come from archipelagic geographies.
The contradiction between these various interpretations of the archipelago persists as an unreconciled paradox throughout this book. Oppressive and opaque penal structures that are archipelagic in their isolated island-like formation are interconnected and networked through human mobilities and materialities, and nascent forms of archipelagic consciousness can be traced within them. Unlike their penal counterparts, which magnify sovereignty, the carceral architectures of the Pacific War are spaces for testing and reframing its limits. Within them, citizenship is recast as an agonistic state. These underlying paradoxes unsettle the gulag system’s overproduction of militarized forms of governmentality. Prisons, in instrumentalizing sovereign power, secure deviants internally within national boundaries. Camps, in contrast, are border phenomena into which groups deemed threatening to sovereignty during wartime are excised. Racial or national categories of identification are selectively suspended, fixed or destabilized. In exploring the camp as a society in transition, a border world at the oppressive limits of sovereignty, we encounter a concentrated site for shifting identity politics.
Theoretical interest in intersecting sovereignties, in complex forms of national belonging, identification and disenfranchisement spun off from Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal work on “intersectionality,” is a useful starting point for exploring both the structural and dynamic consequences of the interaction of two or more axes of subordination: “the manner in which racism, patriarchy, class oppression and other discriminatory systems contribute to create layers of inequality that structure the relative positions of women and men, races and other groups.”Footnote 11 During war, or national crisis, the assignation or embodiment of political sovereignty obscures other identity categories, overdetermining how racialized or ethnicized colonial subjects, enemy aliens, immigrants and birthright citizens are differently treated within the broader structures of imperial or national sovereignty. The concerns and entitlements associated with political sovereignty are often suspended for those perceived as potentially unpatriotic. The specter of “statelessness,” threatening to normative sovereignty, emerges as another axis of oppression that attaches to already embedded racialized or other forms of social discrimination.
This book argues that World War II spatialized the parameters of statelessness against which postwar nationalisms took shape. The physical spaces used for testing its limits included civil jails, formerly used for incarcerating criminals, POW camps established to hold enemy combatants and internment camps for enemy aliens or enemy nationals of a hostile power. In the US example, as with the Holocaust but very different from it, naturalized and birthright citizens were also incarcerated in what have come to be recognized as concentration camps.
Studies of World War I camps in Europe, Asia and Australia corroborate our analyses, providing important backstories for the genealogical approach. Matthew Stibbe’s Civilian Internment during the First World War, including imperial Britain and imperial Germany but also extending its scope to Brazil, India, Thailand and Portugal, presents internment as a migration-led process that mobilized prisoners across international borders – an approach that resonates with ours.Footnote 12 Mahon Murphy’s study of 30,000 German civilians and soldiers imprisoned in colonies in Asia and Africa during World War I touches on many of the camps cited here for Japan, Australia and New Zealand.Footnote 13 Importantly, he identifies Australia as an ultimate destination for ridding British colonies of potentially problematic internee populations, an approach also adopted during World War II.Footnote 14 Spatial and material evidence of the kinds sought are found in country-specific studies that focus in depth on a national context. Australian historian Peter Monteath provides a more comprehensive overview of the physical conditions in the recipient camps in Australia, extending his study to cover both World Wars.Footnote 15 Bohdan Kordan focuses on the use of civilian internment labor on public works projects, camp building and road works, and also for national park development in Western Canada, in an effort to understand enemy aliens’ exclusion from – alongside their deployment for – the Canadian national project.Footnote 16 Many of this book’s topics, including imperial ambitions, national tensions, colonization, labor and migrant identity, are evident across these studies, justifying a similarly ambitious sociospatial exploration of World War II incarceration environments. The mid-twentieth-century political context was very different, however, because European empires were waning and Japan was on the rise, alongside the increasing global presence of Britain’s former settler-colonies. World War II enabled these nascent polities to demonstrate through military aggression their independence and internationalization as equal partners on the global stage.
War in the Pacific
Against the raging conflict in Europe, but markedly different from it, war in the Pacific acted as a catalyst for US military imperialism and also for its internal struggle for civil liberties, while also prompting Australia’s autonomy from Britain and alliance with the USA, and precipitating demands for political decolonization across Asia. These changes were underscored by the specter of Japanese wartime empowerment and ultimate defeat. Given the vastness of the Pacific theater of World War II, concentration on these three former Anglophone colonies as nodal to the conflict and arraigned against Japan offers a slice of the greater history of the war, not through the lens of empires but of their growing offspring. Australia, the island continent at this Pacific geography’s edge, serves as the entry point. The focus on three politically very different settler-dominated environments at different stages in the colonial process, rather than on more established culturally homogeneous political geographies, is a deliberate extension of the decentered approach synonymous with “border-thinking.”Footnote 17 Because these are nations “in-process” at the periphery of a still-demanding parent geography to which they are militarily, and in Singapore’s case politically, tied, their boundaries are, in fact, weak and forcibly maintained. More significantly, in these three geographies the varied racialized terms of sovereignty underlying settler and colonial identities were destabilized by the war, creating critical starting points for marginalized groups’ subsequent struggles for social equity. There was a perceptible shift from the Europe-centered histories of an earlier era to a broader geography of self-conscious competition and outright rejection of the age of empire’s incestuous dependencies. Moreover, despite being drawn into the war’s European nexus, the USA and Australia’s Pacific orientation and their direct exposure to Japan’s imperial aggression prompted the formation of geopolitical alliances in defense of their colonies (or administrative territories) in the Philippines and New Guinea, respectively. Singapore was a strategic battleground and a physical border in the Asia-Pacific, but also a node through which other sites in Asia were accessed. Although alliance with Britain animated these three separate geographies, focus on these rather than older imperial interests offers insights into the war’s impact on their legacies of immigrant-citizenship.
As former settler-colonies and self-governing federations, both the USA and Australia maintained bilateral relations with Britain as participants in the Anglosphere, as nations sharing common cultural and historical roots with the United Kingdom, like other British Dominions such as Canada and New Zealand. A marked difference was the USA, a federated republic, while the Commonwealth of Australia, federated in 1901 as a Dominion of the British Empire, maintained constitutional ties with Britain until 1986. Nevertheless, these “New World” environments emerged through similar troubling processes that differentiated their settler societies, such as the genocide of First Nations populations, expropriation of their lands and unfree labor of transported convicts or enslaved populations. By the early twentieth century they had emerged as colonizers, displacing established European powers in the Philippines and New Guinea in their desire to gain a regional foothold and exploit labor and resources. Internally, the struggle had shifted from suppression and genocide of native populations to competition for opportunities and resources between European and other non-European immigrant-settlers, governed by a hierarchy of racialized opportunities. Lisa Lowe argues that the nineteenth-century introduction of Chinese contract labor marked “a shift from colonial mercantilism to a new division of labor and the expansion of international trade.”Footnote 18 In the decades that followed, because of numerous legal restrictions placed on landownership, leasing or sharecropping by non-European immigrants, Asians remained differentiated from “white” as well as First Nations and other laboring populations, occupying a “liminal, ambiguous intermediary position” in a largely Anglophone society.Footnote 19 Successive US and Australian legislation restricted the entry and degree of participation of nonwhite immigrants in property and labor economies, so as to maintain the relative advantages of “white” landholders or workers. Alienation through disenfranchisement of land or labor appeared as a racialized political strategy. Lowe’s work in tracing Asian labor movement across four continents after the abolition of slavery alerts us to the ways in which exploitive labor networks underscored Anglo-American imperialism and Western liberalism.
Singapore displayed some attributes of a settler-colony because of its predominantly settler population, but exogenous government as a crown colony, and as an extractive-mercantilist economic entrepot, cast the largely Asian population as colonial subjects. Whereas Asian settlement was not as invasive as in the USA or Australia and not predicated on creating a “white” society, racialized hierarchies and political emasculation were features of colonial society. There was also greater hybridity and diversity within Singapore’s Asian settler population, including regionally emplaced Malays, and Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and other groups who had lived in the region and also intermarried long before European contact. As first argued by J. S. Furnivall, these plural social divisions created a situation where “different sections of the community live side by side, but separately, within the same political unit.”Footnote 20 He believed that in tropical societies immigration was anticipated and incorporated through sedentarization, whereas Dominions, while having plural features, had a common social will (shaped by cultural hegemony) that placed a bar on immigration.Footnote 21 These important distinctions between two settler modalities influenced the representation and reception of wartime histories. In Australia and the USA, legislative restrictions expanded to exclude resident populations on the basis of ancestry or nationality.Footnote 22 In Singapore, each ethnic community, siloed by language or religion, seemingly experienced the war differently. The war hardened, but also strained, these various interracial relationships, prompting new political alliances and worldviews. It also cultivated strains of postcolonial and minority consciousness in the generations who inherited the divisive legacies of the war, politicized through the discriminations they experienced.
Japan, in contrast, a largely racially homogeneous society, apart from its Indigenous populations, had opened its doors in 1868 to foreign technology after 250 years of isolation (Sakoku – closed country). The ensuing period of revolutionary reform, the Meiji restoration, under an embodied political sovereign – the Meiji Emperor – modernized Japanese society and politics. Legal reforms, urbanization, industrialization and military expansion (as well as the internal pacification of Indigenous Ainu and northern-frontier settler-colonialism) saw accelerated growth along capitalist lines and growing territorial ambitions in the Pacific. Although allied with the Entente powers in World War I, naval expansion in the interwar period spearheaded a program for political ascendance through Asian unification, announced in June 1940 as the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.Footnote 23 The envisioned empire included Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania, including Europe’s Asian colonies. Korea (1910–45), Taiwan (Formosa) (1895–1945) and Manchuria (1932–45) were already integrated into this territory. Three months later, the Japanese government signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy.
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the US-Pacific Fleet’s military base in Hawaii, on 7 December 1941 proved historically pivotal. It drew the formerly neutral USA into the global conflict. The underlying intention was to prevent the Fleet from coming to the aid of multiple territories in Asia: Midway, Malaya, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines’ Batan Island were attacked simultaneously. Japanese troops marched or bicycled across Malaya into Singapore, taking the island on 15 February 1942. This action cast a wider net over Japan’s Pacific territory. Four days later, with their sights on Timor and New Guinea, Japan attacked Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Japanese occupation of French, British, US and Dutch colonies in Asia (e.g., Indo-China, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Netherlands East Indies) unsettled the racialized hierarchies through which European oppression had been justified. Singapore was defended by British Commonwealth forces, whose hasty capitulation was an unmitigated Allied disaster. Predominantly British and Australian troops and Allied nations’ civilians were taken captive. The period of Japanese occupation was a divisive interregnum during which the regional settler population, as colonial subjects, were torn between competing oppressive regimes. Singapore acted as a transit point for troop movement and for forced-labor distribution in Asia – a node in a transborder carceral network across the South China Sea.
Intersections of Sovereignty in Captivity
Both Australia and New Zealand had interned enemy aliens during World War I, accommodated in tented, hutted or prison facilities. The largest camp, Holdsworthy (later Holsworthy) (NSW), held up to 6,000 internees.Footnote 24 Australia joined the second global conflict alongside Britain, on 3 September 1939, and, like Britain, interned those enemy aliens whose politics was seen as “prejudicial to public safety or the defense of the Commonwealth.”Footnote 25 By May 1940 a total of 268 Germans were being held, awaiting the construction of internment camps. In July 1940, following the defeat of France and entry of Italy into the war, Italians were interned, as were women enemy aliens and naturalized subjects of enemy origin. Australia also agreed to accept up to 50,000 POWs and enemy alien internees including refugees from Europe on behalf of Britain, in order to remove them from the European theater of war.Footnote 26 They began arriving in September 1940. Japanese internment commenced in December 1941.
By the end of the war Australia had interned 8,921 local residents, cumulatively during the conflict, for varying time periods, and a further 7,877 overseas internees.Footnote 27 The latter, from the United Kingdom, and various theaters of conflict including North Africa and colonial Pacific territories, were placed in eighteen large, purpose-built hutted or tented camp facilities and some smaller facilities similar to those for the military. Australia’s numbers were few when compared with North America’s incarceration of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians (120,000 civilians in the USA; 21,460 in Canada), but highly relative to the population at that time. Australia’s population, though under 7 million, had 1 million service personnel engaged across the two theaters of conflict. Australia, like North America but on a much smaller scale, was a recipient nation for POWs. This meant that, unlike North American segregation of these groups, Australian camps were proximate or even components within camps for 25,727 captive enemy combatants, merchant seamen and prisoners taken by the Australian and US forces in the Pacific.Footnote 28 This number was close to the 22,000 Australians taken captive by the Japanese in Asia. New Zealand, with a population of around 1.6 million and 140,000 service personnel, interned only 886 persons and 812 Japanese POWs.Footnote 29 Although population figures for these antipodean nations were far lower than Japan’s 73 million with nearly 6 million service personnel (by 1945), or the USA’s 132 million with 16 million service personnel, their ratios of military to civilians and captives were relatively high.Footnote 30
The paucity of material on the Australian internment camps, when compared with North America, is possibly due to ambivalence toward and ignorance of the associated history, perceived nationally as an extension of British or US policies for which those nations were culpable, rather than an Australian concern. But this is also due to the repatriation of POWs and Asian internees, as well as the stigma the Japanese especially associated with captivity. Key sources on the broader histories include Beaumont et al.’s Under Suspicion, Margaret Bevege’s Behind Barbed Wire and Klaus Neumann’s In the Interest of National Security.Footnote 31 Genuine efforts at understanding local histories supplement these with site-specific accounts tied to local collections, oral accounts and physical remains. Titles like Walls of Wire, Stalag Australia, Marched in and Haywire convey the gist of these storylines.Footnote 32 Graham Apthorpe’s A Town at War is possibly the most comprehensive book on Cowra’s wartime history, including an account of a breakout.Footnote 33 This last incident is the subject of many popular histories, discussed in Chapter 3. A third cluster of publications, highly dependent on bilingual scholarship, focuses on different nationalities including Germans, Jews, Italians or Japanese, retroactively historicizing Australia’s multicultural heritage for these minority communities. Johann Peter Weiss’ It Wasn’t Really Necessary, Yuriko Nagata’s Unwanted Aliens and Mia Spizzica’s Hidden Lives typify this approach.Footnote 34 Recent publications include Captured Lives, Nazis in Our Midst and Dunera Lives.Footnote 35 Indeed, more books have been written on the fates of HMT Dunera passengers than on any other group, which, alongside NSW’s Cowra, is etched in popular memory.Footnote 36 These many empirically rich studies accept Australia’s identification as an insulated outpost of the British Empire, rather than a major player in the Pacific.
Conversely, works on Australians imprisoned by Japan offer a transnational overview of colonial Southeast Asia under the Japanese. A comparison with Australian camps has not been attempted to date. These studies invariably encompass experiences of British POWs taken captive alongside Australians, and Americans to a lesser extent. Australian World War II deaths were 27,073, including 8,296 who died in captivity, of the 30,560 POWs.Footnote 37 Around 140,000 Allied personnel and 13,000 civilians taken captive across Asia by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), following the invasion of Malaya in early 1942, were distributed across a vast network of camps in newly occupied territories.Footnote 38 Of the 22,000 Australian POWs in Asia, some 15,000 were captured in Singapore.Footnote 39 An incomplete map titled Japanese Prisoner of War Camps during WWII 1941–45 collated by the medical research committee of American ex-POWs enumerates over 300 known camps across Asia: in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaya, French Indo-China, Burma, Thailand and along the Burma-Thai Railroad.Footnote 40 These included a range of facilities, such as hastily requisitioned prisons and military barracks, timber-and-attap hutments, and military tents. The most rudimentary facilities were in forced-labor camps on various military industrial and infrastructure projects established in contravention of Article 31 of the 1929 Geneva Convention forbidding deployment of POW labor in war industries.Footnote 41 Camps in Singapore spread across the island, repurposing British military facilities, with the main hub and transit camp at the Changi military cantonment. The entire island was converted to a punitive geography, with Changi as one node in a network dispersed across Southeast Asia. As camp numbers given in diverse sources vary, because of the incompleteness of records, any numbers stated in this book are mainly indicative of their proliferation, and need to be treated only as such.
The Story of Changi Singapore, a firsthand account by New Zealander David Nelson, stands out among the over 100 similar memoirs of Japanese captivity.Footnote 42 Henry Probert provides a physical history of the area, including the cantonment’s prewar construction, recently revisited in a study of military barrack designs by Chang Jiat-Hwee.Footnote 43 Critical scholarship has begun to take over this largely ex-POW-led discourse, as revisionist nation-building narratives insert wartime experience of the ancestors of contemporary “Singaporeans” into the field of memory. Studies can be divided into those exogenous to Singapore representing viewpoints of Australian or British servicemen, largely based on archives in those countries, or of local-based scholars analyzing the politics of remembrance. R. P. W. Havers, Hank Nelson, Joan Beaumont and Christina Twomey fall into the first group, while Kevin Blackburn, Karl Hack and Paul Kratoska lead in the latter category, as claimants on this newly politicized space.Footnote 44 Akashi Yoji and Yoshimura Mako, Lee Geok Boi, Gregg Huff, and Majima Shinobu have further expanded it through reference to material on Japanese administration of Singapore.Footnote 45 Compared with these accounts, little has been written on the architecture of Changi Prison, beyond POW memoirs. In 2004, the building’s imminent demolition inaugurated processes that injected this and other sites into national heritage discourses lately preoccupied with the war as a means for stretching national memory beyond independence to annex and cultivate a Singaporean version of imperial history. Muzaini and Yeoh have addressed this shift.Footnote 46 As with Australia, revisionist histories frequently compartmentalize ethnicized accounts, reinforcing the plural political model adopted by the nation-state.
Material on camps in Japan and East Asia are harder to come by, with the most recent scholarly publication being Sarah Kovner’s Prisoners of the Empire.Footnote 47 The 32,418 POWs held in Japan from 1942 were distributed across branch camps, detached camps and “dispatch” camps, operated from administrative camps set up in major cities. Dispatch camps, typically two-story wooden structures used as warehouses or company dormitories, were run by corporations in ship building, mining, construction, steel production, and chemical manufacturing and transportation mobilized for the war effort. By 1945 there were approximately 130 camps distributed across the Japanese archipelago.Footnote 48 Initially located in the Keihin (Tokyo-Yokohama) and Hanshin (Osaka-Kobe) industrial areas, they were moved northward toward the Sea of Japan in 1945 when invasion was imminent. An estimated 2,000 civilians of Allied nations were held in civilian facilities in Japan. Camps were also established in the eastern reaches of Japan’s imperial geography enumerated in records as China, eighty-nine camps; Korea, fourteen; Taiwan, sixteen, although here too numbers are unstable.Footnote 49 This East Asian theater of the conflict, not the focus of this book, is perhaps the least-known camp geography of the war. Judith Bennett’s Natives and Exotics provides an excellent environmental study of Pacific island territories that were transformed by the conflict.Footnote 50
In comparison, North America’s incarceration environments have produced numerous social histories, energized by postwar movements for redress and the establishment of Asian American Studies in the wake of the late 1960s protest movements. Between January and February 1942, official exclusion and mass incarceration orders of the US and Canadian governments forcibly removed birthright citizens and immigrants of Japanese ancestry deemed sensitive to enemy attack from west coast military exclusion zones. They were confined in civilian Assembly Centers, typically stalls for accommodating livestock in fairgrounds and racetracks, and then moved to semipermanent camps in remote environments across seven states. These actions criminalized and impoverished a Japanese settler population that had already established niches in North American society and economies, though constrained by various racialized restrictions circumscribing social mobility. West coast peoples of Japanese origin were singled out and incarcerated en masse. Their accommodation was vastly different on the two sides of the US–Canada border: with ten military-style barrack cities termed “War Relocation Centers” purpose-built in the USA, and domestic-scale work camps in British Columbia’s mountainous interior repurposed or rebuilt for Japanese Canadian internees. In both North American examples, like in Australia, internees were employed in farm work, road work and manufacturing, and housed in a range of physical facilities. The key difference is, unlike in Australia, these workers included US and Canadian birthright and naturalized citizens. Immigrants of German and Italian origin, of larger communities, did not suffer the same indignities, unless suspected of and arrested as individuals for specific prejudicial activities, whereas west coast Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians were incarcerated on the basis of enemy race and nationality.
This was not the same throughout the USA, and we need to be wary of reading the vast and varied landscape of incarceration through this more focused history. Camp typologies had already been expanded to include Justice Department detention camps, Citizen Isolation Centers, Federal Bureau Prison camps, US Army Facilities and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Facilities. Honouliuli Camp in Hawaii, a site somewhat exceptional to mainland patterns because nearly 40 percent of Hawaii’s population was of Japanese origin, transitioned from a civilian internment camp for 300 Japanese and European detainees to a POW camp holding over 16,000 soldiers and labor conscripts from Italy, Japan, Korea, Okinawa and Taiwan during the course of the war.Footnote 51 A further 1,800 Japanese were deported from Latin America to the USA and held in INS camps including Crystal City, alongside Americans of European and Japanese descent and their US-born children.Footnote 52 From 1943, following an infamous “loyalty questionnaire” aimed at assessing Nisei suitability for military service, Tule Lake Relocation Center was redesignated as Tule Lake Segregation Center, a punitive facility for those failing the test. Angler in Ontario was a similar facility in Canada. In this manner, Japanese entry into the war extended and enlarged the North American carceral landscape into a racialized and multifarious geography.
Foundational comparative studies include Saunders and Daniels’ Alien Justice, which compares wartime internment in Australia and North America, covering all the Axis enemy alien groups, and Greg Robinson’s study of the internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians.Footnote 53 Personal Justice Denied (Report on the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians) likewise gives the core structure for introducing this case study.Footnote 54 Numerous archeological and other studies by the National Park Service (NPS) are important for understanding the physical context of incarceration, particularly Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites.Footnote 55 Manzanar came under NPS management after being declared a National Historic Site in 1972. The Garden Management Plan: Gardens and Gardeners at Manzanar and the NPS website provide extensive empirical material gathered over time and from various government archives.Footnote 56 Harlan D. Unrau’s detailed report on Manzanar includes data from government records and sociological studies of the camp population conducted at that time.Footnote 57 Although inflected by bureaucratic biases, such reports are useful for understanding the site’s physical history. Critical historical analyses that spatialize the camps using evidence of their built environments include the work of Lynne Horiuchi and Connie Chiang, mentioned in the Introduction.Footnote 58
The Instrumentality of Camps
As border environments in an imperial conflict involving old imperialists like Britain and new aspirants like Japan and Allies in settler societies, camps are significant for testing the parameters of sovereignty before decolonization in the Pacific region. This study approaches these as (hostile) host environments where “intersectional” subjectivities based on complex cultural and political alignments are isolated and cauterized. Culturally differentiated minority citizens were punished for associations with hostile nations or as racial phenotypes, and were incarcerated alongside enemy troops, or resistance fighters in some arenas. By expanding intersectional theory to embrace other dimensions of geopolitical subjectivity, this study signals multiple cultural, social and political embodiments of sovereignty as fundamental to identity formation, open to the forms of repression imposed by sovereign power. It asks that the scope of this body of theory, with its genesis in critical race theory and feminist sociology, consider the broader cross-border mobilization and suppression of embodied forms of belonging. It argues that, in addition to the categories of identity typically addressed in intersectional theory, the built environment also mediated intersecting forms of political, cultural and personal sovereignty. “Intersectional” identification crossed these boundaries of the many forms of self-awareness impressed upon or emerging within displaced persons because of the abrogation or defensive articulation of their legal rights. The interpellations of these different forms of sovereignty, intensified by the global conflict, are evident in the camps.
In exploring this premise, we demonstrate how the aesthetic and cultural strategies that captive communities developed to counter environmental repression reveal tactical, conflicted and resistant aspects of the human condition, offering lessons for postwar constructions of national belonging. Intersectional geopolitical alignments often occur as intimate cultural practices that are territorialized and, we argue, become legible in a range of material and spatial practices sensitive to these complex interpellations of sovereignty. The self-awareness that arises through displacement and oppression could be understood in Avery Gordon’s theorization of “complex personhood,”Footnote 59 where power permeates social relations, framing our ways of thinking and acting. In her interpretation, multiple histories and forces shape self-consciousness: personal figures, social figures and institutions that reproduce power relations and structural inequality continue to haunt us. “Haunting,” in Gordon’s view, “is an animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known.”Footnote 60 This spectral presence manifests as the tension between personal, cultural and political sovereignty within internee and POW camp populations, or in the greater context of World War II wherever Aryan, Japanese and Jewish identities were being essentialized. While in the case of the Nazi or Japanese military it fueled totalitarian imperial ambitions, the same violence was also used for persecuting Jewish and other marginal groups. German or Japanese internees negotiated these power relations by positioning themselves as victims or loyalists, or as ambivalent or distanced subjects, in relation to Nazi or Japanese military ideology. Jewish diasporic identities were likewise caught between orthodoxy, liberal cosmopolitan practices of their natal European geographies and racialized Nazi persecution.
Despite their value for unveiling embedded social complexities, both above approaches from a US-centric feminist sociology remain circumscribed by their geopolitical loci, and fail to test the boundaries of the taken-for-granted sovereignty within which their scholarship operates. Although Crenshaw’s later work expands on the concept, outlining its global relevance, and US geopolitical sovereignty is continuously decentered and decolonized at the Mexico–US border, such theories do not anticipate their broader transnational or global applicability.Footnote 61 Nevertheless, by aligning their politics of race, critique of power relations and attention to civil liberties, we gain useful strategies for identifying intimate experiences of oppression overlooked in broader geopolitical analyses. Political spaces of incarceration need to be understood as the overpowering biopolitical context for these more intimate relations of power.
For these broader questions of structural exclusion, we turn to theories of decolonization and more specifically to the impact of Japanese imperialism, combining the divergent and often insulated fields of Area Studies, Postcolonial Studies and Asian American Studies with architectural history. Japan’s entry into World War II influenced the Pacific geography in unprecedented ways, diverting regional attention away from Europe and dividing US interests between its Atlantic and Pacific coasts. State oppression manifested very differently within national or imperial formations, depending on systemic exclusions of Asians, or even non-Anglophone Europeans, in settler ideologies. For example, under Australia’s “White Australia Policy” (1901–73),Footnote 62 a series of acts that restricted nonwhite (mainly Asian) immigration to Australia, non-British cultures were forced to assimilate into Anglo-Australian cultural values, so that enemy aliens or POWs stood out. In Singapore, each ethnic community experienced occupation differently: the British as captives, anti-Japan-occupation Chinese cruelly eliminated, Malays developing a nascent nationalism and Indians split between the pro-Japan Indian National Army and British loyalist troops. In the USA, where people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated en masse, restrictions to naturalization of Japanese immigrants produced very different relations with US and Japanese sovereignty across three generations of the racialized collective. The immigrant subject was internally split by two forms of geopolitical loyalties, as acquired through migration or characterized by race.
The rich conceptual debates around racial and political identification have proven useful for rethinking the wartime camp geography as an interlinked network of concentrated border sites. Different scalar readings of similar phenomena call for skills drawn from architecture, art history and geography. The selection of the sites followed a particular schema. Given the paucity of data on many sites and the archival labor involved, the core cases refer to those sites where heritage practices have produced both formal and informal knowledge around human and material remains. The ways in which prisoners recouped diminished resources, so as to maintain accustomed everyday comforts, are evidenced in the many personal objects donated to museums and archives.
Interpretation of these ephemeral materialities calls on the postcolonial “subaltern studies” approach, introduced by Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak for uncovering relations of colonial dominance and subordination in suppressed histories of impoverished, laboring or marginalized individuals or social groups,Footnote 63 except that these incarcerated populations were otherwise stable and variously entitled through colonial or settler forms of belonging or property ownership and waged labor, before they were alienated as enemies of the state. Their impoverishment stripped them of all material privileges, and they sought to simulate these lost materialities throughout captivity. Their “subalternization” – the silences and limits imposed on them as hostages to sovereign power – is a concept introduced through this work that builds on this previous historiography of inequality and subjection.
Human remains are an added and serious concern, given the politics of their repatriation and the affective entailed diplomacy. Lives were lost on both sides of the conflict, and deaths during captivity were treated very differently to battlefield casualties. Civilian deaths passed largely unnoticed, except by families. Elderly persons as well as civilian men, women and children became exceptionally vulnerable during captivity, given that camps were designed for the temporary accommodation of young men as military recruits. Sickness, depression and lethargy due to inactivity, the dissolution of family units, lack of privacy and injuries caused by harsh treatment of captors, punitive incarceration or isolation all created degrees of depravation, sometimes leading to death. Criminalized by violent processes implicating them from afar, civilians often had little recourse to individualized legal processes that might secure their release. After the war, when national sentiment was focused on military heroism, the suffering of these civilians receded, surfacing only decades later when national-level redress or local reconciliation efforts were raised. Scholarship on silent, lost or untold stories addresses this gap.Footnote 64
At many of the sites examined in this study, accommodation for civilians and combatants was proximate and similar. Troops were often drawn from civilian conscripts or volunteers. Distinctions between volunteers, conscripts or career servicemen, which were blurred during the early twentieth century, became divisive because of social antipathy toward the Vietnam War, which cast military conscription and military culture in a negative light. Dispossession and incarceration, although experienced very differently by these three groups, had comparable affects. But more importantly, whereas military personnel and civilians are often seen as obverse categories, wartime histories, commemorative events and peacekeeping activities blur these boundaries. Some Japanese American civilians were recruited for or drafted into the US Army from the camps. Military police or soldiers supervised the forced removal and incarceration of civilian populations and in some cases took part in planning camp facilities. In the Pacific War, unlike in Europe’s Holocaust, the harshest treatment was received by military POWs. Military and civilian histories often entwined. More significantly, the families of combatants saw their loved ones through interpersonal relationships not dependent on military standing.
These delineations are often confused in the terminology used during the conflict. Literature on Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and Asia differentiates civilian internees, typically termed enemy aliens, from captured combatants of a hostile power identified as POWs. Internment camps and POW camps appear as separate categories. The term “concentration camp,” first associated by some writers with the facilities built by the British for Boer internees in South Africa,Footnote 65 and applied to the Nazi camps for Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust, has come to be retroactively applied to the US facilities, although not without controversy, for Japanese American citizens and immigrants.Footnote 66 “Concentration” has come to imply the incarceration of citizens by their own governments; “internment” is used for enemy alien internees, or for those who are not birthright or naturalized US citizens, separately incarcerated under different laws. These terms have been revised by wrongfully incarcerated citizen groups challenging the euphemisms by which many governments masked their wartime culpability, highlighting the failures of liberal democracy. In the USA, for example, terms like “evacuation,” “detention” and “relocation” veiled the violence of mass incarceration of Japanese American citizens, enabling control of the incarcerated population under national rather than international law.Footnote 67 Camps were called “Assembly Centers” or “War Relocation Centers,” and only later “internment camps,” associated with the incarceration of enemy aliens rather than citizens.
The instability of terms points to the lack of clear criteria differentiating the treatment of categories of prisoners in the international conventions established prior to World War II. While the 1929 Convention clearly regulated POW treatment, discipline, labor and accommodation,Footnote 68 similar protections for “civilians of an enemy nationality” were still in draft form. The Tokyo Draft Convention of 1934 stated preference for the compulsory residence of noncombatant enemy civilians in a specified district, or where necessary in fenced-in camps secured by the detaining power.Footnote 69 This convention, yet to be ratified when war broke out, did not account for the criminalization and incarceration without trial of naturalized or birthright citizens alienated by their own governments, as with the case of interned European Jews or Japanese Americans. Given that the draft regulations could not be enforced during World War II, many individual nation-states acted in their own interests, producing that war’s many human tragedies. Moreover, while a signatory to the 1929 Convention, Japan did not ratify it, although Germany did. Only the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 would differentiate these two distinct categories.Footnote 70
As evident across the next chapters, this lack of distinction between civilians and combatants normalized patterns of mistreatment relevant for the interpretation of rights, entitlements and civil liberties, until today. They define the boundaries drawn around proper citizenship that contain those excluded from it. The underlying logic and ultimate purpose of this book is to understand statelessness as a sociospatial phenomenon, one that diminishes displaced persons by placing them in military-style, punitive facilities. This study sees Australia’s normalization of onshore or offshore detention facilities as evolving from practices first tested during World War II; or the US government’s incarceration of DREAMers, travel bans on immigrants from and visas for residents of Muslim countries or attitudes to Latin American migrants as traceable to racialized practices of exclusion evident in wartime incarceration histories. The denial of civil liberties or dehumanization of particular groups based on nationality, ethnoreligious identity or impoverishment has precedents in these nation’s pasts and in that temporal global shift from imperial to national forms of sovereignty. Singapore’s recurrent national crises over degrees of social engineering and guest-worker management needed to maintain economic prosperity, and its securitization, plural political model and ambivalence toward its colonial past, are also linked to its defensive self-construction through wartime exigencies. As argued in the Introduction, many discriminatory political legacies of these postcolonial and settler nation-states are connected to the Pacific War.
In the decades after World War II the USA was transformed internally by the civil rights movement’s struggle for civil liberties. A campaign initiated by second-generation Nisei activists during the 1960s lobbied for and achieved their goal of redress decades later with a federal law granting reparations under the Civil Liberties Act in 1988. Australia relaxed its White Australia Policy in a bid to populate the continent against future Asian (Communist) expansion, accepting non-Anglophone European immigrants and refugees. Its government introduced a series of legal reforms between 1966 and 1973 dismantling the racist aspects of this policy. Compared to many other European colonies, Singapore’s decolonization was achieved belatedly, with colonial government resumed at the war’s end. Self-determination through independence and demilitarization through British troop withdrawal occurred more slowly, between 1963 and 1975.
These three geographies were impacted differently by the war. Whereas US interests were split between Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and Singapore was divided internally around conflicting loyalties, for Australia these two theaters remained interlinked. Approximately 1 million Australians fought in World War II, shifting from early involvement in North Africa, West Asia, Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean to campaigns in the Pacific.Footnote 71 As the war moved closer home, to New Guinea, remote imperial obligations were displaced by concerns for national safety. Australia’s defense policy became increasingly dependent on the USA. After Major General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific area, US and Australian troops fought under his command in the Papuan and New Guinea campaigns. Locations across Southeast Asia, North American west coast cities, Hawaii, numerous Pacific islands, and Japanese cities and ports became familiar to Australians as military bases and through troop movements. Some 150,000 US troops were stationed in Australia, mainly in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Townsville, from 22 December 1941 onward.Footnote 72 Battles in the Pacific involving US and Australian troops reinforced this regional geography.
As stated in the Introduction and earlier, this research was initiated through specific case studies devolving in scale across the three geographical areas selected for inquiry relative to their distance from Australia, which is examined more thoroughly with the ambition of anchoring its Pacific position as a key node in the war (Map 1.1). Within Australia, focus is placed on the Tatura Group of seven camps, where the family group camps offer key insights into intersectional identities more diverse than those apparent in camps elsewhere. Tatura is also the only location in Australia to establish a sizeable collection of POW and internee memorabilia and research materials dedicated to the wartime camps. The Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum and the Murchison Historical Society cover and have kept alive the story of the camps, aided by key physical sites such as the Tatura German War Cemetery and the Italian National Ossario that draw the descendants of former internees and associated immigrant communities to their annual commemorative events. The physical campsites at Tatura are presently inaccessible, with many sites returned to former owners or passed to other private owners for grazing land, although ruins of foundations and cellblocks still remain. National-heritage-listed Camp 1 at Tatura now belongs to the local field and game club. Dhurringile Mansion, a former POW facility, was converted to a state minimum-security prison, seemingly continuing an aspect of its wartime brief. At Loveday, except for the heritage-listed, fenced-off garrison quarters seemingly left to ruin, very little is traceable of the wartime camps. The NSW Hay racecourse, which hosted two camps, reverted to its original function after the war, and a third of the farmland was returned to its private owner. The Hay Internment and Prisoner of War Camps Interpretive Centre is housed in two repurposed railway carriages at the decommissioned railway station. Camps at Harvey and Marrinup in Western Australia were built over or reforested, with an Italian shrine at Harvey being the only substantial physical memorial of architectural import. The Camp at Gaythorne in Brisbane has succumbed to suburban development. From among the Australian camps, only Cowra is managed as a national-heritage-listed former POW camp site, maintained as a complement to a series of commemorative spaces forming a Peace Precinct and including the Japanese War Cemetery and the Cowra Japanese Garden.
Remains at Aotearoa New Zealand’s two major sites at Matiu/Somes Island and Featherston are similarly scant; however, like at Cowra and following its example, the Japanese Memorial Gardens at Featherston were built as a gesture of friendship in response to requests made by ex-POWs. A Peace Park created at a former factory-camp site in Japan’s Naoetsu, in Joetsu City, notorious for its Australian POW deaths, was inspired by and is intimately connected to Cowra. Australia’s largest camp complex was established after the war in Rabaul, New Guinea, for Japanese Surrendered Personnel, touched upon briefly in Chapter 11. New Guinea was the site of Australia’s Rabaul and Manus War Criminals’ Compounds.
Singapore’s wartime narratives were largely exogenous and concentrated on Changi Prison, Changi POW Camp and Kranji War Cemetery. These were unique anomalous sites familiar to ex-POWs of the former colonizers and their allies, distant from the wartime experience and imagination of Singapore’s Asian communities. However, revisionist histories since the 1980s have created the impetus for several small museums developed to depict “Singaporean stories” of the war. These include the Former Ford Factory, Reflections at Bukit Chandu Interpretive Center, Battle Box at Fort Canning Bunker and Fort Siloso, significant for histories of the battle for Singapore and Japanese occupation period, more so than of captivity. Other temporary work camps and requisitioned buildings have been largely redeveloped and lost to public memory. The sites where Indian troops were held or the locations of wartime refugee camps are less known. In writing about Singapore, military penetration during its defensive fortification and later through Japanese occupation casts the whole island as a field of camps. Singapore also opens up a wider labor network that extends to other sites in Southeast Asia and Japan. These movements open up the ephemeral materialities of temporary labor accommodation.
North America is too vast to document in this comprehensive manner, and its inclusion is mainly comparative. From the ten War Relocation Camps, Manzanar has been selected because of its designation as a representative National Historic Site for collective stories in 1992, following decades of Nisei activism. Its peak population around 10,000 is sufficiently complex to draw comparative lessons on national internment strategies. A smaller case study of a group of internment camps in New Denver in British Columbia, Canada uncovers how, despite similar attitudes to race, cross-border approaches differ in these two established settler environments. A comprehensive NPS recovery program for the Manzanar site, its gardens and some physical structures is mirrored by New Denver’s recovery through landscape intervention, with the Nikkei Internment Memorial Center designed as a cluster of former internment huts set in an ornamental Japanese-style garden landscape.
These various physical sites and the literature that supports them conjure up a dense field of empirical data, and any effort at capturing it would be an ambitious undertaking. Given the large numbers mobilized and displaced, and their varied national and political identities, the conflict’s physical geography, although temporary, was complex. Documenting it demands a different perception of the Pacific War, not through a chronology of belligerence but as a captive geography: a scatter of physical spaces that were occupied, fortified and contained. Imperialism in its hunger for territory used these temporary architectural technologies for diffusing its violence around the Pacific Basin. These spaces for containing and punishing the enemy were largely but not entirely purpose-built. Captive populations, whether combatant or civilian, were incarcerated in domestic, military and institutional buildings. Their conversion contributed to the institutional apparatus of militarized power relations, wherein the civil liberties and legal rights of noncombatants, including resident aliens, colonial subjects and birthright citizens, were suspended to varying degrees. Behind their barbed-wire boundaries, competing nationalities, loyalties and hostilities were tested, sorted and also fused. Equivalent practices of punitive confinement, civic deprivation, impoverishment and humiliation were exacted on those communities perceived as inimical to the nation, host-nation and/or empire. Each military confrontation, capitulation or victory expanded this diabolical landscape.
In this book’s view, the camps were the physical corollary to those broader geopolitical movements by which ethnocultural and political geography were fused and essentialized, raising the specter of statelessness as antithetical to sovereignty. The figure of the camp as signifying statelessness, a salient metaphor for contemporary crises of citizenship, casts this history in a prescient light. From the viewpoint of architecture, a retrospective inquiry into the camp as a twentieth-century model of incarceration, different from the prison and used to detain civilians, seeks a deeper understanding of the camp as an instrument for denying civil liberties. It was a space where the discipline of benign constraints, otherwise associated with nomadism, training or recreation, turned punitive. Varying prohibitions with lasting and traumatic effects were enforced across the many different physical facilities configured as or appropriated for camps. By examining their emergence across an interconnected carceral continuum, we are able to capture the corrosive power of empire as exacted through architecture, even in its most temporary and dispersed physical form. Our focus on settler/colonial environments, where diasporic populations renegotiated the terms of their still-nascent sovereignty, deviates from that imperial model, prefiguring a critique of the postwar nation-state. The chapters that follow enter the life-worlds of the camps.