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Unlike the scores of works that have focused on the Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas cattle trails and towns through various cultural, economic, political, agricultural, or social lenses, this chapter charters new groud by treating these trails and towns as comprising a ‘rural carceral archipelago’ , thinking about historical animal lives within them as lived within carceral practices, operations, structures, and logics. The chapter frames the carceral as a lived experience for bovine animals, to center these animals’ experiences within the ‘carceral archipelago’ of the cattle trails and towns into which they were forced, identifying some of the material, social, and psychological experiences and trauma of becoming an animalized commodity within the carceral practices and infrastructures of the emergent cattle industry. Studying these animal lives fundamentally involves understanding their gradual commodification – these formerly free-roaming lives were literally turned into money; ‘free for the taking’, with virtually no official regulatory apparatus at the time guiding their capture, enclosure, movement, exploitation, and eventual death.
Chapter 1 lays out the reasoning behind the book and its investigative schema, drawing links with interpretations of incarceration familiar to the discipline. The chapter’s central argument is that the Pacific War’s imperial border contestations were inscribed in those national populations who were alienated or disenfranchised by new hostilities, and that camps treated as border facilities became places for testing cultural boundaries, advancing programs of assimilation but also of prisoner defiance, dissidence and cultural recovery. Case studies are viewed comparatively in order to gain an understanding of the differing physical makeup of each camp environment in the various national sites explored.
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