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The Concentration Camp in Global Historical Perspective

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Abstract

The global history of the concentration camp demonstrates the density and importance of multiple transnational links in the history of war and terror in the twentieth century. Concentration camps first emerged in the non-Western world within the historical context of colonial rule – which both reinforced the myth of white racial superiority, justified the use of violence against colonized populations and proliferated ideas of ethnic and/or political cleansing. Global connections and transfers moved the concentration camp from the European colonial domains to the European continent itself where the implementation of those practices facilitated the shift to total war and also helped shape a new brutality displayed by European armies toward non-combatants during and after World War I. From Europe those practices and concepts traveled further throughout the world to eventually manifest themselves in many conflicts in the non-Western world. In their intention to seek potent strategies for ending resistance to their rule and enforcing discipline, various Chinese regimes, for instance, combed through the globally available stock of technologies of repression and violence and created concentration camp systems for dealing with their adversaries.

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