Database Entry: Primo Levi, Camp Power, and Terror Capitalism: A Conversation with Darren Byler
Internment Surveillance Internment conditions

Primo Levi, Camp Power, and Terror Capitalism: A Conversation with Darren Byler

October 13, 2021
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Much of the dehumanisation in the camps comes from deindividuation and imposed scarcity. In every camp, people were given a uniform and had their head shaved or closely cropped. In many cases, they were forced to use buckets as toilets in the presence of other detainees and in front of high-definition surveillance cameras. The smell of the buckets permeated the cell. The detainees were permitted to shower very infrequently and given a change of clothes even less often. Showering is timed so detainees often fought with each other over access to water and soap. They are forced to sing ‘Red’ songs before meals as loudly as possible. Often, food is withheld until they sing well enough. Many people became ill due to poor nutrition, lack of sanitation, hours of sitting on plastic stools or benches, beatings, and lack of medical attention. While they were not assigned a permanent number, in the cells, they responded to roll call by shouting out the number they had been assigned within the cell. Numbers are typically assigned based on who is the ‘class monitor’ [班长] of the cell and the time of their arrival in the cell; the last to arrive is given the highest number and least favourable sleeping arrangements. If there are more people than can sleep hands to feet on a narrow bunk, the detainees are forced to take turns sleeping and ‘standing guard’, which introduces an additional antagonism in the social order of the cell.