“The War and the Rights of Humanity”: Refugee Camps as Sites of Surveillance, Discipline, and Containment in the War of the Rebellion

Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM
Hampton Room (Omni Shoreham)
Thavolia Glymph, Duke University
Between 1861 and 1865, hundreds of thousands of enslaved people fled the South’s plantations and farms seeking sanctuary and freedom within Union military camps and lines of occupation. This paper explores their journey as asylum-seekers and the establishment of refugee camps as sites of labor and relief that came to serve as spaces of occupation, segregation, and the surveillance, discipline, and containment of “unruly” black bodies. In this paper I focus on the ways in which notions of diseased and hyper-sexualized black female bodies influenced the administration of the camps by Northern white men and women—military and civilian—who believed the presence of black women threatened the body politic and worried that it had the potential to generate what Neel Ahuja calls “monstrous spectacles of interspecies intimacy.” Finally, the paper explores refugees’ resistance to policies that held them to be a stateless people, placed them outside the boundaries of legal and civil rights, and permitted their extradition by slaveholders and the Confederate state even after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. Nor did the Union code of military conduct promulgated in 1863 (General Orders No. 100) stipulating that they were entitled “to the rights and privileges of a freeman” and fell under “the shield of the law of nations” protect them. The rise and management of refugee camps during the War of the Rebellion Civil War speaks to the long history of “camps” as sites of internment and subjugation and humanitarian crisis.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>