By Florence Bernault

Over the final 30 years, a considerable literature at the background of yank and eu prisons has constructed. This assortment is one of the first in English to build a historical past of prisons in Africa. subject matters comprise precolonial punishments, residing stipulations in prisons and mining camps, ethnic mapping, modern refugee camps, and the political use of felony from the period of the slave alternate to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

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Thf Specraclf (~f St~(lt:·ring. has sho\\'n ho\v in Europe du ring the sixtl"C'nth and s~\'enteenth centuries. the state executioner had to share the power to punish with the cn)wd. 19. For narrJtives of spatial and social \\'anderings. see M. Wright, Strategies of Slaves and \\(,nu·n in East Africa. Life Stories fn)nl East/Central Africa (New York and London: Lilian Barber Press and James Currey. 1993). 20. P. 1artin.

In many countries, only specific categories of people belanging to categories deprived of strong connections in the social fabric, and lacking protection and even minimal social relations, such as labor migrants and foreigners, end up in prison and live out their sentences there. 143 Social vulnerability can result from the nature of the crime itself. Witchcraft, a crime legally recognized in several countries, generally Iands the perpetrator in prison, as incarceration proves an effective means of protecting the alleged criminal from popular vengeance.

The paucity of local European discourse on the refom1atory functions of the prison (Fourchard) is stunning. 106 In fact. at the titne of the conquest. European ideas about penal incarceration had already considerably atrophied. The prison model that colonizers \\·ere in1porting in Africa \vas no Ionger the ideal penitentiary of the reformers, but. rather. a failing institution that had survived the decline of the great refonn n1oven1ent. 107 In Europe. ideas about rehabilitation no Ionger played a prominent role in the penitentiaries~ in the colonies, the concem for repression easily preYailed.

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