Colony : Ann Laura Stoler

Matt Mattingly / First Light Last Light
Matt Mattingly / First Light Last Light

Colony : Ann Laura Stoler

Political concepts work upon us for very different reasons and entreat our attention in very different ways.1 Some impose their authority over our thinking and actions because they saturate our environment, incanted strategically, or wondrously shorn of reflection on the public stage. We might seize on them for scrutiny because they seem to offer the possibility of disrupting the dulling familiarity of common nouns, or allow us to cut through to the interpretive dissonance of contemporary political predicaments. Not least, we seek those that can render more legible, if not more reasoned, what buttresses the predisposed disregard or unfounded passions that move us in our everyday.

Some announce their force by their ubiquitous historical presence. Some command our attention by association with the formidable list of thinkers who have long signaled their import, who have wrested them from the obscurity of an innocuous noun by drawing them into the conceptual orbit of their ethical frames. Other concepts (think “liberalism,” “freedom,” “democracy”) are so infused with the vacuous rhetoric of the contemporary political sphere that they seem to dull the senses, slipping by unnoticed as if protected by the numb of iteration, impervious to elaboration.

Some of the most favored concepts of political theory acquire their critical force precisely because they are not considered political concepts at all, or because they have so long been considered benign and removed from the domain of contemporary politics. We can make their presence felt retroactively because of what we do with them: lifting them from the sludge of the unadorned nouns by setting out their subliminal force, gleaning their potency from the veiled fashion in which they craft subjects, requisition objects, and couch their command. Those that tend to grab us – those that assert themselves as political, or that we assert as squarely political for them – do so because they offer to help us think otherwise about what is assigned as common sense. They invite exit from our own casts of mind, challenge our commitments, counter the silence of political decorum or the distracting din of analytic convention.

“Colony” inhabits an ambiguous sort of space in its oscillation between the still neutrality of a common noun and a political concept in wait, poised to discharge its potentiality. Philosophers bypass it. As a common noun with no conceptual caché, its referents fall too easily into an unproblematic and manifest place. For political theorists who prefer to grapple with the more compelling “isms” from which the “colony” arises, or is given rise to, the term has little to say. Specialists instead vie for definitional authority over what colonialism is or is not, a contest perceived to have higher political stakes. Today, “What is a colony?” barely merits an analytic pause; it remains undisturbed, a quiescent non-question.

For students of social formations as well, “a colony” warrants little intellectual work. Tracking homonyms is a trivial pursuit. Sociologists and anthropologists who favor delineated contexts and concrete moments offer descriptive profiles of a particular colony, or comparison with those that meet their prior requirements for inclusion, entities whose pre-assigned attributes bear out that name. Among those of us who work in this mode, a colony tends to be treated as transparent. It describes a physical and social location of a specified aggregated population, a place, a specified dis-aggregated population of colonizer and colonized, distinctions productive of and dependent on a set of trained dispositions, on unequal entitlements to resources and rights, on conquest as dispossession, on dispossession as progress, and not least, on a requisite set of embodied and durable racialized relations.2

But this is only one version of its manifestation and its temporally capacious political career. None of these points of entry broach the changing force fields in which the term “colony” has operated, nor the geopolitical and historical breadth of the political visions embedded within it. Each assumes an essence rather than tracks its coordinates, ascribes rather than poses what a colony is, and what generates and makes up its multiple logics. Such starting points are poorly positioned to address a colony’s range of mutation. Not least, a foundational if shadowed feature is lost: namely, that the colony (the penal colony, the military colony, the settler colony, the nineteenth-century agricultural colonies in France) is marked by the instability of both its morphology and the political mandates to which its architects and agents subscribe. Such vantage points are ill-poised to address what Hannah Arendt called the “wild confusion of historical terminology” to which imperial formations give rise.3 Few (Arendt included) have asked whether this “wild confusion” is not significant in itself. Already knowing what a colony is precludes asking whether ambiguous nomenclatures, competing visions, repeated failures, and reversals of course (and the violence, alleged permanence, and the fortressed settledness they engender) prefigure the colony not as a site of settlement but as always unstable and precarious, plagued by the expectant promise and fear of its becoming another sort of entity. For some who inhabit it, a colony is both a promise and the anticipation of a future. For others, it is the suspension of time, the ordinary is reordered in a cordoned off, designated space – in a holding pen that constricts sociality, nourishes suspicion, and further confines the recalcitrant. The colony does more than criminalize dissidence. It produces enemies within and without and anxiously awaits their moments of capture. Its agents are emboldened by the fervent search for those who elude its strictures by disguise and feigned acquiescence. Those most favored, disdained, and held in contempt are those whose speech and comportment allows them to “pass.”

If the concept of security, as Foucault argued, is one that works on “possible events” as much as on those that are current and operative, then the colony as a political concept is in part defined by its potentiality in this conditional mode.4 The problematization of security may be muted or manifest, confronted or quelled with different degrees of intensity. But the incitement to, and leveraging of, security – of that which must be potentially defended against – is at its heart. Security may have become, as Agamben insists, “a veritable paradigm of government” today, but it has been paradigmatic and elemental for the practices of imperial governance far longer than his assertion suggests.5 It raises an issue that eluded both Foucault’s treatment of “the carceral archipelago” (from which he excluded the penal colony as too early and the camp as too extreme), as well as Agamben’s own treatment of the (refugee) camp as the first in a series of exceptions that has become at once “the nomos of the modern” and the norm: the colony and camp are both containments, enclosures, and unsettled encampments that are more closely allied than we may have imagined. One might describe them as distinct but dependent and not apart. Or perhaps more aptly, they share a “family resemblance” (in Wittgenstein’s sense), not any one essential core feature so much as an “overlapping,” crisscrossing” set in “a complicated network of similarities.”6 Colony and camp make up a conjoined conceptual matrix, twin formations and formulations of how imperial, rather than national, logics of security operate. They borrow and blend features of their protective architecture and anticipatory fear. They are in a deadly embrace from the start.

The conceptual work marshaled to maintain the colony as a political principle is protean, transitory, and contingent in its inception and instantiations. As a political entity, a colony stands apart and is part of something else. Ontologically, it exists in virtue of its dependent status as a subset of another commanding polity. Those who inhabit a colony stand in skewed relationship to a broader biopolitical and legal norm. Conceptually, THE COLONY is a tenuous, illegitimate, provisional political formation that can only sustain itself by turning people into other social kinds and its political subordination into something else.

Rather than assume unity of what is called a colony, I begin elsewhere: not with an etymological exercise – not with the word’s firm founding in the Latin colonus, farmer, and the verb colere, to till – but with what Ian Hacking (building on Foucault) would call its historical ontologies.7 This tack is at once tightly bound to the historical coordinates of the conceptual and concrete landscape a colony inhabits. It favors the sometimes peculiar associations A COLONY calls forth, the disparate and convergent uses to which the term and the site it named were put. One pursuit would be to follow the divergent trajectories of the term itself. Alternately, one might track that which it has elicited: that is, the comparisons that were made by its social technicians (as Paul Rabinow has called them) between arrangements of people in space that were not named colonies but that their conceptual architectonics called to mind. Such a tack follows the contour of the colony by the range of commensurabilities it called forth and upon. Modular, modified and minute variations are not to be distilled or discarded but retained, as Deleuze and Guattari remind us, near at hand.8 Such a treatment might render historical labor not as the enumeration of “cases” – reduced to the empirical groundwork of concept formation – but, as I would argue, a privileged, generative site where concepts come into creation, a venture for which I borrow John Austin’s term (and use differently than would Bourdieu and later Rabinow) that may grant history its distinctive status as a rich ethnographic site for “fieldwork in philosophy.”9

A Protean Archive

If concepts, as Deleuze and Guattari insisted, are condensed “centers of vibration,” nowhere is that resonance more palpable for the political concept of THE COLONY than in the pulse of the archive that it produced, in the paper trails that track the obvious and oblique connectivities to other entities that might share its proclivities, and to other concepts congealed around it. Let me be clear.10 My starting point is not a colonial archive as we have come to understand that thing and that term. It is not a prior, bounded collection of colonial documents, with policed categories and borders, with inclusions and excisions shaped by the exigencies of imperial governance and the acquisitive bureaucracies that it sustained. Rather, it is a virtual archive, a nodal network, more like a dispositif, “gradated,” “compact and diffused,” and as such freed of the “house arrest” that Derrida imagined keeps archives sequestered, coveted, out of reach and in place.11 As importantly, it is a protean archive borne out of the imagined, real, blueprinted, studied, dismissed, and cross referenced articulations that have emerged from its own filiations. It is an archive that follows the morphology not only of what a colony was, but also the contours outlined by the imagination of what it could be, should be, and might become. Strategies to secure control over a people and place, or to monitor inchoate refusals to succumb to the colony’s command are generative of anticipated enemies and anticipatory fears. Documentation of what was imagined to be in the making – and scrupulous projections of what might be – produce an archive of accelerating accumulations that exceeds the colonial archive proper, and which thrives on pre-emptive (un)reason and the future conditional tense.12

It is a protean archive in another sense: one constituted by scripted documents of island and landlocked colonies that stretched across the coercive and curative carceral and humanitarian globe. Its archival web sprawls across the hundreds of agricultural colonies for delinquent youth established throughout France and the Netherlands in the 1840s and 1850s, the pioneer colonies on the Russian steppe, the penal colonies of the French Antilles and British Guiana plotted across the Caribbean, always proximate to the white settler sugar colonies that could be seen from their shores; the leper colonies of Trinidad, Tobago and Hawaii, the Algerian prison colonies where French dissidents were deposited after the 1848 revolution, the agricultural colonies in the same Algerian countryside designed to remove from Europe and resettle its increasing numbers caught in the intemperate economic zones assigned to the urban poor. Not least, it is an archive that encompasses and moves across different scales. It includes prison penal colonies within settler colonies (as Mauritius served for the British in Bengal in the l820s), as well as enclave colonies of containment like those planned for poor Indo-European mixed-bloods in the highlands of the Netherlands Indies – in the outreaches of New Guinea (in the l930s) and in the heartland of nineteenth century Java.13 Only one rule commands our treatment of this virtual archive: the connections and linkages emerge from the shadows of political imaginaries within the documents; they are not ours to make.
Thus we might do well to begin with the actual filiations that were drawn between these different sorts of “colony,” and with a documentary trace that made precisely those connections. It is an essay of five hundred pages, in four volumes, written by a certain Count de Tourdonnet in Paris, published in l863 under the title: “An essay on the education of poor children: The agricultural colonies” of which the French agricultural colony of Mettray was hailed as a template for the sixty that were created in the following decade.14 It was internationally known. Its fame was not accidental. Its founder, the former magistrate Frederic-Auguste Demetz, had travelled far and wide in search for models on which to draw. He welcomed dignitaries from Britain, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.S. and built a “Hotel de Colonie” just outside the guarded grounds to publicize his experiment in cure and reform.

If these children’s agricultural colonies designed as “seedbeds” to raise honest citizens with limited aspirations had iconic status in the nineteenth century, Foucault’s Discipline and Punish was to endow the exemplary one of Mettray with more. For Foucault, Mettray’s opening in l840 marked at once “the completion of the carceral archipelago,” the dawn of “a new era” in the “art of power relations.” It was here that he located “the art of punishing that is still more or less our own.”15 Foucault’s analytic sweep and dramatic prose are compelling but they belie a truncated history, partial, schematic, and skewed in time and place. Mettray was a node in a network, many of whose linkages Foucault bypassed, knew little of, or had not sought to name. For one who has compelled us to rethink an event as a “breach of self-evidence,” Mettray’s opening falls short on too many counts. It was neither an epistemic breach nor an assault on political common sense. It was rather a predictable extension of decades of recalibrations of what constituted the most effective balance and gradations of punitive and curative arrangements across the colonies and imperial globe.16 Foucault’s carceral archipelago was bound by Europe and it alone, with penal colonies relegated to vestiges of another moment. But, as Peter Redfield notes, they were not “marginal spaces on the edge of the nation” as Foucault saw them.17 They were part of a constellation of templates that produced the barricaded security regimes of empire, and count among the refurbished and central geopolitical technologies that endure in the distribution of protected spaces and sites of containment today.

De Tourdonnet was not alone in the mid-nineteenth century in seeing the filiations among different sorts of colonies. His map is far more vast than Foucault’s and spreads across the imperial map. His extended essay begins not with the children’s colonies agricoles in Northern France but with Catherine the Second’s mid-eighteenth-century projects to establish colonies on Russia’s borders, rural colonies to house abandoned children on St. Petersburg’s outskirts, and the “remarkable Russian colonies in the Volga basin.” The penal colonies in Guiana and New Caledonia, Siberian colonies and the Algerian colonie agricole at Lambèse, reserved for France’s political dissidents, figure squarely within his purview as well. Colonies of forced resettlement, confinement, cure, and cultivation were all subject to consideration. Connections that escaped Foucault’s carceral archipelago are placed full front on De Tourdonnet’s conceptual, visionary political map.

Mettray tells us of other connections: images of its central courtyard are marked with a punctum that Roland Barthes would have relished, the replica of a sailing ship on dry land (an item rarely mentioned in the historiographies of colonies agricoles).18 But the ship was not really out of place. It marked the nexus of multiple kinds of colonies and their overlapping projects. These were colonies designed to prepare their urban inmates, the colons (colonists), for their voyage to Algeria, others for naval jobs on the higher seas. This was the means by which De Tourdonnet and many others saw to alleviate metropolitan Europe of its déclassé, and create out of Algeria, a “second continental France.”19

But the linkages stretch further around the imperial globe. Mettray’s founder, Demetz, drew his inspiration from other sites: from one established by one of the most prominent Dutch colonial governors and reformists, Van den Bosch, who established the first agricultural colonies for the criminalized poor in the Netherlands in l8l7 and a forced cultivation system for Javanese farmers in the following thirty years, making Java, as one historian has called it, a “para-penal colony.”20 And it was De Tocqueville who both lauded Mettray, and so praised Demetz, and who after visiting Philadelphia’s new penitentiary cast the carceral net back through the conquest of Algeria. I have followed these citations in detail elsewhere and cannot do so here.21 This truncated account only gestures to the conceptual lines that were drawn between what today we take to be such fundamentally different experiments, governing projects, and incommensurate colonies. But even a glimpse of these connectivities should slow our steps and humble our assessments of what we know about the enclosed, cordoned off, carceral arrangements spread across the imperial globe. Conceived concurrently, often in collaboration, they drew on and amplified political logics of security, reform, and managed mobilities that remain submerged within our own.

This is not an archive in which “a colony” is secured as a political concept once and for all. It is rather a site where the distinction between its staid life as a common noun and its vibrant life as a political concept is messy, elusive, and besmudged. Nor is this the virtual archive of what might be immediately recognized as a “governing concept” that organizes the bounty of a dense conceptual constellation. We might think of it more as a subjacent political concept, a muted one that exerts surreptitious command. It resonates but does not cohere. It invites us to follow its “movable bridges” and the rugged passages and detours through which it unfolds.22 Its discernability must be traced on the outer ridges of its concrete achievements and its conceptual “success:” in the short lived projects, borrowed technologies, blueprints realized and scrapped, revised projections, failed attempts, and aborted plans.

A colony does not announce itself as a political concept but exerts its force nonetheless. It organizes visions, imaginaries, and futures. It neither stands alone nor exists complete, unto itself. It is a potential concept, completed only by what attaches to it, what is excluded from it, and what it attaches to. It is always relational, measured against and distinct from a broader and more stable normative physical, political, and social space: distinct from the normative conventions of “free” settlement, and from a normal population (of those not exiled, ex-communicated, diseased, politically contagious, socially unfit, vagrant or otherwise dis-abled). A colony as a common noun is a place where people are moved in and out, a place of livid, hopeful, desperate, and violent – willed and unwilled – circulation. It is marked by unsettledness and regulated, policed migration. A colony as a political concept is not a place but a principle of managed mobilities, mobilizing and immobilizing populations, dislocating and relocating peoples according to a set of changing rules and hierarchies that orders social kinds: those eligible for recruitment, for subsidized or forced resettlement, for extreme deprivation or privilege, prioritized residence or confinement. This does not occur in a given, fixed designated space (though claims to rightful sovereignty over a particular place as in the case of colonial conquest over new and otherwise “unproductive” territories and alleged “wasteland” would suggest otherwise). That space is not demarcated once and for all. Its borders shift as do the means to secure them. Some were holding pens and returned to that function in later times; some took as their goal the making of new social kinds sculpted from those cajoled, seduced, chosen or forced to be there.

A colony as a political concept assesses the value of human kinds. It organizes activities of labor and leisure and decides who is deserving of them. It defines transgressions and metes out punishments by the goals it has set for itself. Many die there in pursuit of a better life for themselves, many die or starve there crushed by the same quest but subject to the degraded labor conditions that produce and allow a better life for others. A colony not only serves both purposes; these two senses of possibility are tightly bound and depend on each other.

As such, a colony as a political concept not only identifies recurrent problematizations. It is the crystallization of one problematization that always gives way to many more. These problems may be framed as “the mixed-blood question,” the “poor white question,” “the security issue,” or “the problem of immoral conduct,” among others. Such problems are insistently and incessantly reposed, reformulated, reworked, and strategically reanimated: who should be there, how many, who will work with their hands, who will be exempt from certain kinds of labor. Who will be charged with letting some out and others enter are pragmatic problems of the everyday but also feats of social engineering designed to monitor how much pressure to apply and where to apply it: on the social body or on strategic points of a person’s flesh. Concepts of “security,” “fear”, “preparedness,” expendability,” “risk,” and “reform” make up the shared vocabulary of those charged with its quotidian and conceptual management and care.

The filiations that are drawn in this virtual archive of the colony/camp are not unreasoned fabulations: between an agricultural colony for wayward boys and a prison in the fields, or between a military camp in 1845 Algeria later turned into an agricultural settlement. The very substitutability and morphed exchangeability between these forms suggests lineages and kinships that are uncontained by the distinctions between metropole and colony, and badly served if the starting point is assumed knowledge of what distinguishes the arts of governance as nation-bound political logics from those of imperial formations.

In our virtual archive of the colony that joins penal colonies, settler colonies, and agricultural colonies of delinquent youth, one is struck by several things: one, that virtually all colonies, no matter their intent, their location, or their designated population, are artefacts of deliberate and concerted design. Design is key for it announces how much the colony as a political concept commands the pre-emptive, calculates malintent, assesses future transgressions and potential breaches of security. Design works in the subjunctive mood and gravitates to the possible. The colony as common noun and as a political concept, as a place and a potentiality, is imagined, implemented, and lived in its conditional, future tense.

If the concept is, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, “the contour, the configuration, the constellation of an event to come,” the colony anticipates that event in its very making.23 The colony is a provisional configuration that promises something else; the recalcitrant, impoverished poor white “colon” who will be reformed, domesticated through rigorous agricultural labor and love of the land. As De Tourdonnet saw it, young thieves roaming Europe’s plush avenues and slums would be quarantined in Rousillon or Provence until they were “made ready” to re-inhabit France’s depopulated countryside or adapted to work in a hotter clime, to work the land, settle the colony, and defend the empire. Thus the colony assesses social kinds but also inscribes their factuality in its everyday implementation and design: in who gets how much cloth or meat and what quality, who is allocated what shelter, services, privileges, water, and land. This meticulous partitioning, however, does not secure the success of the colony. Even indelible inscriptions on the body, as Kafka so vividly described, provide no guarantee that the planning works.24 On the contrary, they register the repeated efforts of the colony’s purveyors to affirm acquiescence of body and soul. The concept of the colony is not foretelling a future colony held in place by design, but rather the unstable morphology of its provisional making and remaking again and again.

Second, despite that deliberate design, there is no one commanding logic that can account for a colony’s content or form. Dissension, refusal, and conflict animate their beginnings and permutate into what might go by another name. This then is not only the archive of a different history from those of penal histories, colonial histories, and histories of social reform that have stood apart for so long. The archive of “the colony” condenses what Foucault identified as the prime subject of genealogy. It is not the entry point to a different history, but to a differential one that recuperates the lines of force, relational histories, and as he put it, “the dissension of other things.”25 As a political concept, A COLONY is the sifted remainder of disparities and of the contradictions that made it up. As an always already unfinished project that can never be settled or finished once and for all, the contests over degrees of sovereignty and gradations of un-freedom produce recurrent forays and standoffs in a thickly embattled space in which no one is really safe. Imperial formations thrive on the tangible and intangible opacities of privilege and privation that reinvent what constitutes the law.26

Rather than imagining a typology of colonies that emerged clean out of whole cloth – a settler colony, a penal colony, an entrepôt with few colonists at all – we see the tangled projects and investments that defined their distinctions as well as the convergences among them. Consensus on how they should be managed and who should be in them were always provisional at best. More meticulous order was symptomatic of the fear of less. Settlements of abandoned children, unemployed Parisian families in the Algerian bled, North African Jews sent to the borderlands of Israel’s declared borders or deposited squarely on Palestine land in active cultivation, Spanish re-concentration settlements for Cuba’s volatile and recalcitrant urban poor, cannot be charted on a linear or developmental scale as they would in an originary tale.

What is more striking is how many of these disparate settlements were conceived as political projects with interchangeable parts and substitutable populations. Penal colonies of the late nineteenth century were not vestiges of another earlier form of disciplinary control, as Foucault would have it. In the virtual archive of the colony there is no clear line to be drawn. Tasmania’s Port Arthur penal settlement established in 1830 may have belonged to the old regimes of spectacular punishment written on the body, but as John Frow argues, it was also part of the new humane regimes of moral inculcation operating on the soul.27 These are recursive elements and enduring properties.
As a political concept designed to distribute power, a colony is doomed to fail. Inside and outside are mobile locations and cannot be maintained as viable borders. Interior frontiers stretch obliquely across and within their guarded space. Enclosure, gated enclaves, barb wired encampments, and sequestered populations produce imagined threats: transgressions of the private, intrusions on the safe, a storming of the gates. They take the form of enclosure, but what and who must be kept out, and what and who must stay in are neither fixed, nor easy to assess. Internal enemies are ever-present potentialities: signs of their emergence may appear, and be conjured, anywhere. To protect those within or contain them, or protect those without who might be disturbed, at risk, or endangered by exposure to them, is no easy task. These are not mutually exclusive projects. They are certainly not opposing ones. Being “at risk” and “a risk” is a thin political line that colonial histories rarely seek to address. Being protected is not designated only by who is within the colony and who is not. This quality of boundedness within and without produces anxious movement, escapes, desertion, capture, captivity, predator and prey, and more surveillance.28 From inside and out, a colony mobilizes fear, insecurity, and force. Colonies, designed as safety nets and havens, are never safe. Such settlements called “colonies” are nodes of anxious, uneasy circulations, settlements that are not settled at all.

Foucault’s “carceral archipelago” could never work as one bound by Europe, and its practitioners knew it well. The “carceral archipelago” was a metaphor with generative conceptual weight. These networks were literal archipelagos but also figurative in more legal senses than Foucault might have envisioned. These were zones of semi-extraterritorial status, part of, but removed from, certain legal restrictions, inside and outside the nation proper. Like the detention and refugee camps in Europe today, which Didier Fassin describes as removed from the polis proper, they were clusterings of types of persons, both “of” and “at” biopolitical risk, relegated to the edges of legality, to the outskirts of the nation and on the edges of empire, but not outside their networks of security, surveillance, and intelligence, or their visionary bounds.29 Michel Agier goes further, arguing that that exile is always “interior, with no outside, and depends on the creation of artifacts [and fictions] of extraterritoriality.”30

Foucault was right that many of the projects to use the children housed in France’s agricultural colonies for conquest and protection never got off the ground. However faint their imprint might remain, they are indelible watermarks of empire that trace the lineaments of how broadly security regimes were conceived. There are no straight historical lines that lead from les colonies agricoles to Guantanamo. Nor do the late nineteenth-century re-concentration centers in Cuba or the German camps for the Herero provide a direct link to Nazi concentration camps or humanitarian refugee camps, as some German historians are wont to claim.31 Re-orienting our historical and conceptual maps has to do more than reverse directionality, revise chronologies, and the spatial scope of European history. At issue are our questions that direct new comparisons and convergences about the shared spaces, factualities, instruments, and persons created and driven in and out of circulation. Such a historical analytics adheres to and demands the empirical to question changing conceptual architectures and the political principles lodged within them.

A colony is a ravaged home. Memmi held that there is no going home from a colony. One is never again the same. But that is not really the case. It is rendered un-homely for those on whom it is imposed, as well as for those to whom it is offered as a stolen gift. There is no being “at home,” only unsettled waiting for something else, for release from those unfulfilled promises and that anxious unfilled labor.


Ann Laura Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies at The New School for Social Research.


Published Winter 2012

1. Acknowledgements: I thank Jay Bernstein, Val Daniel, Adi Ophir, Lawrence Hirschfeld, and members of the Workshop on Political Concepts held at The New School for Social Research, December 2010 for their comments, queries, and incitements to clarification.

2. In this treatment of it as a political concept, my discussion is framed around and limited to the modern colony. It excludes colonies in the ancient world and makes no attempt to create or contest continuity between the ancient and the modern concept.

3. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1979), 131.

4. Michel Foucault, Securité, Territoire, Population; Cours au Collège de France, 1977-1978 (Paris: Gallimard, 2004), 22. See also Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

5. Giorgio Agamben, “Le governement de l’insecurité” (entretien avec Andrea Cortellessa), La revue internationale des livres et des idées, accessed March 8, 2009, Also see Giorgio Agamben, “The Camp as the ‘Nomos’ of the Modern,” in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press,1998), 166-180.

6. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1958), 32.

7. Ian Hacking, Historical Ontology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), 26.

8. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy? (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 20.

9. See John Austin, “A Plea for excuses,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, i956-7, accessed March 14, 2009,; Pierre Bourdieu, “Fieldwork in Philosophy,” in Choses dites (Paris: Minuit, 1987); Paul Rabinow, French Modern (Cambridge, MA.: MIT, 1989), 16.

10. Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 23.

11. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996), 2.

12. For more on these visions, see Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain, chapter on “Developing Historical Negatives.”

13. Claire Anderson, “The Genealogy of the Modern Subject: Indian convicts in Mauritius, l8l14-l853,” in Representing Convicts: New Perspectives on Convict Forced Labor Migration, ed. Ian Duffield and James Bradley (London: Leicester University Press, 1997), 164-182.

14. See Jeroen Dekker, “Transforming the Nation and the Child: Philanthropy in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and England,” in Charity, Philanthropy and Reform: from the 1690s to l850, ed. H. Cunningham and J. Innes (New York: St. Martin’s, 1998), 130-47; and Ceri Crossley, “Using and Transforming the French Countryside: the ‘Colonies Agricoles’ (1820-1850),” French Studies 44: 1 (1991), 36-54.

15. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 296.

16. Michel Foucault, “Table Ronde du 20 mai 1978,” in Dits et écrits, tome IV (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 27.

17. Peter Redfield, Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 64.

18. See the cover image that adorns Eduquer et punir: La colonie agricole et pénitentiaire de Mettray (1839-1937), ed. Luc Forlivesi, Georges-François Pottier and Sopie Chassat (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2005).

19. De Tourdonnet, L’essai sur l’éducation, tome II, 162-4.

20. Albert Schauwers, “The ‘Benevolent’ colonies of Johannes van den Bosch: Continuities in the Administration of Poverty in the Netherlands and Indonesia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 43:2 (2001), 298-328.

21. See Ann Laura Stoler “Colony and Camp: A Political Matrix” in Durabilities of Imperial Duress (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).

22. Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 23.

23. Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 32-33.

24. Franz Kafka, The Penal Colony (New York: Schoken, 1948), 191-227. For a brilliant analysis of Kafka’s penal colony and the concept of the “colonie” (which I first learned about after this essay was completed,) see Seloua Luste Boulbina, Le Singe de Kafka (Lyon: Sens Public, 2008).

25. Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice (Ithaca: Cornell, 1977), 142.

26. Ann Laura Stoler, “On Degrees of Imperial Sovereignty,” Public Culture 18:1 (2006), 125-146.

27. John Frow, “In the Penal Colony,” Journal of Australian Studies (2000), 6.

28. On the interchangeability between predator and prey, and the manhunt, as an enduring nexus of political philosophy see Gregoire Chamayou, Les chasses a l’homme (Paris: La fabrique, 2010).

29. Didier Fassin, “Compassion and Repression: The Moral Economy of Immigration Policies in France,” Cultural Anthropology 20:3 (2005), 362-387, 381.

30. Michel Agier, Le couloirs des exilés: Être étranger dans un monde commun (Paris: Editions du croquant, 2011), 23.

31. There is now an extensive literature and intensive debate on this subject. See, for example, Benjamin Madley, “From Africa to Auschwitz: How German South West Africa Incubated Ideas and Methods Adopted and Developed by the Nazis in Germany,” European History Quarterly 35:3 (2005), 429-464; Jürgen Zimmerer, Joachim Zeller, Edward Neather, ed. Genocide in German South-West Africa: the Colonial War (1904-1908) (Monmouth, Wales: Merlin Press, 2007).