This conversation with Naomi Paik exposes the arguments she develops in her forthcoming book currently entitled Rightlessness (2015). In it, she uses three historical examples of camps administrated by the United States in their efforts of manufacturing rightlessness for bodies it wants to exclude from traditional judicial channels. We begin the conversation by talking of the logic behind the late 1980s discussion about symbolical and financial reparations to Japanese American citizens who had been incarcerated in the infamous camps from 1942 to 1945. Naomi then describes the legal and physical existence of a camp in Guantanamo holding HIV positive refugees having fled the Haiti 1991 coup d’état and being refused asylum in the United States. Finally, the third historical example is the current function of Camp Delta in Guantanamo, where the legal fictitious status of “enemy combatant” — we discuss of the very signification of this label — provided a simulacrum of legitimacy to indefinitely incarcerate dozens of kidnapped people suspected of belonging to terrorist group without due trial.
A. Naomi Paik is an assistant professor of Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign . She earned her doctorate in American studies from Yale University and held the Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Early Career Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Humanities Center of the University of Pittsburgh. Her manuscript, Rightlessness: Testimonies from the Camp (forthcoming, UNC Press), reads testimonial narratives of subjects rendered rightless by the U.S. state through their imprisonment in camps. She has published articles in Social Text, Radical History Review, and Cultural Dynamics.