In the Camps is short, highly readable, and will appeal to anyone interested in violence and social justice.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“[An] intimate, sombre and damning account.” —Financial Times
“The voices of detainees filter through the pages of Darren Byler’s new book.” —The Economist
“Darren Byler has unwound this truly bone-chilling story about the methods the Chinese state is using to construct essentially a city that is a prison.... This is a really important work.” —MSNBC’s Chris Hayes
“The best short guide to the Xinjiang dystopia as it currently stands. In the Camps is a highly readable series of personal stories and vignettes from real people that shows how the Chinese state is using technology and its vast powers to pursue a cruel and ruthless policy of social engineering.” —Jeremy Goldkorn, SupChina
“In this essential work Byler, an expert on Uyghur culture whose research has been instrumental in exposing the Xinjiang camps, lays out the case with a particular focus on the use of technology—facial and voice recognition, smartphones as tracking and surveillance devices—as a tool of control.... Tough, but vital, reading.” —Alec Ash, The Wire China
“Enriched by the author’s dogged reporting and deep empathy for the victims, this is an authoritative account of a real-life dystopia.” —Publishers Weekly
“A chilling indictment of the direction of global capitalism and its failure to respond to the ethical wasteland promoted by the Chinese state.” —Mekong Review
“[Byler] offers more chilling evidence of the ‘smart’ camps in northwestern China, designed to restrict, punish, and ultimately exterminate the Indigenous population.... A book full of harrowing revelations of systematic injustice in China and the disturbing involvement of its foreign enablers.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Essential, accessible, erudite, empathetic, and deeply troubling. Told through individual stories of a handful of the hundreds of thousands trapped within China’s ‘extrajudicial mass internment program,’ In the Camps is required reading for anyone who wants to better understand the plight of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China today, and more generally for those concerned about the proliferation and deployment of new hi-tech methods of state surveillance and control over vulnerable populations.” —Himal Southasian
“While structural racism in the context of Chinese settler colonialism in Xinjiang evokes similar racisms in different parts of the world, Byler documents and analyzes how the new, digitized racialization of China’s Muslim minorities—an ‘automated racialization’ in a vast system of internment camps—has taken the meaning of dehumanization to a completely different level. Stark and devastating, and yet filled with empathetic detail for the victims, this book is required reading for anyone interested in racial justice across the world. Byler’s book shows us that this is not just China’s reality, but a global reality where the violence of one colonial regime cannot be disaggregated from global complicity.” —Shu-mei Shih, President, American Comparative Literature Association, and Edward W. Said Professor of Comparative Literature, UCLA
“While the central contributions of the book are the interviews with Uyghurs impacted by Xinjiang’s security state, Byler carefully underlines the foundational role Silicon Valley companies—particularly Microsoft—played in its construction.” —Jack Poulson, Executive Director, Tech Inquiry
“In the Camps offers an urgent and deeply humane intervention in a discourse often clouded with nationalism and Sinophobia. While presenting an unflinching picture of the Islamophobic human rights abuses perpetrated against Muslim populations in Xinjiang by the Chinese state, Byler highlights the ways in which these practices draw from familiar settler colonial logics, which work to construct racialized ‘others’ against whom exploitation and harm is made permissible.” —Meredith Whittaker, Minderoo Research Professor at NYU and Faculty Director of the AI Now Institute
“It's true, no matter how much the Chinese government denies it—in this richly sourced book, Darren Byler describes not only how members of Muslim ethnic groups in China are thrown into re-education camps just for practicing their religion, but also how those outside the camps are deprived of their freedom by a web of electronic and human surveillance. Built around true personal stories, the book is a riveting—and terrifying—account of one of the worst human rights abuses being perpetrated in the world today. —Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
“Byler’s concise book is a vital read because it foregrounds the experiences of people detained in the camps, stories that overlap and cohere into a raw portrait of systematic brutality and dehumanising routines.” —Nick Holdstock, author of China’s Forgotten People: Xinjiang, Terror and the Chinese State
“Is it fair that the pairing of ‘Chinese government’ and ‘surveillance’ has become contemporary shorthand for the atrocity of technologically tainted dehumanizing authoritarianism? Darren Byler’s brave and meticulously researched book, In the Camps, presents such a chilling account, even historically informed, cynical readers will be shocked by the scale, intensity, and soul-crushing brutality of the systems of control that he portrays, in painstaking detail, as normalized in Xinjiang while forgotten about by the rest of the world.” —Evan Selinger, professor of philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology
A professor of international studies offers more chilling evidence of the “smart” camps in northwestern China, designed to restrict, punish, and ultimately exterminate the Indigenous population.
Byler, who managed to visit the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region under strict surveillance and has friends who were “disappeared,” draws on dozens of interviews with Kazakh, Uyghur, and Hui former detainees, camp workers, and system technicians to tell their horrific stories. The author first grounds readers in an evenhanded history of the region, noting the relative autonomy that the Uyghurs used to enjoy in the south; this began to change in the 1990s as China shifted toward an export-driven market economy. The Uyghurs, who are Muslim, protested the unequal economic system, and their unrest was marked as “terrorism” by the Han authorities. Byler draws on extensive ethnographic research in Xinjiang and Kazakhstan between 2011 and 2020, revealing that Chinese authorities have placed as many as 1.5 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Hui into a system of “reeducation” camps since 2017. One young student from the University of Washington tried to visit her family in China and endured months of dehumanizing treatment. An Uzbek teacher of Chinese was enlisted to teach groups of the “uneducated,” though she quickly realized that they were Muslim like her and imprisoned for no reason other than their religion. She spoke of feeling “two-faced” at having to play both roles at the same time and laments the toll it took on her health—as it did other of Byler’s subjects. American firms are complicit: The author emphasizes that the technology used in “smart” surveillance systems used to contain and transform Muslim populations in northwest China are gleaned from Silicon Valley face-recognition tools perfected and exported by companies like Megvii, with deep connections to Microsoft, taking these systems of control to new levels of scale and intensity.
A book full of harrowing revelations of systematic injustice in China and the disturbing involvement of its foreign enablers.