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The organization (Ângkar) as a state of exception: The case of the S-21 extermination camp, Phnom Penh

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Cunha, MPE 
Clegg, S 
Rego, A 
Lancione, M 


Organization theory, Clegg pointed out, has failed to address the role of organizations in some of the crimes of/against humanity, suggesting that more attention should be given to the case of total institutions. With this paper we respond to Clegg’s invitation and study the S-21 extermination camp, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We do so by engaging with the work of the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, with the aim of investigating the organizational patterns that constitute the camp as a ‘State of Exception’. Doing so shows us how organizations can become malign forces for evil. We explore the implications of this case for more general ‘Kafkaesque organization’, that sometimes reproduce, in more benign forms, many of the practices found at S-21.



total institutions, evil organizations, Cambodia, Khmer Rouge, S-21, Kafkaesque organizing, state of exception, bios, zoe, bare life

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Journal of Political Power

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Informa UK Limited