Internment Questions and Answers
by Samira Ahmed

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How are the blocks divided? Why does Layla believe “the authority” did this?

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In the novel Internment, the concentration camp guards divide the interned Muslim people by race, ethnicity, and nationality. This divide-and-conquer strategy is implemented by the concentration camp authorities in an attempt to repress organized uprisings. By keeping people divided and by attempting to fuel any existing tensions among groups, the authorities are working to prevent unification and communication. Layla recognizes this divide-and-conquer strategy and understands that the divided blocks must organize together to revolt against the authorities. By creating a unified front of mostly young people across the blocks, rebellion occurs against the concentration camp. Layla and her Jewish boyfriend, Dave, also push back against divide-and-conquer strategies by working together across the walls of the interment camp to further the rebellion.

This divide-and-conquer strategy described in the novel is rooted in both historical precedent and present-day realities of how hierarchical powers work to ensure subordination of their subjects. For instance, ruling authorities of the American colonies enacted divide-and-conquer strategies against indentured and enslaved people in order to the lower the chances of a unified rebellion by indentured Europeans and enslaved African people. This divide-and-conquer strategy included both punishments and incentives, as interracial relationships and interracial escapes were severely punished, while indentured European people were also offered incentives to participate in the oppression of enslaved African people.

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