Putting Campers in Their Place

While brainstorming how interpellation functions at summer camp, I began to reflect on my own experiences as a camper, but especially as a camp leader myself. How do we put campers “in their place”? Also, how can interpellation function both inside and outside of camp? I originally viewed Althusser’s theory on interpellation and social reproduction as a singular expression of camp’s relation to society. That is, I thought only about how camp prepares youth for their role in the capitalist system rather than how camp can be seen as a microcosm of power structure on its own.

Certainly, summer camps have a strict hierarchy of authority and power that functions to interpellate campers. Like many other theories I have examined so far, the idea of interpellation ultimately speaks to the dominance of the ruling class. Is it possible that summer camp has its own “ruling class”? Do camp directors and other leaders mimic the power hierarchies at play in the wider realm of American society?

I think it’s absolutely true that summer camp is only made accessible to the middle and upper classes for the most part, although there are increasingly programs and scholarships specifically made available to underprivileged youth. Still, the typical “traditional” summer camp will interpellate and churn out a certain elite kind of individual. Chapter 1 of Abigail Van Slyck’s A Manufactured Wilderness, is titled “Putting Campers in Their Place”.

Van Slyck outlines how the structures at summer camp, especially those of an increasingly more permanent and modern nature, reflect a false sense of “freedom” and wilderness. In fact, she says, “camps enveloped campers in an environment akin to the modern suburb: safe, bucolic, and somewhat artificial” (Van Sylck 38). In this sense, Van Slyck is arguing that camps merely interpellated campers in the same sense that a school or home community might. This much is evident in other facts of my research as well. Still, the question remains: how might the inner-workings and power structures in a camp reflect small-scale societal interpellation?

Based on my own experiences teaching and following endless camp rules and expectations, I have no doubt that we interpellate campers so that they behave themselves and help our camp to run more smoothly as a whole. Other than these personal experiences, however, I am have been unable to find many examples to answer this question.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply