Sacred Men

Law, Torture, and Retribution in Guam

Sacred Men

Global and Insurgent Legalities

More about this series

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 20 illustrations Published: November 2019

American Studies, Law > Legal Theory, Native and Indigenous Studies

Between 1944 and 1949 the United States Navy held a war crimes tribunal that tried Japanese nationals and members of Guam's indigenous Chamorro population who had worked for Japan's military government. In Sacred Men Keith L. Camacho traces the tribunal's legacy and its role in shaping contemporary domestic and international laws regarding combatants, jurisdiction, and property. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben's notions of bare life and Chamorro concepts of retribution, Camacho demonstrates how the U.S. tribunal used and justified the imprisonment, torture, murder, and exiling of accused Japanese and Chamorro war criminals in order to institute a new American political order. This U.S. disciplinary logic in Guam, Camacho argues, continues to directly inform the ideology used to justify the Guantánamo Bay detention center, the torture and enhanced interrogation of enemy combatants, and the American carceral state.


Sacred Men is a truly singular work of immense importance. It is original, compelling, and fiercely thought-provoking. Through a theoretical engagement with the Chamorro, Rotanese, and Saipanese indigenous epistemologies, Keith L. Camacho has brought the discussion of U.S. empire, law, sovereignty, militarism, and the working of carceral power to an entirely new horizon in ways no other scholar has done. A pathbreaking, field-shifting intervention.” — Lisa Yoneyama, author of Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes

“Exceedingly engaging, theoretically accomplished, and incisively researched, Sacred Men unravels the 1944 U.S. military tribunal in Guam, which included the prosecution and torture of Chamorro indigenes. Employing Agamben's homo sacer, Keith L. Camacho provides a razor-sharp analysis of the tribunal as a very real ‘bare life’ event but also as a metaphor for the murder, torture, and foreclosure of political life that has occurred throughout the colonies as ‘states of exception.’” — Brendan Hokowhitu, coeditor of The Fourth Eye: Maori Media in Aotearoa New Zealand

"Provocative and engaging, Camacho’s work not only breaks new ground in postcolonial and transpacific studies, but also calls attention to the role that Chamorro, Rotanese, and Saipanese indigenous epistemologies may play in the decolonization and deimperialization of US-occupied Guam." — Y. Shu, Choice

Sacred Men is the fourth offering in a new series from Duke, edited by Eve Darian-Smith and Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller, called Global and Insurgent Legalities…. With such talented authors and engaging titles to date, this is a series to keep a watch on.”

— Nick Cheesman, Journal of Pacific History

“Author Keith Camacho is especially interested in developing an analysis of law, justice, incarceration, and punishment in colonial situations...and in weaving this theoretical apparatus into the longer and larger history of US colonial rule in both North America and abroad.... [P]ath-breaking work...” — Glenn Petersen, Pacific Affairs

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Keith L. Camacho is Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, author of Cultures of Commemoration: The Politics of War, Memory, and History in the Mariana Islands, and coeditor of Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
Part I. The State of Exception
1. War Bodies  29
2. War Crimes  60
Part II. The Bird and the Lizard
3. Native Assailants  89
4. Native Murderers  116
Part III. The Military Colony
5. Japanese Traitors  149
6. Japanese Militarists  181
Conclusion  215
Notes  225
Bibliography  269
Index  283
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0634-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0503-2
Funding Information This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) – a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries – and the generous support of Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, and the UCLA Library. Learn more at the TOME website, available at: