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Research Ideas

jschlosser's picture

Sheila mentioned googling some of the topics that were coming up for all of you in response to her questions. This is a great way to start your research, but I also wanted to suggest "hitting the stacks," that is, giving yourself a little time to go to the library and look at books on the shelves. We're fortunate enough to have what are called "open stacks," which means that you can wander among the books. (Contrast this to the New York Public Library, where you take the title of a specific book to a desk and they fetch the book for you.) This wandering can lead to fascinating discoveries as you see the title you meant to find rubbing against titles that you didn't expect -- but which are interesting and might open you to an entirely new way of thinking.

I'm also an inveterate book buyer, as anyone who's been in my office (or my apartment or my old bedroom at my parents' house or my parents' basement) could testify that I keep a lot of books around. So here's a list of a few books I have on my shelf that I'd like to read, books that I think might interest some of you. If you want to read some or all of any of these together, let me know; if enough of you want to do this, we could make room in the Arts of Freedom syllabus for a formal discussion.

1. Caught: The Prison State and the American Lockdown of Politics by Marie Gottshalk. "This is the most comprehensive, synthetic, and compelling account of what is driving penal trends in America today. For contemporary scholars and activists, Caught is certain to become a common starting point for future debates about what direction policy reform and social activism should take."--Jonathan Simon, author of Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear.

2. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America by Naomi Murakawa. "This brilliant book provides persuasive arguments and powerful analysis of how racial liberals deploy racial pity and 'neutral' administrative procedures to entrench images of black criminality and expand the US carceral state. Murakawa stands in the lineage of Angela Davis, Loic Waquant and Michelle Alexander in laying bare the disturbing contradiction between American ideals of criminal justice and American practices of state-sanctioned carceral violence against black people."--Cornel West

3. Golden Gulag: Prison, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California by Ruth Gilmore. “A magnificent analysis of the political economy of superincarceration and the slave plantations that California calls prisons.”—Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear

4. Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation by Beth Ritchie. “Richie expertly and chillingly documents the convergence of individual and structural racism, economic exploitation, and political disenfranchisement in the devastating gendered violence against the most disadvantaged Black women and girls. Arrested Justice represents the intersections of oppression at their most extreme. The book is frightening, enraging, and should be read by everyone.”-Joanne Belknap,author of The Invisible Woman: Gender, Crime, and Justice.

5. Race and Inclusion: Punishment, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism by Andrew Dilts. "Punishment and Inclusion: Race, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism is a powerful, remarkable book. It insightfully explores the nexus of punishment, disenfranchisement, and racism in the United States. Dilts calls on all of us to rethink our longstanding practice of felony disenfranchisement. His argument is subtle and thoroughly convincing. Written in an engaging and lucid style, it is truly a pleasure to read this book." -Austin Sarat, Amherst College

I invite you to go find one of these on the shelf in Canaday or McGill and see what else pops out at you!