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Research Update

resistance5's picture

I began my research with the intent of finding the connection between "civil death" and the maintainence of white supremacy. I'm still interested in learning more about this topic, but I'd like to open up my research to consider the connection between the maintenance of white supremacy and the actual purpose of prisons. Civil death still falls under this category, but instead of focusing on what I believe is a manifestation of the underlying oppressive social structures, I'd like to shine a light on the oppressive structures at play.

The following quote from Angela Davis' Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prison, Torture, and Empire got me interested in this topic, and I believe it encapsulates what I want the focus of my project to be on:

 . . . imprisonment is the punitive solution to a whole range of social problems that are not being addressed by those social institutions that might help people lead better, more satisfying lives. This is the logic of what has been called the imprisonment binge: Instead of building housing, throw the homeless in prison. Instead of developing the educational system, throw the illiterate in prison. Throw people in prison who lose jobs as the result of de-industrialization, globalization of capital, and the dismantling of the welfare state. Get rid of all of them. Remove these dispensable populations from society. According to this logic the prison becomes a way of disappearing people in the false hope of disappearing the underlying social problems they represent. (Davis 41)

 In sum, I'd like to focus my project on the prison's shift from a rehabilitatory institution to one that warehouses the nation's "deviants.


jschlosser's picture

What a powerful quote from Angela Davis! I'd encourage you to look at the sources Davis draws on in her work as well as those sources that Michelle Alexander uses in the first few chapters of The New Jim Crow. At this piont you want to keep gathering and looking for more ways that other scholars, researchers, writers, and activists have talked about this problem. A couple of other books come to mind:

1. Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference -- this has a discussion of deviancy and normality that might be useful.

2. Lisa Marie Cacho, Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected -- the first chapter especially lays out the meaning of this term with respect to criminality and imprisonment.

3. Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death -- Patterson invented the term "social death" so it'd be worth looking at this.

I'm happy to talk more and debrief after your meeting with Sheila!


resistance5's picture

During our research project debrief, Joel and I discussed my concerns about my lack of focus in my research. Joel suggested that I concentrate my research on Angela Davis and her views about the prison industrial complex, because her views aligned with what I am interested in learning more about. I am particularly interested in learning more about the role of the prison system as a way of containing and disappearing "disposable populations." At the time of our conversation, I was using the term deviant, instead of disposable populations, but since have changed my terming in order to be more clear about the individuals I believe are being oppressed by the PIC. Going forward we talked about me centering my research project on Angela Davis, and then going off of her, connecting her views to what we learned in class. I would especially like to center my research project on the quote from above from Angela Davis' Abolition Democarcy: Beyond Prison, Torture, and Empire.

jschlosser's picture

The books I mentioned earlier include the one I showed you during our meeting yesterday. Justice and the Politics of Difference has a great chapter about "the abject" and its production. So as you continue to read Davis you might take a look at that as well!