The next prison paper

Decarceration / prison abolition is a key piece of the revolution to come. (We HAVE to have revolution according to the Afro-Pessimists, you know, and they would probably say we need the prison system to create the not quite human category of people that are the black ones/black death, and so on). I want to look more at Zizek, Violence, the carceral system as everyday objective (invisible) violence, and at Mbembe, Necropolitics. And I guess I connect this to Latin America, the drug war is a cliché but what about more on prisons? Also: the prison system is there for reasons of state: explain this.


4 thoughts on “The next prison paper

  1. I see: it can be about migrants, also. AND it can use some of Rey’s work: carceral landscapes.

  2. For solidarity: Chenoweth, Erica, and Maria J. Stephan. Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. 2011. New York: Columbia University Press.

  3. My first paper was for this proposed volume:

    Capitalist Lootings: Carceral Regimes and Racialized Violence

    The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers demonstrates state power in its most murderous form. This exacting act of killing marked not just one man’s life but all Black life precarious, always at risk. Beyond the individual body, it was aimed at the body politic: It delineated meticulously who is and who is not considered worthy of living. Actslike theseestablishand ferment secondary and, at times, tertiary defacto levels of citizenship. And yet, this is not amatter ofphysical violence alone. It isalso about the social death of racialized subjects thatresults from political neglect and their “letting die” by way of economic dispossession. The wave of protests that erupted in response to George Floyd’s death is not simplythe indictment ofa murder, but of the fact thatBlack and Brown communitiesat large havehistorically been the target of crackdowns to keep the “color line” in place in US society. It points to a continuum—reaching from slavery and Jim Crow to the police state and the prison—that is organized around both social marginalization and economic exploitation. The chorus of the protests that resounds so powerfully in our streets and across the world these days will echo throughout the pages of this book. It serves us as a reminder that if we want to dismantle the current system of racialized violence, we must dig deeper and reach wider. We need to expose the historical roots of systemic racism and we must closely examine the very institutions that continue to uphold and co-operate with it to this day.This goes beyond law enforcement and points us toward what Loïc Wacquant has termed the “proactive penal state.” Whereas the “police state” relies on cops as a “technical implement,” the penal state is more encompassing: Itis organized not just around a political technique, but a “political capacity”—the capacity of race making and of the regulation of dispossessed populations. Its operations are intensified under neoliberalism, which relies on the prison as an institution to capture thoseit rejects from its deregulated labor market.This political capacity is what makes the penal state equivalent to the colonial regime, both structurally and functionally. And there is a historical convergence too: It is not by coincidence that the prison plays such a central role in the becoming of settler colonial nations like the United States or Australia. Like the prison, the colony is dependent on the very subjects it seeks to exclude,bothfor the purpose of legitimizing its own existence through the construction of racialized hierarchies and forthe exploitation of land and labor. In this sense, the prison and the colony are “twin formations” (Ann Laura Stoler) that operate based on a shared logic, which is at once racial and economic. Engaging the shared logic of the prison/colony while also probing the inherent tensions of each, this volume brings together a variety of contributions ranging from political analyses to first-person accounts of currently or formerly incarcerated writers to artistic interventions. The contributions are organized around a two-pronged approach: First, the authors demonstrate that studies in the political economy of prisons must account for the prescriptive power of race. While prisons often function as institutions ancillary to the factory that exploit cheap labor, they can be costly enterprises with low profit margins for states and governments that make little economic sense. Throughout history, the prison has emerged as a paradigmatic site of population management, which disproportionately affects Black, Brown, and poor communities. This is maybe most explicit in the US, the country with the highest incarceration rate worldwide, but equivalents can be found in other national contexts as well. Second, we contend that analyses of the racial registers of colonialism need to consider the extent to which colonial power relies on the economic exploitation of its subjects and the extraction of resources. The colony is and always has been essential to the expansive nature of capitalism. As Socialist thinker Rosa Luxemburg has pointed out, “Capital needs other races to exploit territories where the white man cannot work.” The political economy of the colony makes clear that capitalism reproduces itself by way of extracting the labor power of the racialized and poor subjects it otherwise excludes.Given their dependency on the same people they attempt to eject from civil society, both the colony and the prison are, however, also of a tenuous nature. They are institutions that must continuously define and redefine who is and who is not a legitimate subject, who is or is not worthy of full citizenship status, and, ultimately, who “is disposable and who is not” (Achille Mbembe). Indeed, the greatest anxieties emerge around those “imperfect” subjects who, by their very existence, upset existing categories of rule—those deemed “undesirable” in a racial and/or an economic sense. To this end, both colonial and penal power rely heavily on techniques of monitoring, ordering, and regulating subjects. Drawing linkages between carceral regimes, the colonial apparatus, and capitalist exploitation, this volume seeks to critically examine the “lootings” of racialized and dispossessed bodies by the colony and the prison in the service of capitalist growth. The contributions include both historical and contemporary case studies, covering geographies in the Global South as well as the Global North. Despite the heavy nature of its subject area, this collection is not written without hope. The existential anxiety that is constitutive of both colonial formations and penal regimes offers an opening. They are vulnerable to resistance and refusal, to flight and subterfuge, and to the imagination of other possibilities. In this sense, this book is also an exercise in radical visioning—an invitation to think beyond reforms, to propose ways in which the current system can be dismantled, and to foreshadow what a post-abolition world might look like.

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