Why are there so many people incarcerated in the United States and why are young people across the US calling for an end to police violence, some even for the abolition of policing? Is mass incarceration an inevitable product of slavery and Jim Crow? Why has prison expansion and law and order been a rallying cry make America safe (again) precisely at moments when violent crime rates were going down?
This course is designed to explore and explain the role of surveillance, criminalization, policing to historical and contemporary US state formation and global racial capitalism. This course proceeds from the idea that carceral geographies such as prison towns, detention centers, police departments, welfare agencies, and surveillance apparatuses are spatial fixes for social, economic, and political crises. We will engage scholarship from critical prison studies, geography, gender and sexuality studies, and critical ethnic studies to understand the different dimensions and question that emerge from thinking about space, race, gender, sexuality, land, labor, and state capacity together. Students will have an opportunity to build their understanding of the historical and contemporary organization of people, places, ideas and infrastructure that makes up US carceral geographies. Student will also have a chance to familiarize themselves with the history of resistance to penal democracy. This course requires dedicated and rigorous reading. Each week we will read an entire book and analyze it in depth to create shared language and understandings about carceral geographies.