Beyond Dehumanization: A Post-Humanist Critique of Intensive Confinement

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Prisoners involved in the Attica rebellion and in the recent Georgia prison strike have protested their dehumanizing treatment as animals and as slaves. Their critique is crucial for tracing the connections between slavery, abolition, the racialization of crime, and the reinscription of racialized slavery within the US prison system. I argue that, in addition to the dehumanization of prisoners, inmates are further de-animalized when they are held in conditions of intensive confinement such as prolonged solitude or chronic overcrowding. To be de-animalized is to be treated not as a living being who is sustained by its mutual relations with other living and nonliving beings, but rather as a thing to be warehoused and/or exchanged for a profit. The violence of de-animalization affects both human and nonhuman animals held in control prisons, factory farms, laboratories and other sites of intensive confinement. In order to make the connections between these sites, and to develop forms of solidarity appropriate to our shared animality, we need a post-humanist critique of intensive confinement that breaks with the logic of opposition between human and animal, and articulates our constitutive relationality as (inter)corporeal beings.
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Archival date: 2013-09-24
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