Unmaking and Remaking the World in Long-Term Solitary Confinement

Lisa Guenther

Abstract


In The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry analyzes the structure of torture as an unmaking of the world in which the tools that ought to support a person’s embodied capacities are used as weapons to break them down. The Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison functions as a weaponized architecture of torture in precisely this sense; but in recent years, prisoners in the Pelican Bay Short Corridor have re-purposed this weaponized architecture as a tool for remaking the world through collective resistance. This resistance took the form of a hunger strike in which prisoners exposed themselves to the possibility of biological death in order to contest the social and civil death of solitary confinement. By collectively refusing food, and by articulating the meaning and motivation of this refusal in articles, interviews, artwork, and legal documents, prisoners reclaimed and expanded their perceptual, cognitive, and expressive capacities for world-making, even in a space of systematic torture.

Keywords


phenomenology; critique; resistance; solitary confinement; world-making

References


Abbott, Jack Henry. 1991. In the Belly of the Beast: Letters from Prison. New York: Vintage Books.

Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR). 2014. “Proposed Amendment to AIA’s Ethics Code: Architecture and Human Rights.” http://www.adpsr.org/home/ethics_reform

Ashker, Todd. 2013. “CA Prisoner Todd Ashker on His Evolution from Violence to Peaceful Hunger Strike.” Democracy Now, August 23. http://www.de mocracynow.org/blog/2013/8/23/exclusive_audio_california_prisoner_on_hunger_strike_and_how_he

“Ashker v. Governor of California.” 2018. Center for Constitutional Rights. https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/ashker-v-brown.

Bargu, Banu. 2014. Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons. New York: Columbia University Press.

Beard, Jeffrey. 2013. “Hunger strike in California Prisons is a Gang Power Play.” Los Angeles Times, August 6. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-beard-prison-hunger-strike-20130806,0,636927.story

Cacho, Lisa Marie. 2012. Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected. New York: New York University Press.

Carroll, Rory. 2013. “California Prisoners Launch Biggest Hunger Strike in State’s History.” The Guardian, July 9. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/09/california-prisoners-hunger-strike

Champion, Steve. 2011. “Gang Validation: The New Inquisition.” The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, February 18. http://sfbayview.com/2011/gang-validation-the-new-inquisition/

Davis, Angela Y. 2003. Are Prisons Obsolete? New York: Seven Stories Press.

Duguma, Mutope (s/n James Crawford). 2011. “The Call.” Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/voices-from-inside/the-call/

Eisenman, Stephen. 2009. “The Resistable Rise and Predictable Fall of the U.S. Supermax.” Monthly Review, November 1. http://www.monthlyreview.org/091116eisenman.php#fn18b.

Feldman, Allan. 1991. Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Foucault, Michel. 2004. Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974–1975, edited by Valerio Marchetti and Antonella Salomoni. Translated by Graham Burchell. New York: Picador.

———. 2003. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–1976. Translated by David Macey. New York: Verso.

Gilmore, Ruth. 2007. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Guenther, Lisa. Forthcoming. “Critical Phenomenology.” In 50 Concepts for an Intersectional Phenomenology, edited by Ann Murphy, Gayle Salamon, and Gail Weiss. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

———. 2017. “The Social Ontology of Solidarity and Resistance in the 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes.” In Body/Self/Other: The Phenomenology of Social Encounter, edited by Luna Dolezal and Danielle Petherbridge, 47–73. Albany: SUNY Press.

———. 2015. “Political Action at the End of the World: Hannah Arendt and the California Prison Hunger Strikes.” Canadian Journal for Human Rights 4(1): 33–56.

———. 2013. Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

Guillen, Antonio. 2013. “Why I Joined the Multi-Racial, Multi–Regional Human Rights Movement to Challenge Torture in the Pelican Bay SHU.” The San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, August 29. http://sfbayview.com/2013/why-i-joined-the-multi-racial-multi-regional-human-rightsmovement-to-challenge-torture-in-the-pelican-bay-shu/

Haney, Craig. 2015. Expert Witness Report in Ashker v. Brown. Case No. 4:09 CV 05796 CW. https://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/07/Redacted_Haney%20Expert%20Report.pdf

Lambert, Léopold. 2012. Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence. Barcelona: dpr-barcelona.

Latour, Bruno (alias Jim Johnson). 1988. “Mixing Humans and Nonhumans Together: The Sociology of a Door-Closer.” Social Problems 35(3): 298–310.

Law, Victoria. 2013. “With One Prisoner Dead, Will California Listen to the Hunger Strikers?” The Nation, August 2. https://www.thenation.com/article/one-prisoner-dead-will-california-listen-hunger-strikers/

Lorde, Audre. 2007. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” In Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 110-113. Berkeley: The Crossing Press.

McWhorter, Ladelle. 2009. Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America: A Genealogy. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Medina, José and Matt Whitt. Forthcoming. “Epistemic Activism and the Politics of Credibility: Testimonial Injustice Inside/Outside a North Carolina Jail.” In Making the Case: Feminist and Critical Race Theorists Investigate Case Studies, edited by Heidi Grasswick and Nancy McHugh. New York: SUNY Press.

Pelican Bay State Prison SHU Short Corridor Collective. 2012. “Agreement to End Hostilities,” August 12. http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/agreement-to-end-hostilities.pdf.

Rancière, Jacques. 2004. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. Translated by Gabriel Rockhill. London: Continuum.

Reiter, Keramet. 2012. “Parole, Snitch, or Die: California’s Supermax Prisons and Prisoners, 1997–2007.” Punishment & Society 14(5): 530–563.

Rodriguez, Dylan. 2006. Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2004. Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume 1: Theory of Practical Ensembles. Translated by Alan Sheridan-Smith. New York: Verso.

Scarry, Elaine. 1985. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Schlanger, Margo. 2013. “Prison Segregation: Symposium Introduction and Preliminary Data on Racial Disparities.” Michigan Journal of Race & Law 18(2): 241–250.

Shabazz, Rashad. 2014. “‘Walls Turned Sideways are Bridges’: Carceral Scripts and the Transformation of the Prison Space.” ACME 13(3): 581–594.

Shourd, Sarah. 2014. “At Hearing on Solitary Confinement in California Prisons, Advocates Challenge ‘Reforms.’” Huffington Post, April 17. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-shourd/solitary-confinement-hearing_b_4795113.html.

Skarbek, David. 2012. “Prison Gangs, Norms, and Organizations.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 82(1): 702–716.

Solitary Watch. 2012. “FAQ.” 2012. http://solitarywatch.com/faq/

Villareal, Jose. 2013. “Prison struggle: ‘The Only Alternative is to Resist to Survive’.” Liberation, August 23. https://www.liberationnews.org/prison-struggle-the-only-html/.

Wallace-Wells, Benjamin. 2014. “The Plot from Solitary.” New York Magazine, February 26. http://nymag.com/news/features/solitary-secure-housing-units-2014-2/

Weheliye, Alexander. 2014. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham: Duke University Press.

Weizman, Eyal. 2007. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation. New York: Verso.


Full Text: PDF

DOI: 10.31608/PJCP.v1i1.5

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2018 Lisa Guenther

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.