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Title:Carceral civil society: Citizenship and communities in a U.S. prison
Author(s):Kurisu, Sheri-Lynn Sunshine
Director of Research:Marshall, Anna-Maria
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Marshall, Anna-Maria
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bayat, Asef; Mendenhall, Ruby; Kilgore, James
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
sociology of law
law and society
critical criminology
critical race theory
participatory action research
social movements
rights mobilization
critical race studies
civil society
Abstract:Couched in frameworks of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, this dissertation uses the lenses of citizenship and civil society to examine communities in a men’s medium security Illinois state prison. Prisons are spaces removed from free civil society where every aspect of associational life is monitored by the state. This project investigates how people who are incarcerated experience citizenship under these conditions. Rather than conducting research on people who are incarcerated, this project conducted research with people who are incarcerated. The methodology for this project pairs traditional qualitative interviews with Participatory Action Research (PAR). This dissertation is a collaborative effort with a group of men currently incarcerated at Danville Correctional Center (DCC). Community members at DCC were involved in every stage of the research project: conception, design, implementation, analysis, and follow-up action items. This approach adds an important, yet largely silenced voice to academic discourse—the voice of individuals who are incarcerated. Carceral civil society is one created and recreated under compounded forms of violence. State-sanctioned violence from the top-down is a process of dehumanization through policies of the institution and actions by corrections staff. From the bottom-up, interpersonal violence takes the form of either physical violence or a culture of mistrust created by a snitch environment. These forces work to break existing communities and hinder the formation of new ones. Yet, in these spaces of exclusion and isolation are stories of care, compassion, concern, collective action, and community building as clear examples of citizenship practices. Despite the oppressive space of carceral civil society, community members in this project shared examples of practices built on a foundation of trust, which facilitated the creation of new communities. Political citizenship practices took place in a specific sociohistorical context and took the form of rights mobilization in boycotts, sit-ins/stand-ins, and acts of civil disobedience. Social citizenship practices occurred in the neighborhood (the gym, yard, or school building) and on the block (in the housing unit). These include: cooking as a form of resistance, mentoring, volunteer teaching in DCC programs, and playing games such as fantasy football and Dungeons & Dragons. Political and social citizenship practices were a form of community building which in turn created the space for a new dimension of identity, one that had the potential to transcend race, gang affiliation and other primary identities.
Issue Date:2018-04-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2018, Sheri-Lynn S. Kurisu
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-04
Date Deposited:2018-05

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