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Title:Against social death: rhetorical resilience at the intersection of higher education and the prison
Author(s):Shelledy, Maggie Johanne
Director of Research:Schaffner, Spencer
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Schaffner, Spencer
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Prior, Paul; Ginsburg, Rebecca; Vieira, Kate
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Qualitative interviews
Carceral studies
Higher education
Abstract:“Against Social Death: Rhetorical Resilience at the Intersection of Higher Education and the Prison” is a qualitative study of the experiences of formerly incarcerated people who participated in college programming in prison or upon their release. Throughout, I argue that incarcerated people engage in everyday rhetorical practice in their resistance to social death. Specifically, I chronicle how the convergence of higher education and the prison produces new rhetorical possibilities through which these students’ rhetorical resilience is strengthened, amplified, and practiced in new ways. At the same time, while research participants often say these college-in-prison programs are life-changing, even life-saving, they rarely report that they are able to leverage their education for material gains once they are released. This notion runs counter to common literacy myths about higher education in prison, which suggest that advanced literacy leads to better economic opportunities and greater assimilation with mainstream society for people who are lacking in both opportunity and ability. By focusing on moments of convergence between everyday rhetorical resistance and the privileged practices of the university, “Against Social Death” examines how incarcerated college students navigate academic practices to create an identity and social connectedness that is habitable, authentic, and resistant to the social mechanisms and logics that would reduce them to absence, automation, and powerlessness. Most significantly, my dissertation envisions pedagogy that can facilitate these students’ educational goals without leaving unchallenged the carceral logics that frame them in deficit terms. My work offers guidance for literacy educators working with marginalized students, but ultimately, I argue that a commitment to equity and justice cannot be addressed through the writing classroom alone and requires other forms of political action.
Issue Date:2017-07-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Maggie Shelledy
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-03-02
Date Deposited:2017-08

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