The first is chattel slavery as the pivot of the plantation economy and inceptive matrix of racial division from the colonial era to the Civil War. The second is the Jim Crow system of legally enforced discrimination and segregation from cradle to grave that anchored the predominantly agrarian society of the South from the close of Reconstruction to the Civil Rights revolution which toppled it a full century after abolition. This suggests that slavery and mass imprisonment are genealogically linked and that one cannot understand the latter—its timing, composition, and smooth onset as well as the quiet ignorance or acceptance of its deleterious effects on those it affects—without returning to the former as historic starting point and functional analogue. African-Americans arrived under bondage in the land of freedom.
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The first is chattel slavery as the pivot of the plantation economy and inceptive matrix of racial division from the colonial era to the Civil War. The second is the Jim Crow system of legally enforced discrimination and segregation from cradle to grave that anchored the predominantly agrarian society of the South from the close of Reconstruction to the Civil Rights revolution which toppled it a full century after abolition.
This suggests that slavery and mass imprisonment are genealogically linked and that one cannot understand the latter—its timing, composition, and smooth onset as well as the quiet ignorance or acceptance of its deleterious effects on those it affects—without returning to the former as historic starting point and functional analogue.
African-Americans arrived under bondage in the land of freedom. They were accordingly deprived of the right to vote in the self-appointed cradle of democracy until for residents of the Southern states.
And, for lack of a recognizable national affiliation, they were shorn of ethnic honour, which implies that, rather than simply standing at the bottom of the rank ordering of group prestige in American society, they were barred from it ab initio. Slavery — Slavery is a highly malleable and versatile institution that can be harnessed to a variety of purposes, but in the Americas property-in-person was geared primarily to the provision and control of labour.
Indentured labourers from Europe and native Indians were not enslaved because of their greater capacity to resist and because their servitude would have impeded future immigration as well as rapidly exhausted a limited supply of labour.
By the close of the 18th century, slavery had become self-reproducing and expanded to the fertile crescent of the Southern interior, running from South Carolina to Louisiana, where it supplied a highly profitable organization of labour for cotton production and the basis for a plantation society distinctive for its feudal-like culture, politics, and psychology.
Jim Crow South, — Racial division was a consequence, not a precondition, of US slavery, but once it was instituted it became detached from its initial function and acquired a social potency of its own. Ghetto North, — The sheer brutality of caste oppression in the South, the decline of cotton agriculture due to floods and the boll weevil, and the pressing shortage of labour in Northern factories caused by the outbreak of World War 1 created the impetus for African-Americans to emigrate en masse to the booming industrial centers of the Midwest and Northeast over 1.
The era of the ghetto as paramount mechanism of ethnoracial domination had opened with the urban riots of —19 in East St. Louis, Chicago, Longview, Houston, etc. It closed with a wave of clashes, looting and burning that rocked hundreds of American cities from coast to coast, from the Watts uprising of to the riots of rage and grief triggered by the assassination of Martin Luther King in the summer of On the side of ethnoracial closure, the decades-long mobilization of African-Americans against caste rule finally succeeded, in the propitious political conjuncture of crisis stemming from the Vietnam war and assorted social unrest, in forcing the federal state to dismantle the legal machinery of caste exclusion.
Having secured voting and civil rights, blacks were at long last full citizens who would no longer brook being shunted off into the separate and inferior world of the ghetto. They then turned against the welfare state and those social programmes upon which the collective advancement of blacks was most dependent. The ghetto as prison, the prison as ghetto To grasp the deep kinship between ghetto and prison, which helps explain how the structural decline and functional redundancy of the one led to the unexpected ascent and astonishing growth of the other during the last quarter-century, it is necessary first to characterize accurately the ghetto.
This parallel institutional nexus affords the subordinate group a measure of protection, autonomy and dignity, but at the cost of locking it in a relationship of structural subordination and dependency. It is thus formed of the same four fundamental constituents—stigma, coercion, physical enclosure and organizational parallelism and insulation—that make up a ghetto, and for similar purposes. By the end of the seventies, then, as the racial and class backlash against the democratic advances won by the social movements of the preceding decade got into full swing, the prison abruptly returned to the forefront of American society and offered itself as the universal and simplex solution to all manners of social problems.
Rather, each produces or co-produces this division anew out of inherited demarcations and disparities of group power and inscribes it at every epoch in a distinctive constellation of material and symbolic forms. And all have consistently racialized the arbitrary boundary setting African-Americans apart from all others in the United States by actively denying its cultural origin in history, ascribing it instead to the fictitious necessity of biology.
The ghetto, in turn, imprinted this dichotomy onto the spatial makeup and institutional schemas of the industrial metropolis. Prison is rapidly being re-lexified in the same segregated fashion. It is not only the pre-eminent institution for signifying and enforcing blackness, much as slavery was during the first three centuries of US history. The Work Opportunity and Personal Responsibility Act of further banishes most ex-convicts from Medicaid, public housing, Section 8 vouchers and related forms of assistance.
All but four members of the Union deny the vote to mentally competent adults held in detention facilities; 39 states forbid convicts placed on probation from exercising their political rights and 32 states also interdict parolees. In 14 states, ex-felons are barred from voting even when they are no longer under criminal justice supervision—for life in ten of these states. The result is that nearly 4 million Americans have temporarily or permanently lost the ability to cast a ballot, including 1.
And the line that divides them is increasingly being drawn, materially and symbolically, by the prison. On the other side of that line lies an institutional setting unlike any other. In the latter, enslaved labour is epicentral to both economic production and class structure, and the slave-master relation provides the pattern after which all other social relations are built or distorted, such that no corner of culture, society and self is left untouched by it.
Prisons of Poverty, Minneapolis The Negroes do not, like the Japanese and the Chinese, have a politically organized nation and an accepted culture of their own outside of America to fall back upon. Unlike the Oriental, there attaches to the Negro an historical memory of slavery and inferiority. It is more difficult for them to answer prejudice with prejudice and, as the Orientals may do, to consider themselves and their history superior to the white Americans and their recent cultural achievements.
The Negroes do not have these fortifications of self-respect. They are more helplessly imprisoned as a subordinate caste, a caste of people deemed to be lacking a cultural past and assumed to be incapable of a cultural future. The campaign to make Chicago an open city was swiftly crushed by formidable repression, spearheaded by 4, National Guards. The leading analysts of the penal question, from David Rothman to Michel Foucault to Alfred Blumstein, were then unanimous in predicting the imminent marginalization of the prison as an institution of social control or, at worst, the stabilization of penal confinement at a historically moderate level.
No one foresaw the runaway growth that has quadrupled that figure to over two million in even as crime levels remained stagnant. Punishment and Social Structure, New York , p.
Expert testimony presented to the House Committees on the Judiciary and Crime during discussion of the Prison Industries Reform Act of explicitly linked welfare reform to the need to expand private prison labour. They remain barred from exogamy to a degree unknown to any other community, notwithstanding the recent growth of so-called multiracial families, with fewer than 3 per cent of black women marrying out compared to a majority of Hispanic and Asian women.
From Slavery to Mass Incarceration
This parallel institutional nexus affords the subordinate group a measure of protection, autonomy and dignity, but at the cost of locking it in a relationship of structural subordination and dependency. These dissections of different institutions helps contextualize how they have maintained the status quo and delve into the process of how this has been done, especially in a post racial society. However the intentions and violence that was imposed by colonization is still present in modern day and is apparent in the ghetto, where Wacquant states the intention behind it is to deprive members of the community access to resources for education or material goods. I found it so powerful to read the ways in which Black people and some people of color were displaced and are removed from society and yet are exploited through cheap or free labor that our economic system is dependent on. For many reasons reform does not seem sufficient but how can we alter our current social and economic systems without it resulting in the death and further disenfranchisement of marginalized people of color?
“From Slavery to Mass Incarceration”, Loïc Wacquant
He was a student and close collaborator of Pierre Bourdieu. Wacquant has published more than a hundred articles in journals of sociology, anthropology , urban studies , social theory and philosophy. He is also co-founder and editor of the interdisciplinary journal Ethnography as well as a collaborator of Le Monde Diplomatique. His primary research has been conducted in the ghettos of South Chicago , in the Paris banlieue , and in jails of the United States and Brazil. Research[ edit ] This biography of a living person relies too much on references to primary sources. Please help by adding secondary or tertiary sources.