Summer 2007

SOCS 644
Toward an Archeology of the U.S. Prison System

Eudell,Demetrius L.

06/25/2007 - 07/12/2007
Monday-Thursday 01:30 PM - 04:30 PM

African American Studies Loung

Although the breach of social norms, to which we give the name crime, exists in all societies, the responses to committing crimes are always generated from each society's particular understanding of its way of life and its conception of what it means to be fully human. In other words, jurisprudence is not a natural phenomenon, but rather is a culturally constituted mechanism invented in order to regulate the behaviors of all members of the society. This course examines a central institution in our culture-specific approach to dealing with social transgressions: the prison system. It attempts to ask how and why prisons developed as the central mode for adjudicating breaches of the social order.

Beginning with David Rothman's classic Discovery of the Asylum, this course seeks to interrogate the historical and cultural origins of what has more recently come to be known as the prison industrial complex. It does so by utilizing an archaeological approach that examines the intellectual foundations of the modern form of the institution in the nineteenth century, specifically with the work of Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso. It aims to show that the invention of the prison system cannot be separated from the intellectual breakthroughs, especially in the natural sciences, that also defined the era. The course will also pose the question of the effectiveness (however it is defined) of the prison system. Given that many critics contend incarceration is not achieving specific objectives (deterrence for instance), why maintain such a strategy? It is in this context that the metaphysical basis for prisons can be understood as prisons served not only to punish, but also to reaffirm our culture-specific self-conception and related notion of order. The course concludes with mediation on the controversial issue of the death penalty, in which all the issues surrounding crime and punishment intersect. Issues such as justice, punishment, forgiveness, evil, and revenge that underlay the current debate on the issue will be analyzed to show their effects on political discourse, social policy, and the lived reality of the victims of crime, the incarcerated, and the families of loved ones of both.

Readings will include Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?Forms of Constraint: A History of Prison Architecture; Judith W. Kay, Murdering Myths: The Story Behind the Death Penalty; Cesare Lombroso, Criminal Man; Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison; David Rothman, Discovery of the Asylum; and The Sentencing Project, Race to Incarcerate.

Performance in the course will be based on regular class attendance and participation, two oral presentations, three short papers (3-5 pages), and one extended final paper (10-15 pages).

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus


Demetrius Eudell (B.A. Dartmouth College; M.A., Ph.D. Stanford University) is associate professor of history. He is author of The Political Languages of Emancipation in the British Caribbean and the U.S. South (University of North Carolina Press, 2002). Professor Eudell's research interests include the history and culture of the Americas, slavery, abolition, and emancipation. Click here for more information about Demetrius Eudell.


ENROLLMENT INFORMATION

Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Angela Davis, ARE PRISONS OBSOLETE? (Open Media), Paperback

Ruth Gilmore, GOLDEN GULAG: PRISONS, SURPLUS, CRISIS AND OPPOSITION IN GLOBALIZING CALIFORNIA (University of California Press), Paperback

Judith Kay, MURDERING MYTHS: THE STORY BEHIND THE DEATH PENALTY (Rowan), Paperback

Cesare Lombroso, CRIMINAL MAN (Duke University Press), Paperback

Jeffrey Reiman, THE RICH GET RICHER AND THE POOR GET PRISON (Allyn/Bacon), Paperback

Dylan Rodriguez, FORCED PASSAGES: IMPRISONED RADICAL INTELLECTUALS AND THE U.S. PRISON REGIME (University of Minnesota Press), Paperback

David Rothman, DISCOVERY OF THE ASYLUM (Aldine Transaction), Paperback

READING MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323

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