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Week 11: The Punishing State

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that the lecture slides I provide below contain images and names of people who have died.

This week we are looking at the role of punishment in modern society, predominantly the exponential growth of prisons. What role do prisons play in society, and where does the idea of incarceration come from? How is it linked to the modern nation-state? Why have the number of people imprisoned risen exponentially across the world in recent years? Although violent crime is on the decrease in countries like Australia, we imprison more people than ever before. The development of surveillance technologies also allow for people to be disciplined and punished outside of formal prisons, in their homes and neighbourhoods. How have successive governments made us believe that we need to punish more people in order to be safe? Why are certain crimes (i.e non-payment of fines) more likely to be punished than others (i.e. fraud)? 

We will be looking at these questions with the work of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Michel Foucault, Angela Davis and others. We will zoom in on the issue of Indigenous incarceration in Australia setting it within the Prison Industrial Complex globally.

We will end by looking at the example of the campaign to ban Spithoods. You can sign the petition here.

Alana Lentin