memos, Joy Ann James Keynote Speech

Duchess Harris quote: (not exact)

I’m the chair of American Studies, we deal with comparative Racial Formations and we are excited to be part of the curriculum

ow! existential crisis!

African American Studies Conference
Incarcerated Intelligence: African Americans and the Prison Industrial Complex

Joy Ann James keynote speech: Democracy and Captivity


James shows two maps that were oft used during and after the 2004 elections to make the point that republicans were racist: a map of 19th century “free states” and “slave states” matching in color with the blue/color divide in the 2004 elections. This was a discourse used by democratic, reformist, radical and otherwise whites to make the point that a similar ideology ran undercurrent in the so called “left”. Too simplistic!

A more meaningful comparison is the distribution and sprawal of prisons across the U.S., with a slide from 1900, 1950, 1990 and 2004. The process of expansion was gradual and did not make a distinction between the so-called “blue” and “red” states. I think I saw a main hub going from MA to MN, another one sweeping the southern coast, and another circular sprawal around L.A.

What is at stake in the whole rhetoric concerning “racist republicans”, James explains, is a neoslave narrative. A Neoslave narrative is defined as a recylcing of the fear/hate of the black body.

19th c slave narrative, as expounded by the likes of Harriot Jackobs, Frederick Douglas.
in the process of reproduction, prisoner’s bodies become commodified.
the narrative promises a redemption, or a reborn, if the slave crosses over to the “free” states.

James did not push this point forward, as it was obvious, but similarly in a neoslave narrative, the slave can be redeemed by simply voting democrat. (An epistemiological singularity)

Jackobson: it’s not just the prison that is the problem, it’s the prison-state. [is he twistinc the nation-state here?]

[I kept thinking it was a “pheno-state” where she was saying “penal” state]

new abolitionists

in the narrative: master, abolitionist, slave

emancipation is “given”
freedom is “taken” <- ontological individual


plantation – place/sites – modern prison
similarities: argument to restrict the body, substandard health (HIV) – criticism that touches upon the CDC's rather plain report on black women and AIDS and p6's comment, forced migration, dnial of birth family and kin,

more on women: high rates due to males coming back from prison and transmitting the disease – thus prison walls are permeable.

slave narrative is imagined as an antebellum reality.

def of slave is contended (ref to Matthe Man Siems) slavery and social debt

existential wealth of the white.
political currency

  • vote
  • to be "tough" on crime (nixon)

upperstate NY: movement of black bodies from NYC to prisons in the rural area. now, because the population increases, white dwellers in those rural areas get more congressional votes, but they become more influential because these black prisoners, who count as inhabitants, can't vote (thus white residents cast their votes in lieu of the black prisoners)

electoral college


Paul Dosh: in CA prison system, prisoners separated as black, white, mexican, and others. when a black prisoner does a wrong, every black prisoner is punished. thus reinforcement of categories..
RE: collective punishment, used also in international politics. In Ittaca, prisoners resisted this by calling themselves "the prison race", which is not to ignore the races within, but to present themselves as a prison race

Ben Mearns: it's great that you pulled that map, because it really counters what white liberals are saying about how they are supposedly less racist for the sole fact of being liberals [or something of that order: we later chatted on how Ben put it more blatantly for those so-called-do-goodie-"liberals" at Mac, and he references a former email of his: ]
RE: localize "evil" as embodied by republicans. once you locate racism in the south, it's very easy for whites in the north to just sit and blame everything to the southerners. they don't have to do anything, they "become antiracist" for the sole fact of not being located in the south. for instance, the south was known for having "chain gangs". now AZ, which is not the "deep south" establishjed chain gangs. further reference on chattel slavery, reoncstruction, convict prisoner, segregation & jim crow, prison state

slave traume syndrome

[here I followed an idea of the core white business center/ inner ring/suburbs as an economic model that allows the production of surplus value as there is abundant unemployed black body + not yet legalized immigrant bodies available at a very low cost, surrouding the business downtowns; also relating to early industrial development of the u.s. also, how the killing of blacks might be related to postindustrialization, as excess labor is not needed?]

two bush things:
bush talked about working with churches for social justice, such as fostering children whose parents went to prison. there is no mention of the structural forces incarcerating children, but simply sending children to foster centers. now, there's something Dorothe comparingfostering with captivity, because the links are lost.
in the 2005 state of the union address, he talks about death penalty [I missed her point on this one, but James talked about Bush's killing record and how Alberto Gonzales simply "forgot" the fact that those on the death row were actually innocent, with purges from the police, the accusers, etc etc]

Hmong man Killing several people in december 2004
RE: before emancipation, victims of lynching and prisoners were mostly white. after emancipation, they became black. so, one body representing all (insofar as it is symbolic) when charles mason killed a bunch of people, no one from the "white community" stood up and said "that's not a typical behavior of a white person", for there is no social pressure. in another case, (chicago park?) where a group of black youngsters were charged with raping a white woman, where at the end it was found to not be true, but the audience was mostly black and latino, but they would not look at the youngsters into their face for fear of association. they wanted to dissociate themselves from those feautrees.

Alessandra Williams: so what do they fear?
RE: affluent white body is assumed to be aesthetic to the space, unlike the black body which destabilizes it. I start with Foucault because he cannot deal with the black body. He talks of the normative body [missed the line here]. So whites are building an identity of supremacy through the lack thereof in the black body. They fear realizing that it's actually what's missing in the whites.

She talked about love, and how there are infinite ways to resist oppression.



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One response to “memos, Joy Ann James Keynote Speech”

  1. The Black Body as a feared Necessity in the Post-Industrial Urban Economy

    response paper to the Sixth Annual African American Studies Conference at Macalester College
    Freedom Movements
    February 16, 2005
    Yongho Kim
    In her keynote speech Democracy and Captivity, Joy Ann James argues that the prison-state constitutes the ins…

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