Download Solitary confinement : social death and its afterlives by Lisa Guenther PDF

By Lisa Guenther


Prolonged solitary confinement has develop into a common and traditional perform in U.S. prisons—even although it always drives fit prisoners insane, makes the mentally unwell sicker, and, based on the testimony of prisoners, threatens to minimize existence to a residing demise. during this profoundly vital and unique e-book, Lisa Guenther examines the death-in-life adventure of solitary confinement in the USA from the early 19th century to today’s supermax prisons. Documenting how solitary confinement undermines prisoners’ feel of identification and their skill to appreciate the realm, Guenther demonstrates the true results of forcibly keeping apart an individual for weeks, months, or years.


Drawing at the testimony of prisoners and the paintings of philosophers and social activists from Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty to Frantz Fanon and Angela Davis, the writer defines solitary confinement as a type of social dying. It argues that isolation exposes the relational constitution of being by means of displaying what occurs while that constitution is abused—when prisoners are disadvantaged of the concrete relatives with others on which our lifestyles as sense-making creatures relies. Solitary confinement is past a sort of racial or political violence; it's an attack on being.


A searing and unforgettable indictment, Solitary Confinement unearths what the devastation wrought by way of the torture of solitary confinement tells us approximately what it skill to be human—and why humanity is so frequently destroyed once we separate prisoners from all different people.


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Extra resources for Solitary confinement : social death and its afterlives

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There is nowhere to hide from this impersonal gaze, and yet no one to encounter, no one to whom one may appear. Everything that ought to bring comfort now takes on the appearance of a threatening other: “The blessed light of day itself peeps in, 22 a n e x p er i m en t i n l i v i ng de at h an ugly phantom face, through the unchangeable crevice which is his prison window” (107). The figments of his imagination take on a life of their own, turning against him and threatening to overpower him. “Now, [his cell] is every night the lurking-place of a ghost: a shadow:— a silent something, horrible to see, but whether bird, or beast, or muffled human shape, he cannot tell” (107).

The prisoners that Dickens meets and describes have each developed strategies for survival. The receiver of stolen goods, midway through his six-year sentence, has made himself a paper hat and a Dutch clock out of scavenged materials; both he and the German convicted of larceny have painted their cells with little bits of colored yarn; another man has been permitted to raise rabbits. But none of these strategies could adequately compensate for the bodily presence of others—even if that presence was merely the silent presence of a coworker.

By tracing the application of behaviorist research in military contexts (the SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape] program and the KUBARK manual) and domestic prison contexts (START [Special Treatment and Rehabilitation Training], Asklepieion, and other behavior modification programs), I offer a critical analysis of the intersections among psychiatry, prisons, and global politics in the mid-to-late twentieth century. In chapter 5, I build on the work of Merleau-Ponty to develop a critical phenomenology of behavior, not as a set of causal mechanisms but, rather, as patterned structures of interaction between self-organizing living beings in the context of a shared world.

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