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Forced Passages

Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime

2005
Author:

Dylan Rodríguez

Forced Passages

Uncovers the growing intellectual and political impact of post-1970s U.S. prison culture

In Forced Passages, Dylan Rodríguez argues that the cultural production of such imprisoned intellectuals as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Angela Davis, and Leonard Peltier should be understood as a unique social movement. Dylan Rodríguez traces the lineage of radical prison thought since the 1970s, one formed by the logic of state violence and by the endemic racism of the criminal justice system.

Guided by the voices of the prisoners, Forced Passages provides a very valuable matrix to understand what it means to live in a society with so many people behind bars. Those voices, produced in the prison struggle, bear hope.

Vijay Prashad, author of Keeping Up with the Dow Joneses: Debt, Prison, Workfare and The Karma of Brown Folk

More than two million people are currently imprisoned in the United States, and the nation’s incarceration rate is now the highest in the world. The dramatic rise and consolidation of America’s prison system has devastated lives and communities. But it has also transformed prisons into primary sites of radical political discourse and resistance as they have become home to a growing number of writers, activists, poets, educators, and other intellectuals who offer radical critiques of American society both within and beyond the prison walls.

In Forced Passages, Dylan Rodríguez argues that the cultural production of such imprisoned intellectuals as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Angela Davis, Leonard Peltier, George Jackson, José Solis Jordan, Ramsey Muniz, Viet Mike Ngo, and Marilyn Buck should be understood as a social and intellectual movement in and of itself, unique in context and substance. Rodríguez engages with a wide range of texts, including correspondence, memoirs, essays, poetry, communiqués, visual art, and legal writing, drawing on published works by widely recognized figures and by individuals outside the public’s field of political vision or concern. Throughout, Rodríguez focuses on the conditions under which imprisoned intellectuals live and work, and he explores how incarceration shapes the ways in which insurgent knowledge is created, disseminated, and received.

More than a series of close readings of prison literature, Forced Passages identifies and traces the discrete lineage of radical prison thought since the 1970s, one formed by the logic of state violence and by the endemic racism of the criminal justice system.

Forced Passages

Dylan Rodríguez is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside.

Forced Passages

Guided by the voices of the prisoners, Forced Passages provides a very valuable matrix to understand what it means to live in a society with so many people behind bars. Those voices, produced in the prison struggle, bear hope.

Vijay Prashad, author of Keeping Up with the Dow Joneses: Debt, Prison, Workfare and The Karma of Brown Folk

Offers a much-needed understanding of how and why our society is being so radically transformed by the existence of prisons and the punishment processes in this country.

Beth E. Richie, University of Illinois at Chicago

Jackson and Davis, Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-jamal, Viet Mike Ngo and Marilyn Buck—the lives and writings of these figures constitute a forceful critique of a U.S. ‘prison regime’ established through domestic war against criminals, people of color, and other offenders. Forced Passages will be the definitive account of their movement.

American Literature

The historical references, quotes, and citations are impressive. Recommended.

Choice

Examines the collective output of a group of writers who, in their refusal to disappear, plumb the limits of the coercive power of the state. If you desire more than surface changes, you may find that the work of Rodríguez offers deeper answers to deeper questions.

San Francisco Bay Guardian

Forced Passages

Contents

Introduction: American Apocalypse

1. Domestic War Zones and the Extremities of Power: Conceptualizing the U.S. Prison Regime
2. “You Be All the Prison Writer You Wish”: The Context of Radical Prison Praxis
3. Radical Lineages: George Jackson, Angela Davis, and the Fascism Problematic
4. Articulating War(s): Punitive Incarceration and State Terror amid “No Middle Ground”
5. “My Role Is to Dig or Be Dug Out”: Prison Standoffs and the Logic of Death
6. Forced Passages: The Routes and Precedents of (Prison) Slavery

Acknowledgments
Notes
Prison Activism and Support Resources

Index