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Interchange – Embodied By Prisons: First the Whip, Then the Chains, and Then…


guenther_solitary coverWhat comes after Whips and Chains? Solitary confinement. Lisa Guenther of Vanderbilt University discusses the reformist good intentions of Benjamin Rush in the 1790s who developed the idea that solitary confinement could serve to “clean” the criminal of the impulses to transgress. We also discuss the 13th Amendment and its “partial emancipation” of enslaved Black people and how this Amendment actually paved the way for another kind of slavery in the penal system. Central to Guenther’s thinking is a phenomenological approach to “personhood”; a self exists in material relation to other selves and the phenomenal world. Take this away and the person begins to slip away.

Lisa Guenther, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, is the author of the 2013 bookSolitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives published by Minnesota University Press and she is currently at work on a book with the tentative title, Life Against Social Death: From Reproductive Injustice to Natal Resistance. Her blog is called Rethinking Prisons.

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Solitary Confinement