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First Strike

Educational Enclosures in Black Los Angeles

2016
Author:

Damien M. Sojoyner

First Strike

Challenging perceptions of schooling and prison through the lens of America’s most populous state

Taking an insider’s perspective, First Strike examines the root causes of California’s ever-expansive prison system and disastrous educational policy. Recentering analysis of Black masculinity beyond public rhetoric, it critiques the trope of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” exploring the realm of public school as a form of “enclosure” that has influenced the schooling (and denial of schooling) and imprisonment of Black people in California.

Damien M. Sojoyner fills a significant gap in literature by problematizing the school-to-prison pipeline, offering a more nuanced analytical frame than the one represented in most contemporary popular discourse. First Strike helps us understand what is happening to young people in under-resourced schools and the ways that their experience reflects an eroding commitment to education in favor of punishment.

Beth E. Richie, University of Illinois at Chicago

California is a state of immense contradictions. Home to colossal wealth and long portrayed as a bastion of opportunity, it also has one of the largest prison populations in the United States and consistently ranks on the bottom of education indexes. Taking a unique, multifaceted insider’s perspective, First Strike delves into the root causes of its ever-expansive prison system and disastrous educational policy.

Recentering analysis of Black masculinity beyond public rhetoric, First Strike critiques the trope of the “school-to-prison pipeline” and instead explores the realm of public school as a form of “enclosure” that has influenced the schooling (and denial of schooling) and imprisonment of Black people in California. Through a fascinating ethnography of a public school in Los Angeles County, and a “day in the life tour” of the effect of prisons on the education of Black youth, Damien M. Sojoyner looks at the contestation over education in the Black community from Reconstruction to the civil rights and Black liberation movements of the past three decades.

Policy makers, school districts, and local governments have long known that there is a relationship between high incarceration rates and school failure. First Strike is the first book that demonstrates why that connection exists and shows how school districts, cities, and states have been complicit and can reverse a disturbing and needless trend. Rather than rely upon state-sponsored ideological or policy-driven models that do nothing more than to maintain structures of hierarchal domination, it allows us to resituate our framework of understanding and begin looking for solutions in spaces that are readily available and are immersed in radically democratic social visions of the future.

First Strike

Damien M. Sojoyner is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

First Strike

Damien M. Sojoyner fills a significant gap in literature by problematizing the school-to-prison pipeline, offering a more nuanced analytical frame than the one represented in most contemporary popular discourse. First Strike helps us understand what is happening to young people in under-resourced schools and the ways that their experience reflects an eroding commitment to education in favor of punishment.

Beth E. Richie, University of Illinois at Chicago

Sojoyner provides a masterful narrative of Black Los Angeles against the backdrop of mass incarceration and the criminalization of Black children. Scholars and educators should heed Sojoyner’s call to challenge the ‘school-to-prison’ discourse to the more historically grounded ‘enclosures.’

Maisha T. Winn, Chancellor’s Leadership Professor, University of California, Davis

Sojoyner’s sweeping analysis of enclosures presents a compelling vision of what ethnography can accomplish in tandem with historical analysis.

PoLAR

First Strike pushes anthropological analysis beyond the ethnographic by drawing upon history, policy, and social geography to build a theory of power that accounts for the force of the state as a reactionary response to the radical potential of Black liberation.

Anthropological Quarterly

First Strike provides a rich and timely critique of the school-to-prison pipeline metaphor by examining the historical and contemporary mechanisms that contribute to the imprisonment and criminalization of Black youth.

H-Net Reviews

First Strike contributes crucially to theories of black liberation vis-à-vis education, namely, literatures working to disrupt antiblack narratives of cultural failure within educational policy circles.

American Ethnologist

First Strike

Contents
Introduction: The Problematic History between Schools and Prisons
1. The Problem of Black Genius: Black Cultural Enclosures
2. In the Belly of the Beast: Ideological Expansion
3. Land of Smoke and Mirrors: The Meaning of Punishment and Control
4. Troubled Man: Limitations of the Masculinity Solution
5. By All Means Possible: The Historical Struggle over Black Education
Conclusion: Reading the Past and Listening to the Present
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index