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Politicizing the Prison: Hunger Strikes, Medical Ethics, and the Project of Prison Abolition
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The US imprisons more people than any other country: 2.1 million people are currently confined in jails and prisons. In the face of mass incarceration, there are growing calls not just for prison reform but also for prison abolition. Abolitionists liken their efforts to the fight against slavery, but how can they realize such far-reaching political change? I argue that the prison abolition movement can realize its commitments to justice, freedom, and equality only if it keeps problematization—the practice of unsettling established assumptions—at its core. I develop this argument through a case study of a mass hunger strike in apartheid South Africa in which doctors challenged indefinite detention as a violation of medical ethics. The case shows not only that professional associations may contribute to prison abolition by problematizing confinement, but also that the domain of prison abolition should be understood expansively to include the forced confinement of people with disabilities.

Time: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm EDT/GMT-4
Location: Olin Language Center 120
Sponsor: Dean of the College; Political Studies Program
Contact: Michelle Murray.
Phone: 845-758-7693

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