Sensing Incarceration: Mobility, Animacy, Becoming Human

Garcia, Macario, Anthropology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Weston, Kath, AS-Anthropology, University of Virginia
LaViolette, Adria, AS-Anthropology, University of Virgina
Mentore, George, AS-Anthropology, University of Virginia
Woolfork, Lisa, PV-Ctr for Liberal Arts, University of Virginia
Alexy, Allison, Modern Japanese Culture and Women's Studies, University of Michigan

In this dissertation, I document how and why mobility in one “male” prison in the american Southwest unsettles incarcerated people and correctional officers’ constructions of what counts as alive and Human. For many captives and workers, physical movement signifies aliveness – meaning that incarceration forces these individuals to question just how alive they are and where, and if, they fit within naturalized Human hierarchies. Restrictive movement policies manifest what I call "unsettling mobilities" or unexpected movement by inanimate objects that upends bodily senses. Precisely because captives’ own movement is so radically constricted, thereby fundamentally challenging their sense of self, incarceration strips people of the movements which they intuit as fundamental to being Human. These anxieties are not restricted only to captives; correctional officers (COs) also feel as if their physical movement is radically constricted because of their work duties, and they worry that they are thus too similar to the incarcerated people around them. As a result, both captives and correctional officers work to eradicate these challenges to their Human status: COs rely upon racialized and gendered movement restrictions that reinforce enslavement tactics, while incarcerated people trade hygiene products, create art, and try to control the movements of those they consider non-Human to generate feelings of physical movement. These feelings lead both correctional officers and incarcerated people to link bodily senses tightly with movement, to position themselves and others within scales of animacy and Humanness. In this prison context, to be Human and alive is to feel a personal sense of physical movement while simultaneously marking oneself as an idealized being who controls the mobility of objectified non-humans. Ultimately, I argue that physical movement constructs the alive Human and that euro-americans often utilize mobility to maintain a colonial project that exterminates through incarceration.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Incarceration, Mobility, Animacy, Human, Sensation, Gender, Sexuality, united states
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