Over the past four decades, the US prison population has risen tenfold, reaching 2.3 million people behind bars.  At the same time, the number of people living in gated communities has risen to over 11 million households.  What is the relationship between carceral enclosures designed to lock people in and suburban fortresses designed to lock people out?  Building on Jonathan Simon’s account of “homeowner citizenship” as a form of political subjectivity that endorses ultimate sanctions such as capital punishment as “homeowner’s insurance” against crime and falling property values, I argue that the gated community is the structural counterpart to the prison in a neoliberal carceral state.  Levinas’ account of the ambiguity of dwelling—as shelter for our constitutive relationality, as a site of mastery or possessive isolation, and as the opening of hospitality—helps to articulate what is at stake in homeowner citizenship, beyond the spectre of stranger danger: namely, my own capacity for murderous violence, and my investment in this violence through the occupation of territory and the accumulation of private property.  Given the systemic nature of such investments, the meaning of hospitality in the carceral state is best expressed not in individual gestures of philanthropy, but in abolitionist social movements such as the Movement for Black Lives, which demand accountability and hold space for a radical restructuring of the world.

Venue

Room: 
E302 Forgan Smith Building (1)

Other upcoming sessions