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Monday, February 04, 2013

Violence & Masculinities: Prison as a Vantage Point

Giovanna Shay from Western New England University School of Law signing on for a guest spot in February--thanks to Dan and all at prawfs!

Last week I had the great fortune to attend a prison scholarship roundtable at the Univ. of Michigan, hosted by Professors Margo Schlanger of Michigan and Sharon Dolovich of UCLA.  We discussed incarceration-related works-in-progress by folks whose work I admire greatly, including prawfs contributor, Hadar Aviram of UC Hastings.

Please don't stop reading because this is about incarceration.  Prisons, the people they hold, the families and communities they affect--and even work relating to them--is typically marginalized.  However, in a nation that relies so heavily on incarceration, it can be useful to consider how the world looks if we take a carceral vantage point.  For example, several of the participants in the roundtable have written about the construction of masculinities in prisons and jails, and this work can help us to understand the link between masculinities and free-world violence. 

In a number of pieces, including her contribution to the recently-released collection edited by Frank Rudy Cooper and Ann C. McGinley, Masculinities and the Law, Kim Buchanan has described prison sexual violence as a mechanism for reinforcing normative masculinities. In  a series of articles, including most recently Two Models of the Prison: Accidental Humanity and Hypermasculinity in the LA County Jail, Sharon Dolovich has written about how the LGBT-dedicated wing at the LA County Jail, the K6G unit, is free of much of the hyper-masculinity present in the rest of the jail--along with the violence that accompanies it.  Others who were not at this particular roundtable (and I'm thinking especially of Angela Harris) have argued in a similar vein.

As Sharon writes, this should interest those who want to make prisons safer.  Her work on the K6G unit, in particular, was debated during the formulation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, released last year.  (In order to avoid stigmatizing gay prisoners, PREA guidelines forbid housing prisoners in dedicated wings on the basis of LGBTI identity alone, absent a "consent decree, legal settlement, or legal judgment" stating that it is necessary for their protection, 28 CFR 115.42(g)).

However, these ideas also hold implications for the free world.  In my Domestic Violence class this term, we discussed a recent Huffington Post piece by masculinities theorist Jackson Katz.  Katz asked why we fail to acknowledge the role of normative masculinities in violence like the Newtown tragedy. His argument provoked lively discussion among the students.  It also reminded me of the link between what Sharon has described as the "hyper-masculinity imperative" imposed by incarceration and violence outside the prison walls.

 

 

 

 

Posted by GiovannaShay on February 4, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

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