Welcome to the UNC and Duke Anthropology Graduate Student Conference

States of Captivity: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Imprisonment, Rendition, and Detention

The Duke University Cultural Anthropology Department and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Anthropology jointly invite you to submit papers for our 2009 graduate student conference entitled States of Captivity: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Imprisonment, Rendition, and Detention.” Incarceration rates in the United States have grown exponentially since the 1980s. At the same time prisons have become increasingly industrialized and central to local, state, and national economies. A variety of detention centers on U.S. soil and abroad have become sites of contested legality and human rights. This conference is intended to be a vehicle for enhancing both scholarly and public knowledge about imprisonment, incarceration, and detention, and to foster communication across disciplines, institutions, and practices. It is our hope that by bringing together a diverse group of scholars and activists that we might begin to think about the question of action.

Many social scientists hold up prisons, detention centers, and other sites of incarceration as “states of exception” and zones of ambiguous/nonexistent citizenship . Human rights advocates raise legal and moral objections to treatment of prisoners and detainees and to prison and detention center conditions. Grassroots community groups and political organizations actively campaign against racist, classist, and unjust practices of incarceration; in addition, activists promote social and economic justice for prisoners, detainees and their communities, and promote alternatives to incarceration. In the public health sector, work in prisons and detention centers is critical to preventing and containing sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases with potentially far-reaching implications for the broader community; furthermore, such work is central to the relationship between health promotion and social justice. These approaches and considerations are especially relevant here in North Carolina, a state that has recently experienced a remarkable synergy among prison, immigration control, and military industries.

With the goal of creating channels of exchange among local scholars and activists and linking the local to the national and global, our conference will bring together separate but overlapping disciplinary and practical perspectives. While the objective of this conference is to examine practices of imprisonment, incarceration, and detention with attention to anthropological and social science considerations of power, citizenship, marginality, and rights, we envision this as a fundamentally interdisciplinary undertaking. Potential paper topics include, but are not limited to: citizenship, human and civil rights, HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease, gender, race, immigration, asylum, zones of rendition, torture, intersections of the local and global, mental illness, psychology, medicalization, activism and resistance, privatization, prison labor, and expressive and popular culture. We invite scholars, activists, and practitioners from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds to share their theoretical tools and applied methods. We also encourage participants to consider how interdisciplinary perspectives might inform our understandings of what constitutes imprisonment, incarceration, and detention. How might we borrow and combine skills from one another’s disciplinary and practical “toolkits”? How can we ground our theory in practice?


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