Questions raised (but not necessarily answered):
Does power operate on or through criminalized subjects?
What are the spatial/temporal implications or material realities of the prison?
How has fear managed to increasingly permeate the ideological structure of our society?
By what/whose terms or understandings of acceptability is the propagation of fear predicated?
How are we to understand crime, violence, obedience, or docility as implemented and produced by the Prison Industrial Complex?
In their article, "Speaking out Against State Violence," Cynthia Chandler and Carol Kingery conduct several interviews with HIV-positive women prisoners pertaining to their views on the social justice system, and their definitions or associations with the concept --'justice'-- itself. The large consensus among the women interviewed is that justice hardly touches prisoners - especially women, and especially women who are HIV-positive. Justice serves those to whom these criminalized, bestialized, and industrialized bodies purportedly threaten: the privileged white upper classes. What, then, could justice mean (or, dare we consider, what it could be) once the testimonies outlined throughout the article are acknowledged:
Women prisoners suffer disproportionately high HIV rates as compared to both the general population and male prisoners [...] they are also arguably one of the groups least able to protect themselves against a widening net of imprisonment or human rights abuses within the prison industrial complex. (85)
Disempowerment is perpetuated by this culture, which embraces the inequities of poverty, racism, and sexism in its institutions; and that within this culture, the disenfranchised have no access to safety or justice [...] Today, Justice is bought and sold, fluctuating by economics for those who may or may not be able to afford appetites [...] a corrupt system such as ours is not about safety or justice, especially not for people of color, women, people with HIV or other illnesses [...] the dichotomous relationship between victim and perpetrator disintegrates when we explore the lives of women prisoners. (90-91)
The prison industrial complex offers to the poverty/race/sex/disease-fearing public a magnanimous solution to its uncontrollable flood of vital threats: quarantine. Rather than confront public safety concerns -- violence, poverty, disease, and the like - a grossly unproductive solution is implemented instead, unopposed by those who hold any substantial political influence: lock it up, put it to productive use (prison labor), and eventually, perhaps, the 'problem populations' will simply die out, and the world will finally be pure, free, safe from vile threat. Which brings me to my next point, and for which I turn to Angela Davis for assistance. In her essay "Race and Criminalization: Black Americans and the Punishment Industry," Davis highlights the racist implications of criminalization throughout the social justice system - specifically racial discourses during the Clinton administration in which racial invisibility ("race-blindness") was sought as the solution to systemic racism. To which she replies:
The dangerous and indeed fascistic trend toward progressively greater numbers of hidden, incarcerated human populations is itself rendered invisible. All that matters is the elimination of crime - and you get rid of crime by getting rid of people who, according to the prevailing racial common sense, are the most likely people to whom criminal acts will be attributed. Never mind that if this strategy is seriously and consistently pursued, the majority of young black men and a fast-growing proportion of young black women will spend a good portion of their lives behind walls and bars in order to serve as a reminder that the state is aggressively confronting its enemy. (63)
The production of a culture wherein race is ignored, produces the racial "other" as an enemy to be eliminated. The ideological implications of racial invisibility produces the very racialized and criminalized subjects it suggestively seeks to emancipate from hierarchical controls. Once race is formulated as a political non-issue, however, marginalized inhabitants are free to be incriminated and implemented as an opposing force to the maintenance of judicial law and order:
Fear has always been an integral component of racism. The ideological reproduction of a fear of black people, whether economically or sexually grounded, is rapidly gravitating toward and being grounded in a fear of crime. A question to be raised in this context is whether and how the increasing fear of crime - this ideologically produced fear of crime - serves to render racism simultaneously more invisible and more virulent. (65)
The fear of this purposefully racialized queer criminal - who dangerously permeates a purportedly otherwise idyllic social terrain - comes to necessitate the industrialization of crime and punishment. Fear of the Other produces criminal bodies and in so doing produces the necessity for their removal from civilized life into a state manufactured, factory sealed grave: the prison. The aim of which is not -- as has been popularly portrayed -- rehabilitation, but disposal.
Foucault begins his examination of Bentham's Panopticon in Discipline & Punish with a discussion and illustration of the plague's impact on a small village and its inhabitants. He argues at the forefront that the plague leant itself to the emergence of "a political dream," by necessitating "the penetration of regulation into even the smallest details of everyday life through the mediation of the complete hierarchy that assured the capillary functioning of power [...]" (197-198). The plague made omniscient surveillance unquestionably necessary. With the spread of disease and an insurmountable death roll followed an impenetrable public fear seeking sovereign control.
Enter the disciplinary machine.
Just as lepers incited exclusion, or separation, Foucault explains, so the plague incited disciplinary projects - or segmentation. From these various exclusionary and disciplinary means social order ensues, the acceptable are safely kept at a distance from the unacceptable, who are confined, and those who may pose a threat within acceptable society are consistently monitored - so as not to upset disciplinary harmony:
The plague-stricken town, traversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies - this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city. The plague (envisaged as a possibility at least) is the trial in the course of which one may define ideally the exercise of disciplinary power. (198)
For the plague symbolizes chaos and disorder, and its image induces fear and panic. Dividing people and societies bilaterally ensures the abnormal's distance, or exclusion, from the normal - the diseased's quarantine from the healthy - the criminal's detention from the lawful citizen. In describing Bentham's Panopticon, Foucault writes, "Visibility is a trap" - that is the visible omniscience owned by the eye in the watchtower, the pervading surveillance of panoptic control. However, Foucault explains that the subjects of the panoptic mechanism are not under constant surveillance, nor are they unaware of their being surveyed - power is emitted from the tower, surely, but each subject held within the mechanism is also the bearer of power: the power to either resist or submit to their governor:
It is a way of making power relations function in a function, and of making a function function through these power relations. (207)
Panopticism is the general principle of a new 'political anatomy' whose object and end are not the relations of sovereignty but the relations of discipline. (208)
He presents two images of discipline,
Discipline blockade: the enclosed institution - edges of society; negative functions: arresting evil, breaking communications, suspending time.
Discipline-mechanism: improves the exercise of power by making it lighter, more rapid, more effective. - Design of subtle coercion for a future society. (209)
If punishment was once an enactment of sovereign revenge, and is now a purported enactment of sovereign mercy, aimed at rehabilitation, why then are particular populations consistently targeted and criminalized? If we have, as Foucault suggests, become "disciplinary individuals," why is the incarceration of only certain bodies performing a rapid ascent? Why does rehabilitation seem to the lowest priority of the disciplinary machine? and how is rehabilitation to be understood - to what extent and by what/whose terms is rehabilitation to be effectuated?
"discipline proceeds from the distribution of individuals in space" (141).
In his analysis of discipline and docility in Discipline & Punish, Foucault outlines four central disciplinary techniques that are primarily concerned with the anxieties over visibility and invisibility discussed above:
1. enclosure: the specification of a place heterogeneous to all others and closed in upon itself - the protected place of disciplinary monotony.
2. partitioning: each individual has its own place and each place its individual.
3. the rule of functional sites: gradual codification of a space that architecture generally left at the disposal of several different uses - creating useful space
4. rank: the coded elements are interchangeable, since each is defined by the place it occupies in a series, and by the gap that separates it from the others.
The latter technique is especially useful for this exploratory engagement with (in)visibilities, as it illuminates the marking of people and populations - as Angela Davis discusses - and the production, and thus reproduction, of criminal and docile bodies. (One may also understand the particular bodies/populations criminalized by these disciplinary methods as criminally docile - as they serve a necessary function within the disciplinary machine: namely, as examples, as (slave) laborers, and as a relief - citizens may feel safe, as there are fewer criminals pervading their homes, and as they're ranked, may be properly demarcated.) Foucault's theory that biopower - a technology of power used to manage populations of people: a move beyond the punishment of the body toward punishment of the soul; people are imprisoned and executions are implemented as a humane service exercised on behalf of the nation - organizes modern political structures may be pertinent in recognizing how such disciplinary methods produce docile bodies and necessitate the creation of criminality and embodied taxonomies.
"Discipline is an art of rank, a technique for the transformation of arrangements" (146).
Bodies are arranged hierarchically in homogenous units wherein "individuals replace one another in a space marked off by aligned intervals" (147), and bodies within these units become indistinguishable from one another, they are ranked as either safe or dangerous, compliant or criminal, citizen or noncitizen. As Davis explains, this is precisely how criminals are coded - particular populations of people are criminalized - that is to say, ranked as "criminal," according to their respective location on a bio-political grid, as populations are homogenized according to their rank. This guarantees visibility - and visibility answers the problem of anxiety and fear, even as it perpetuates and produces it. As this arrangement of bodies narrates, unless the "contaminated" can be properly located and surveyed, no one can claim safety.
One author [editor's note: The source was removed by request of original author] recently posted an entry critiquing these PSAs from France. They will serve as a constituent of one of the main thrusts of the engagement put forth here, as I plan to establish some connections between the above discussion of criminalization and docility concerning the prison industrial complex and the framing of the AIDS virus in these public service announcements.
As the author already points out, AIDS is quite plainly portrayed here as an insidiously inhuman infection actively preying upon the glossy-skinned, youthful, healthy - beautifully, magnificently, and seductively human - victim. The victim's purely white surroundings constitute much more than design aesthetic: the glowing translucence of this Venus' untainted milieu and the plush erotic grace of these crisp creature comforts provide a splendidly posh atmosphere for the fetishization of this notorious disease. Sontag warned us this would happen - and so it has. AIDS has become an erotic metaphor: not merely the subject of a cautionary tale, but a fascinating pestilence of apocalyptically damning potential:
Here are two more print ads that portray the carriers somewhat differently than the previous two - these can possibly be more directly placed alongside the Zizek quote above: the enemy may look like one of "us," and thus is invisible - but still monstrous, dangerous: thus the necessity of omnipresent surveillance, awareness of danger, awareness of lurking threats -- disease, criminality, insanity, terror, and the fetishization of them all (as a side note, does anyone else think that Gaga makes prison seem a little too sexy?).... These ads say about AIDS what Angela Davis reveals about popular discourses concerning crime: "We've forgotten about prison - but not criminals, not crime, or the threat of crime." Anxieties/fears over the invisibility of criminals/crimes directly corresponds to an apathy towards prisons/prisoners, in the same way that anxieties/fears over the invisibility of disease and the spread of disease directly corresponds to the abjection of people already suffering - prisoners in the PIC, like the AIDS-ridden body as portrayed by these French PSAs, inhabit a (non)space between life and death. (As Rosi Braidotti notes of the representation of the monster/alien creature in the remake of The Thing, " 'the thing' is an amorphous blob of living death that squats in other people's bodies. 'The thing' which may appear as innocuous as a plant, however, needs animal blood as his basic food; so he kills and then drains the victims of all their bodily fluids. 'The thing' behaves like a vampire, it looks like a non-human and it splatters huge quantities of blood" (emphasis added, 194). The similarities between the French PSA representations of people suffering from AIDS and popular science fiction and horror film representations of monsters and alien invaders are horrendously apparent - both being metaphors for various "real life" threats and terrors, only in their "real life" scenarios, they appear perfectly "normal.")
The author draws reference from several ads and PSAs which artistically eroticize what are portrayed as gloriously joyous and pleasurable prerequisites to contracting AIDS - his references stretch cross-culturally and, as he rightly maintains, in each instance the "faceless virus" is "effectively 'schematized,' superimposed onto the deviant bodies of 'problem' populations: immigrants, homosexuals, the risky and irresponsible." We see the AIDS carrier as a viciously metamorphosed specimen -- a mass-murdering icon -- a lustfully lithe human body, in all of its facist perfection gliding languidly through space towards an inevitable, though cryptic, death. We see the AIDS carrier as a monster - terrorist - fag.
(For this element of my research/interest in subjects related to surveillance and the taxonomical ranking of bodies, I include here a section briefly drawing connections between my discussion of bodies and the prison industrial complex above with the recent war on terror, as discussed in Jaspir K. Puar and Amit S. Rai's essay "Monster, Terrorist, Fag," and Achille Mbembe's discussion of necropower in his essay, "Necropolitics." These connections are presented as unorganized thoughts both for the sake of brevity and due to my very limited knowledge of either subject.)
In "Monster, Terrorist, Fag," Puar and Rai write,
The forms of power now being deployed in the war on terrorism in fact draw on processes of quarantining a racialized and sexualized other, even as Western norms of the civilized subject provide the framework through which these very same others become subjects to be corrected. (117)
In other words, dominating, Western norms produce these "problem" subjects - in much the same way as I've argued bio-political regimes produce criminal populations through systemic racism and disciplinary ranking. In Puar and Rai's analysis of "terrorist studies," gender and sexuality are argued to "produce both hypervisible icons and the ghosts that haunt the machines of war" (117) - if we consider this in relation to both the industrialization of bodies and (in)visibilities, we see the variance appearing throughout concerning surveillance: the invisible who are, at the same time, infinitely visible. (Think of this in relation to Angela Davis' discussion of prisons as (non)places that are pushed outside of the parameters of relevancy to the "free world," yet are ever present in our media, advertisements, news programs, bookstores, etc.)
The human monster (Foucault):
The group of abnormals was formed out of three elements whose own formation was not exactly synchronic. 1. The human monster [...] what makes a human monster a monster is not just its exceptionality relative to the species form; it is the disturbance it brings to juridical regularities (whether it is a question of marriage laws, canons of baptism, or rules of inheritance). The human monster combines the impossible and the forbidden. . . . 2. The individual to be corrected. This is a more recent figure than the monster. It is the correlative not so much of the imperatives of the law as of training techniques with their own requirements. The emergence of the "incorrigibles" is contemporaneous with the putting into place of disciplinary techniques during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the army, the schools, the workshops, then, a little later, in families themselves. The new procedures for training the body, behavior, and aptitudes open up the problem of those who escape that normativity which is no longer the sovereignty of the law. (qtd. in Puar, 119)
This connects back to my discussion of abjection above - as it also speaks of rehabilitative intentions (of discipline/prisons) as opposed to the immediate damnation of an unknowable Other. In this instance, the human monster - as separate from the individual to be corrected - must simply be quarantined or eliminated. This is the power of necropolitics, which, as Mbembe articulates, is "the ultimate expression of sovereignty," and thus assumes "the power and capacity to dictate who may live and who must die" (emphasis added, 11). If we assume, as I have above, that the prison is a (non)space occupying the borderlands between life and death, we can understand the connection I'm attempting to draw between the Prison Industrial Complex and necropolitics:
I have put forward the notion of necropolitics and necropower to account for the various ways in which, in our contemporary world, weapons are deployed in the interest of maximum destruction of persons and the creation of death-worlds, new and unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of living dead. (40)
There are places outside the borders of "civilization" - beyond the reaches of visibility. They are no-places, non-spaces, where inhumans reside - where they are kept, or held. In these places, laws and ethics are suspended. "Cruel and unusual" does not apply when dealing with the inhumane - no disciplinary limitation applies. Too far is never far enough when dealing with an enemy, a threat to humanity. Bodies and populations can be eliminated - must be eliminated. Such is the thrust of necropower: "The sovereign world, Bataille argues, 'is the world in which the limit of death is done away with. Death is present in it, its presence defines that world of violence, but while death is present it is always there only to be negated, never for anything but that. The sovereign,' he concludes, 'is he who is, as if death were not. . . . He has no more regard for the limits of identity than he does for limits of death, or rather these limits are the same; he is the transgression of all such limits." (qtd. in Mbembe, 16. Emphasis added)
Chandler, Cynthia and Carol Kingery. "Speaking out Against State Violence: Activist HIV-Positive Women Prisoners Redefine Social Justice." Policing the National Body: Race, Gender, and Criminalization. Eds. Jael Sillman and Anannya Bhattacharjee. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2002. 81-102. Print.
Davis, Angela Y. "Race and Criminalization: Black Americans and the Punishment Industry." The Angela Y. Davis Reader. Ed. Joy James. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1998. 61-73. Print.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York, NY: Vintage, 1979. Print.
--source removed by request of author.
Puar, Jaspir K. and Amit S. Rai. "Monster, Terrorist, Fag: The War on Terrorism and the Production of Docile Patriots." Social Text 72 20.3 (2002): 117-148. Print.
Mbembe, Achille. "Necropolitics." Public Culture. 15.1 (2003): 11-40. Print.