Friday, January 27, 2017

Punishment and Its Discontents: A Graduate Student Conference

[We have the following announcement.]

Punishment and Its Discontents, a Graduate Student Conference, at the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, Northwestern University, May 19, 2017.  Deadline, Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mass incarceration, state surveillance, militarized policing, even punitive parenting
movements – all are aspects of the contemporary American carceral state and
representative of the punitive turn in U.S. culture and politics. Punishment, however, is
neither unique to the U.S. nor this moment, and its development has not gone
unchallenged. This conference will explore the myriad social, political, cultural, and
economic implications of punishment, evaluating its role in broader developments from
inscribing gender ideologies to empowering the rise of neoliberalism. It seeks to bring
together a diverse group of scholars exploring the history of punishment and its
discontents at a number of levels, from global applications of punitive power to personal
stories of experiencing punishment or resisting it.

We invite submissions from all fields of history and related disciplines. Submissions may
address, but are not limited to, the following questions: How have historians defined and
theorized punishment, the carceral state, and/or the punitive turn? How has state capacity
to punish developed over time? How has political rhetoric served to justify punitive
policies? How has opposition to such policies been organized? What have been the
consequences of specific groups’ contacts with the carceral state? How has punishment
established or reified gender and racial ideologies? How have changes in punishment
policies reflected shrinking or growing state capacity in other areas? What challenges do
scholars face in studying the history of punishment?

Heather Ann Thompson (University of Michigan) will be the keynote speaker.
Professor Thompson is author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of
1971 and Its Legacy
(Pantheon, 2016), a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award.
Thompson is also the author of Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a
Modern American City
(Cornell University Press, 2001) and the editor of Speaking
Out: Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s
(Pearson, 2009). Her scholarly
articles include, “Why Mass Incarceration Matters: Rethinking Crisis, Decline and
Transformation in Postwar America,” (Journal of American History, 2010), and she
has also written on the history of mass incarceration and its current impact for The
New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, Salon, Dissent, New Labor Forum
, and The
Huffington Post

Interested graduate students should send a paper proposal of no more than one page (250
words), and an updated CV to Matt June ( by February 1,
2017. A Northwestern history faculty committee will select the papers. Conference papers
will be ten to twelve pages double spaced, and due by Wednesday, May 3, in order to
allow time for circulation to the commentators. Presentations will run 10 minutes.