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Lisa Guenther, “A Critical Phenomenology of Solidarity and Resistance in the 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes”

On July 8, 2013, over 30,000 prisoners in California joined together across racial and regional lines to launch the largest hunger strike in state history. The strike action was organized by a group of supermax prisoners called the Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor Collective, which defines itself as a multi-racial, multi-regional human rights movement. Guenther’s lecture analyzes the emergence of collective agency and organizational power within the extreme isolation of a supermax prison, among people who might otherwise be divided by social, material, and institutional barriers. Drawing on Fanon’s decolonial phenomenology of race, Sartre’s social ontology of collectives and groups in _Critique of Dialectical Reason_, and the first-person testimony of hunger strike organizers, Guenther offers a theoretical and practical account of the movement from isolation to collective solidarity and resistance in a carceral state. Sponsored by: The Humanities Writ Large, Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, International Comparative Studies at Duke University, The Program in Women’s Studies at Duke, and the Duke History Department.
Lisa Guenther is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) and co-editor of Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in the Time of Mass Incarceration (Fordham University Press, 2015). Professor Guenther is currently working on a book that is tentatively entitled, Life Against Social Death: From Reproductive Injustice to Natal Resistance. The book explores the structural and historical connections between reproductive politics and the politics of mass incarceration and capital punishment in the United States. It begins with a biopolitical analysis of philosophical and political debates over abortion and the death penalty from the 1970s to the present. The main chapters of the book then situate these debates in relation to the politics of mass incarceration and prison abolition, elaborating a critical phenomenological method for naming, mapping, and dismantling the oppressive structures that (re)produce the carceral state. The book concludes with concrete case studies of prisoner resistance and other radical social movements for decarceration.

This event is a part of the “Mass Incarceration and the Carceral State” Series, an initiative supported by Humanities Writ Large, Duke International Comparative Studies, The Program in Women’s Studies at Duke, the Duke History Department, and the Duke Human Rights Center@FHI.


November 11, 2015
1:30 pm - 3:00 pm


209 East Duke
Duke East Campus + Google Map