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Larson: New Book on Prison Writing Published


Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration: Discovering the Ethical Prison, by Doran Larson, the Walcott-Bartlett Chair of Ethics and Christian Evidences, was recently published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, a co-publishing partner of Rowman & Littlefield. The book is part of the Law, Culture, and the Humanities Series.

In his introduction, Larson says the book “looks at texts that resist the dehumanizing effects not of wartime death camps or detention but of the state-founding practice of domestic incarceration.”

He said Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration offers comparative readings of the work of incarcerated men and women, revealing “not simply a generic will to articulate human presence, but recurrent articulations of the human as a condition of being of, being for, and being with others.

“Prison witnesses are willfully denied that ‘broader sociality’ that is the condition of possibility of the human. Yet in writing of and against their condition, they articulate the minimum without which political life falls back into merely biological life.”

Larson goes on to say that “to read the writing of incarcerated people is to read the delegitimization of law’s claims to serve as a humane and humanizing force; it is also to see envisioned the possibility of new manners of truly humane order.”

H. Bruce Franklin of Rutgers University called Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration “a timely work on a tremendously important subject.”

According to Kitty Calavita and Valerie Jenness, co-authors of Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic, the prison writing analyzed in the book “honors the diverse voices of prisoners across the globe, demystifies prison regimes, identifies central tropes that anchor a prison poetics, and perhaps most importantly, recognizes a humanity in prisoners in a way state violence denies and, by doing so, inspires readers to imagine a world without prisons.”

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