UBC Theses and Dissertations
Indiscipline, punishment, gender and race : examining Discipline and Punish in the context of the prison systems of the United States, and England and Wales Pemberton, Sarah
This dissertation explores how the changing philosophy and practices of criminal punishment in the United States, England and Wales reflect broader techniques and relations of power in these societies. Two questions motivate this research: firstly, the extent to which Michel Foucault’s account of power and the prison is applicable now; and secondly, whether Foucault's later work provides an adequate conceptual framework for theorizing the aspects of power that he either overlooks or inadequately addresses in Discipline and Punish. I identify three trends in criminal justice over recent decades that challenge Foucault's account of penality: sharply rising incarceration rates, prison privatization, and the racialized and gendered nature of prison populations. I argue that although Foucault's concept of disciplinary power remains applicable, a fuller understanding of contemporary penality requires an analysis of how race and gender are constituted through biopower, and of how neoliberalism has shaped penal policy and contributed to greater socioeconomic inequality. Although I conclude that Foucault's theorization of power and the prison in Discipline and Punish is inadequate in light of the racialized and gendered nature of power relations in both historical and contemporary criminal justice systems, I draw on his later work to re-theorize power and inequality. I argue that Foucault's analysis of sex, sexuality, and race provides a valuable conceptual framework that generates important insights, particularly through the concepts of biopower and state racism. However, I critique aspects of Foucault's later work, arguing that his analysis of race is inattentive to the inter-relation of race, class and capitalism; that his analysis of sex and sexuality overlooks the question of gender; and that his account of neoliberalism is more descriptive than analytical. I therefore combine the conceptual framework provided by Foucault with insights from feminist theory, queer theory and critical race theory to show how racialized, gendered and sexed identities become constituted within institutions such as the prison. My conclusion is that criminal justice and prison systems serve to construct and reinforce racialized and gendered identities, and thereby contribute to racialized and gendered inequalities that extend far beyond the prison system.
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