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Sociologia : Revista da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto
A raça como crime cívico
AbstractBy assuming a central role in the post-Keynesian government of racial division and poverty, the overgrown carceral system has become a preeminent force in the (re)making of race and citizenship in the United States. It not only signifies and enforces blackness through its practical conflation of color with criminality and devious violence. Much as slavery effected the “social death” of imported African captives and their descendants prior to abolition, the mass incarceration of African Americans induces the civic death of those it ensnares by extruding them from the social compact. Inmates are the target of a threefold movement of exclusionary closure that denies them access to institutionalized cultural capital, bars them from social redistribution, and disqualifies them from political participation. The felon disenfranchisement statutes that prohibit nearly 2 million black Americans from voting (re)cast them in the historic role of the living antithesis to the “model American.” The close kinship between the rhetoric and policy of political expurgation of convicts at century”s end and those of Negro exclusion in earlier eras suggests that blackness is best understood as America”s primeval civic felony in accord with the Durkheimian conception of crime as “an act” that “offends strong states of the collective conscience” – here America”s idealized representation of itself as the promised land of freedom, equality, and self-determination. By reactivating and updating the logic of racialized infamia, felon excommunication reminds us that caste division is a constitutive and not a teratological feature of American republicanism. It testifies to the stratified and restrictive complexion of American citizenship at the dawn of the new millennium.
Last Update: 2014-08-07
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