By Desperate Measures Relieved?: Public Health, Prisons, and the Politics of Life

This article is part of the series:

As COVID-19 continues to claim lives and devastate economies, experts have been contemplating strategies for accelerating the development of a vaccine. A paper published in March in the Journal of Infectious Disease advocates the use of human challenge trials—which involve vaccinating a small number of volunteers and “challenging” them with a deliberate infection of the virus—in order to bypass the …


Coronavirus and Carcerality

This article is part of the series:

A friend of mine works as a psychotherapist in a northern California prison. Three weeks ago, he and I were talking about coronavirus in prisons as we stood watching our children run around in the schoolyard. He said, “When this thing hits, these guys are toast. The old guys and the sick guys, they’re just going to die. And they …


Gramps and the Gangster visit the memory clinic

“Are you free tomorrow?”

“Sure, what’s going on?”

“It’s a big day for Gramps! I’m taking him to the doctor. I guess someone from the ward office said he ought to be checked for dementia.”

I could tell Ken was trying to make a joke about this ‘big day,’ but as he started slowly walking past me, he leaned his …


The Reproductive and Carceral Politics of Ambiguity

Jailcare: Finding the Safety Net for Women behind Bars

Carolyn Sufrin

University of California Press, 2017, 311 pages.


Jailcare sheds light on a dark place. The ethnography exposes how care emerges and is nurtured in spaces, like jail, that are not intuitively caring. Sufrin develops the concept of jailcare as a way to understand how jail, a violent and …


Are IRBs a Stumbling Block for an Engaged Anthropology?

Lorna Rhodes argued in a 2001 article entitled “Towards an Anthropology of Prisons” that we as a discipline have largely neglected the prison as a subject of anthropological attention. Loic Wacquant named this phenomenon “the curious eclipse of prison ethnography” among American anthropologists. In trying to understand the reasons behind such elisions, both Rhodes and Wacquant …


Lorna Rhodes’ Total Confinement

Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison
by Lorna A. Rhodes

University of California Press
329 pp., $23.95 (paperback)

Reviewed by Kate Amiel, McGill University

Over the last few decades in North America, there has been a trend towards significant de-institutionalization of psychiatric patients, and prisons have thereby become home to many people suffering from mental illness. …

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