HIST-LIT 90FW: Carceral Empire





Instructor: Balraj Gill
Meeting time: Thursday, 9:45-11:45 am

Mass incarceration is a catastrophe in the United States, especially affecting Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and poor communities. Different forms of carceral confinements have long been an integral part of the formation of the United States and other settler colonies in the Americas. In this course, we will focus on the history of Indigenous confinements. While the incarceration of Indigenous peoples today resembles the incarceration of other minoritized peoples, it has similar and distinct historical genealogies that can be traced to coercive practices designed to exploit their labor and eliminate lifeways, knowledge systems, tribal identification, and relationships with homelands. From the enslavement of Taíno people in the fifteenth century, to the formation of reservations and reserves in the United States and Canada in the nineteenth century, to the high rates of Indigenous incarceration today, we will draw on the works of artists, literary authors, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and critical theorists alongside historical documents to study the relationship between Indigenous confinements and the formation of settler-imperial states. We will consider the development of carceral technologies, the embodied experience of being confined, and the different ways Indigenous communities have resisted and survived carceral empires.