Inclusive exclusion: citizenship and the American prisoner and prison

Czajka, Agnes (2005). Inclusive exclusion: citizenship and the American prisoner and prison. Studies in Political Economy, 76 pp. 111–142.



The alarming proliferation of American prisons generally, and supermaximum security prisons specifically, intensifies the urgency of analyzing society’s relationship to prisons and their populations. This paper attempts to delineate a novel way of understanding both the American prisoner and the prison system. The paper contends that a comprehensive analysis of American imprisonment must, first, make a distinction between standard prisons and supermaximum security (or camp) prisons, and second, that analyses of camp prisons should be grounded in the camp paradigm, as elucidated by Giorgio Agamben in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Having established this distinction, the paper then focuses on camp prisoners and prisons, locating the former at a theoretical juncture of Hannah Arendt’s concept of superfluity, Julia Kristeva’s understanding of abjection, and the historically reoccurring notion of the “dangerous classes.” Camp prisoners and prisons are then understood as liminal subjects and spaces, whose relationship with the remainder of society is best characterized by Agamben’s notion of inclusive exclusion. The paper concludes with an investigation of this inclusive exclusion, focusing the lens of citizenship first on a number of supermaximum security institutions and then on the citizenship practices that are increasingly extending the prisoners’ exclusions beyond the period of incarceration.

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