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Levinas Studies

Volume 12, 2018

Lisa Guenther
Pages 61-82

Dwelling in Carceral Space

What is the relationship between prisons designed to lock people in and suburban fortresses designed to lock people out? Building on Jonathan Simon’s account of “homeowner citizenship,” I argue that the gated community is the structural counterpart to the prison in a neoliberal carceral state. Levinas’s account of the ambiguity of dwelling—as shelter for our constitutive relationality, as a site of mastery or possessive isolation, and as the opening of hospitality—helps to articulate what is at stake in homeowner citizenship, beyond the spectre of stranger danger: namely, my own capacity for murderous violence, and my investment in this violence through the occupation of territory and the accumulation of private property. Given the systemic nature of such investments, the meaning of hospitality in the carceral state is best expressed in abolitionist social movements like the Movement for Black Lives, which holds space for a radical restructuring of the world.

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