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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 34, 2018

Justice: Social, Criminal, Juvenile

Lisa Guenther
Pages 7-25

Unmaking and Remaking the World in Long-term Solitary Confinement

This paper analyzes the Security Housing Unit in Pelican Bay State Prison as a form of weaponized architecture for the torture of prisoners and the unmaking of the world. I argue that through collective resistance, prisoners in the Pelican Bay Short Corridor have re-purposed this weaponized architecture as a tool for remaking the world by creating new, resistant and resurgent forms of social life. This collective practice of remaking of the world used the self-destructive tactic of a hunger strike to weaponize their bodies and their lives against the weaponized architecture of solitary confinement. But it also developed less spectacular, everyday practices of communication, self-expression, and community-building within a system that is designed to suppress these practices. By collectively refusing food, and by articulating the meaning and motivation of this refusal in articles, interviews, artwork, and legal documents, prisoners at Pelican Bay reclaimed and expanded their perceptual, cognitive, and expressive capacities for world-making, even in a space of systematic torture.

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