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Punishment and InclusionRace, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism$
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Andrew Dilts

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262410

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262410.001.0001

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Innocent Citizens, Guilty Subjects

Innocent Citizens, Guilty Subjects

(p.110) 5 Innocent Citizens, Guilty Subjects
Punishment and Inclusion

Andrew Dilts

Fordham University Press

This chapter takes up the relationship between suffrage, slavery, and punishment in the US through a critique of Judith Shklar’s account of citizenship as standing. Shklar argues that citizenship is an expression of a relational public standing signified by the rights to work and vote, rather than a legal status. Shklar does not acknowledge, however, that these rights are instrumental in producing the identities of groups within a polity, causing her to insist that universal suffrage has been achieved in the US despite the longstanding exclusion of criminals. This “blindness” to criminal exclusions is symptomatic of a broader liberal blindness to the discursive fabrication of criminological figures. Through the work of Joel Olson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Ida B Wells, this chapter demonstrates Shklar’s presumption of an underlying “truth” to the moral standing of criminals. Yet there is little reason to assume that categories of “guilty” and “innocent” are stable reflections of one’s actions, but rather are built on previous notions of membership and labor under chattel slavery. The perverse outcome is that voting becomes a fetish object; it is not simply a demonstration of membership and political standing but an expression of innocence purchased on the backs of felons.

Keywords:   Judith Shklar, W.E.B Du Bois, Joel Olson, Ida B. Wells, Slavery, Innocence, Guilt, Liberalism, Suffrage, Standing

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