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Death and Other PenaltiesPhilosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration$
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Geoffrey Adelsberg, Lisa Guenther, and Scott Zeman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823265299

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823265299.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FORDHAM SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.fordham.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Fordham University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

The Violence of the Supermax

The Violence of the Supermax

Toward a Phenomenological Aesthetics of Prison Space

(p.230) The Violence of the Supermax
Death and Other Penalties

Adrian Switzer

Fordham University Press

This chapter addresses the problem of violence in Supermax prisons from a dual phenomenological and aesthetic perspective. A review of the sociological evidence on the relationship between maximum-security prisons and violence reveals several inconsistencies: a facility originally designed and built in the name of reducing prison violence instead has been a site of persistent and increased violence. Prompted by the incongruities in the empirical evidence on Supermax violence and by the sense that those incongruities stem from the assumption that prison violence is a matter of prisoner violence, the chapter approaches the problem from a transcendental phenomenological perspective. By working through Husserl's remarks on space and spatiality, and by appealing to Bachelard's Poetics of Space, it argues that there is a basic “mode” to space-in-itself, namely, a hostility that constitutes from a nonsubjective perspective the inhospitability of the bare spaces of the Supermax prison. The chapter concludes with an aesthetic supplement that shows the “hostility” of bare space in a way that a theoretical phenomenology, even at its best, can merely state.

Keywords:   Supermax prisons, prison violence, maximum-security prisons, Edmund Husserl, Gaston Bachelard, bar space, theoretical phenomenology

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