Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arts and Sciences
Gender and Women's Studies
Dr. Carol A. Mason
Building upon feminist and queer scholarship that recognizes mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex as elements of an inherently violent carceral state, Queering the Carceral Cycle excavates and analyzes twentieth-century incidents in which women resisted the state’s criminalization and/or punishment of multiply marginalized women. I argue that the state’s response to women’s acts of resistance prompted the development of new carceral strategies and technologies that expanded the carceral state’s investment in control and punishment. Moreover, by critically embracing a Foucauldian scheme known as the “carceral cycle,” I demonstrate how the state traps multiply marginalized women in a seemingly endless recurrence of criminalization, surveillance, and imprisonment. By employing the feminist methodology of intersectionality, I reveal how multiply marginalized women subverted, or queered, this cycle of entrapment by refusing to comply with the institutions that uphold the carceral state, including heteropatriarchy, capitalism, imperialism, and white supremacy. The case studies I examine vary in scope and severity, ranging from the homophobic attack on rehabilitation efforts at the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women, to the FBI surveillance and grand jury abuse used to criminalize a group of dissident lesbian college students, to the development of the first women’s high security unit, designed specifically to torture incarcerated leftist revolutionaries. Taking place in different historical and social contexts across the United States, these cases are united by women’s attempts to resist, undo, or weaken the state’s investment in carceral control, but also by the state’s capacity to find new ways to punish those who attempted, and succeeded, in undermining the state’s interests.
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Financial support for this project was provided by the University of Kentucky’s Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women (2018-19), the College of Arts and Sciences (2017 & 2019), and the Bonnie Jean Cox Graduate Research endowment (2016 & 2017). A Dissertation Research Grant from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University also offered generous support for archival research (2018).
Ruderman-Looff, Ashley, "Queering the Carceral Cycle: Women's Resistance to the Carceral State" (2020). Theses and Dissertations--Gender and Women's Studies. 3.
Available for download on Friday, May 20, 2022