The Rhetorics of Sovereignty in Incarceration
On October 19, 2007, nineteen-year-old Ashley Smith died of self-inflicted strangulation while on suicide watch at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. As she tied a ligature around her neck, correctional officers, who had been instructed not to enter into her cell if she was still breathing, watched—and in compliance with Canadian regulations—video-recorded her death. The three correctional officers who stood by and watched Smith’s suicide were charged, along with one of their supervisors, with criminal negligence causing death. This essay explores how various institutions constituted Smith as a carceral biocitizen—a subject caught between biopolitical practices and scenes of legal sovereignty. More specifically, the chapter posits that Smith’s death was produced by a diffuse agency that cannot be definitively located or prosecuted—a neoliberal administration of law that presumed that Smith was already “socially dead,” and was, thus, no citizen at all. This form of biocitzenship radically diverges from accounts that find in biocitizenship a form of agency through which one might lay claim to life in an affirmative biopolitics.
NYU Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.
To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.