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BiocitizenshipThe Politics of Bodies, Governance, and Power$
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Kelly E. Happe, Jenell Johnson, and Marina Levina

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479845194

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479845194.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 20 October 2019

Carceral Biocitizenship

Carceral Biocitizenship

The Rhetorics of Sovereignty in Incarceration

Chapter:
(p.51) 2 Carceral Biocitizenship
Source:
Biocitizenship
Author(s):

Sarah Burgess

Stuart J. Murray

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479845194.003.0003

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.

Keywords:   Carceral biocitizenship, Biopolitics, Sovereignty, Ashley Smith

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