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Paths to Prison:
On the Architectures of Carcerality

Thu, Oct 29, 2020    6:30pm

Launch and discussion of the forthcoming book Paths to Prison: On the Architectures of Carcerality from Columbia Books on Architecture and the City. Edited by Isabelle Kirkham-Lewitt with contributions by Adrienne Brown, Stephen Dillon, Jarrett M. Drake, Sable Elyse Smith, James Graham, Leslie Lodwick, Dylan Rodríguez, Anne Spice, Brett Story, Jasmine Syedullah, Mabel O. Wilson, and Wendy L. Wright.

As Angela Y. Davis has proposed, the “path to prison,” which so disproportionately affects communities of color, is most acutely guided by the conditions of daily life. Architecture, then, as fundamental to shaping these conditions of civil existence, must be interrogated for its involvement along this diffuse and mobile path. Paths to Prison: On the Architectures of Carcerality aims to expand the ways the built environment’s relationship to and participation in the carceral state is understood in architecture. The collected essays in this book implicate architecture in the more longstanding and pervasive legacies of racialized coercion in the United States—and follow the premise that to understand how the prison enacts its violence in the present one must shift the epistemological frame elsewhere: to places, discourses, and narratives assumed to be outside of the sphere of incarceration.

Paths to Prison: On the Architectures of Carcerality offers not a fixed or inexorable account of how things are but rather a set of starting points and methodologies for reevaluating the architecture of carceral society and for undoing it altogether.

Speakers

Adrienne Brown specializes in American and African American cultural production in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on the history of perception as shaped by the built environment. Brown’s teaching and research interests include critical race studies, architecture and urban studies, American studies, Modernism, postmodernism, the Harlem and Chicago Renaissances, popular culture, visual culture, and sound studies. With Valerie Smith, Brown co-edited the volume Race and Real Estate, an interdisciplinary collection rethinking narratives of property and citizenship. Her book, The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race recovers the skyscraper’s drastic effects not only on the shape of the city but the racial sensorium of its residents. She is working on a new book that charts the impact of the U.S.’s move to mass homeownership in the 20th century on how Americans experienced residential space as a social, spatial, and, most significantly, a racial unit.

Stephen Dillon a fellow in the center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst college and is also Associate Professor and Critical Race and Queer Studies at Hampshire College. He is the author of Fugitive Life: The Queer Politics of the Prison State (Duke University Press, 2018). His other writings on race, sexuality, feminism, and incarceration have appeared in Radical History Review, Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, Cultural Studies and Critical Methodologies; Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences, and the edited collections Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex and Active Intolerance: Michel Foucault, the Prisons Information Group, and the Future of Abolition.

Jarrett Martin Drake is a PhD student in social anthropology at Harvard University, where he engages in a variety of archival, educational, and organizing projects that pertain to prison abolition. His dissertation, which is tentatively titled A Matter of Time: Race, Gender, and Carceral Space in Louisiana, is a trans-temporal ethnography that provokes a series of queries about the relationship between the plantation and the prison by examining cycles of captivity, caging, and confinement in the U.S. state of Louisiana. Outside of Harvard, Drake facilitates workshops with grassroots organizations around topics such as liberatory memory work and digital archives. Prior to Harvard, Drake was the Digital Archivist at Princeton University as well as an advisory archivist for A People’s Archives of Police Violence in Cleveland. During his time at Princeton, he volunteered as an instructor in the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ-STEP) Consortium through the Princeton Prison Teaching Initiative, teaching preparatory writing and introductory college composition. Drake was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, where he graduated from The Benjamin Banneker Achievement Center.

James Graham is a historian, architect, and assistant professor of architecture at the California College of Arts. He holds a PhD in the history and theory of modern architecture from Columbia University GSAPP, and in 2019–20 he was a fellow at Columbia University’s Institute for Ideas and Imagination. James’s research explores intersections of architecture, technoscience, extraction, embodiment, and managerial reason. More information is available at jmzgraham.com

Isabelle Kirkham-Lewitt is an editor and writer based in Brooklyn. She is currently the director of Columbia Books on Architecture and the City (CBAC), and a contributing editor of the Avery Review and Avery Shorts. Most recently, Isabelle edited the collected volume Paths to Prison: On the Architecture of Carcerality (2020), which was awarded a Graham Foundation grant and is part of an ongoing effort to implicate architecture in the violences of the carceral state. Before assuming the director role at CBAC, she helped shape many of the imprint’s critical publications as assistant director, including Ways of Knowing Cities (2019), A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change (2018), and And Now: Architecture Against a Developer Presidency (2017), among others. Having obtained an M.Arch in 2015 from Columbia GSAPP, Isabelle considers her editorial practice an architecture and research practice, and vice versa. She is co-founder of the once-productive but now productively-dormant editorial collective : (pronounced “colon”). Her work is directed towards exploring what abolition means and might mean for the field architecture.

Leslie Lodwick is an educator and doctoral student in Visual Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research and teaching interests focus on issues of race, environment, technology, and education in histories of 19th and 20th-century architecture as well as visual and material cultures of childhood, school, and play. Her current research examines the architectural typology of the school, alternative architectural methodologies, and educational space. Her dissertation project looks to mid-century California school building and relationships to federal educational and urban policy, environmental regulation, computing, and knowledge production. She is a recipient of the Social Science Research Council Dissertation Fellowship, holds an M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a former public-school educator.

Dylan Rodríguez is an inaugural 2020 Freedom Scholar, President of the American Studies Association (2020-2021), recent Chair of the UC Riverside Academic Senate (2016-2020) and Professor in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. His thinking, writing, teaching, and scholarly activist labors address the complexity and normalized proliferation of historical regimes and logics of anti-Black and racial-colonial violence in everyday state, cultural, and social formations. Dylan’s work raises the question of how insurgent communities of people inhabit oppressive regimes and logics in ways that enable the collective genius of rebellion, survival, abolition, and radical futurity. He is the author of three books, most recently White Reconstruction: Domestic Warfare and the Logic of Racial Genocide (Fordham University Press, 2021), and was a co-editor of Critical Ethnic Studies: A Reader (Duke University Press, 2016).

Sable Elyse Smith is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and educator based in New York & Richmond Virginia. Using video, sculpture, photography, and text, she points to the carceral, the personal, the political, and the quotidian to speak about a violence that is largely unseen, and potentially imperceptible. Her work has been featured at MoMA Ps1, New Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, JTT, Rachel Uffner Gallery, and Recess Assembly, New York; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Artist Television Access, San Francisco, CA; Birkbeck Cinema in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries, London. Her writing has been published in Radical Teacher, Studio Magazine and Affidavit and she is currently working on her first book. Smith has received awards from Creative Capital, Fine Arts Work Center, the Queens Museum, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, the Franklin Furnace Fund, and Art Matters. She is currently Assistant Professor of Sculpture & Extended Media at the University of Richmond.

Anne Spice is a Tlingit member of Kwanlin Dun First Nation. She grew up on Treaty 7 territory in so-called Alberta, Canada. She works with Indigenous peoples resisting resource extraction, and her political and academic interests intersect on the frontlines of Indigenous territory defense movements. She is especially attentive to the spaces opened by and for queer, trans, non-binary, and two-spirit people as a part of their work for decolonization. She teaches and studies in Lenapehoking (NYC) as a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Brett Story is a filmmaker and writer based in Toronto. Her films have screened internationally at festivals such as CPH-DOX, the Viennale, SXSW, True/False, and Sheffield Doc/Fest. She is the director of the award-winning 2016 feature documentary, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, and the author of the book, Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America. Brett has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Sundance Documentary Institute and was named one of Variety’s 10 Documentary Filmmakers to Watch in 2019. She is an assistant professor in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University, and her most recent award-winning feature documentary, The Hottest August, continues to screen around the world.

Jasmine Syedullah is a black feminist political theorist of abolition, as well as co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (North Atlantic Books, 2016). She holds the first Assistant Professor line in Vassar College’s Africana Studies Program, celebrating its 51st anniversary this year. Her current research centers the fugitive writings of formerly enslaved mother Harriet Jacobs’s and her abolitionist vision of freedom. Before joining the faculty at Vassar, Syedullah taught at the University of San Francisco and the University of California Santa Cruz where she completed her PhD in Politics with a designated emphasis in Feminist Studies and History of Consciousness. Out in the world, Jasmine is a core member of the Radical Dharma Movement Project bringing embodied practices of liberation to spaces of social justice, community organizing, and institutional change.

Mabel O. Wilson (’91 M.Arch) is the Nancy and George Rupp Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, a Professor in African American and African Diasporic Studies, and the Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia University. At GSAPP she co-directs the Global Africa Lab. She is trained in Architecture and American Studies, two fields that inform her scholarship, curatorial projects, art works and design projects. Through her transdisciplinary practice Studio &, Wilson makes visible and legible the ways that anti-black racism shapes the built environment along with the ways that blackness creates spaces of imagination, refusal and desire. Her research investigates space, politics and cultural memory in black America; race and modern architecture; new technologies and the social production of space; and visual culture in contemporary art, media and film.

Dr. Wendy Wright is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics, Legal Studies in Urban Science at William Paterson University of New Jersey. She completed her doctorate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in Political Science. She also previously served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Bridgewater State University. Professor Wright’s research engages the political theory of state coercion, with a special focus on criminal justice institutions. Her current book project is called The Failure of Punishment. It critiques not only the practice, but the fundamental premises of criminal punishment that undergird mass incarceration in the United States.