Nicole Fleetwood's new book is a powerful document of the inner lives and creative visions of men and women rendered invisible by Americas prison system. We invite you out for a conversation between her and acclaimed scholar and critic Ruha Benjamin.
More than two million people are currently behind bars in the United States. Incarceration not only separates the imprisoned from their families and communities; it also exposes them to shocking levels of deprivation and abuse and subjects them to the arbitrary cruelties of the criminal justice system. Yet, as Fleetwood reveals, America's prisons are filled with art.
Despite the isolation and degradation they experience, the incarcerated are driven to assert their humanity in the face of a system that dehumanizes them. Their bold works have opened new possibilities in American art. Their works testify to the economic and racial injustices that underpin American punishment and offer a new vision of freedom for the twenty-first century.
Nicole R. Fleetwood is Professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University. She is the author of On Racial Icons and of Troubling Vision. Ruha Benjamin is Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the founder of the Just Data Lab and the author of People's Science and, most recently, of Race after Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code.
[Originally published on May 13, 2020 via Labyrinth Books]