In Here for a Reason: Mobility, Animacy, and Becoming Human in the Correctional United States


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation explores how incarcerated people and correctional staff utilize mobility to construct what it means to be alive and human. Beginning in 2001, carceral administrators at what is pseudonymously referred to as the Desert Echo Facility, a medium/maximum-security prison in the US Southwest, have instituted polices that further restricted incarcerated peoples’ physical movements. These new regulations place captives inside single-person eight-by-twelve-foot cells for most hours of the day and violently limit access to material and social relations. Informed by twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, this research analyses how restricted movement disrupts incarcerated peoples’ animacy hierarchies and their material methods for feeling mobile and human. It simultaneously examines how and why correctional staff utilize mobility both to elevate themselves to human status and position prisons as both natural and inevitable. Ultimately, this dissertation centers participants’ daily lives to demonstrate the necessity for prison abolition.