Blogging about solitary confinement

Matt Whitt
Duke University
Discipline(s): Philosophy
Last Updated: 
September, 2015
Course Level: 
undergraduate
Assignment Summary: 

This assignment asks students to think about how we acquire, assess, and convey knowledge about solitary confinement. 

Learning Outcomes: 
The assignment explicitly asks students to reflect on the choices that two authors (one with first-hand experience of solitary, one without) make in their writing on solitary confinement. This leads implicitly and organically to a class conversation about the social, political, and epistemic position of each writer, and how different positions correspond to different forms of authority. Courses that do not focus on writing skills might play down some of those aspects, while playing up the broader interrogation of criminalization as a social, political, and epistemic process.
Required Materials: 
The required texts are: 1. A first-hand account of solitary confinement by a current or former prisoner. I used a Guardian blog post, “Solitary Confinement’s Invisible Scars,” Five Omar Mualimm-ak. 2. An academic account of solitary confinement by someone who has not experienced it directly. For this philosophy-focused class, I used selections from Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives by Lisa Guenther.
Assignment Theme: