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What is the Carceral Studies Network Project?

As people struggle to understand their own entanglement with mass incarceration and the carceral state, teachers and learners are designing new courses and producing innovative scholarship on imprisonment, policing, punishment, and community responses to violence. For some of us, these issues lie beyond our core scholarly focus, and many lack specific pedagogical training that can enable us to effectively, respectfully, and creatively engage these controversial issues in the classroom. This site is intended to help.

The Carceral Studies Network hosts resources for those seeking to teach or learn about prisons, policing, and the carceral state. Designed by instructors and students at Duke University, the site is meant to help teachers develop new courses from the ground up, or enrich existing courses with new materials. Learners will also find helpful resources, including texts that can complement assigned readings and syllabi that might facilitate self-study and community-based learning. We hope that this site will be a continually evolving hub for scholarly exchange, innovation, and dialogue, and we encourage users to share their own pedagogical materials with other teachers and learners.


One way the Carceral Studies Network attempts to help scholars and educators share knowledge about mass incarceration and the carceral state is by finely curating resources associated with this topic around a handful of themes. The below six themes were developed out of discussions that occurred in classes and events tied to the Humanities Writ Large funded Emerging Networks project, Mass Incarceration and the Carceral State. Users can browse by these themes (and their various subthemes) to discover resources related to their scholarly or pedagogical focus more easily. During the site’s beta period, we welcome feedback on theme names and categorization.

Main Themes


Prison and Society

Prison Experience

Policing and Law

Prison and Identity


Suggested Resources
Claudia Rankine headshot

Claudia Rankine: Why I’m Spending $625,000 to Study Whitenes

the Guardian Steven W Thrasher October 19, 2016 The award-winning poet on why she’s using her MacArthur genius grant to explore whiteness, her questions for Lionel Shriver, and how an Ohio prison explodes the idea that blackness equals criminality More Information

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Race, Gender, and Mass Incarceration

Lisa Guenther Vanderbilt University Discipline(s): Philosophy Syllabus Last Updated: July, 2014 Graduate seminar in Philosophy designed to engage philosophically with feminist, anti-racist, queer, and trans activist movements for prison abolition, transformative justice, reproductive justice, and community accountability.  Readings include work by Angela Davis, Beth Ritchie, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, CARA (Communities Against Rape and… Read More »Race, Gender, and Mass Incarceration

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Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror

the Equal Justice Initiative October 11, 2016 “Our history of racial terror casts a shadow across the U.S. landscape. We must engage it more honestly.” Video produced by the Equal Justice Initiative. More Information



Suggested Research Resources
Graphic of two people in jail

Is America Engaged In A ‘Vicious Circle’ Of Jailing The Poor?

NPR Fresh Air May 11, 2016 Interview with Nancy Fishman, a project manager at the Vera Institute for Justice director, about the high number of people being imprisoned in America because of their inability to pay fines for low-level offenses. More Information



A main goal of the Carceral Studies Network is to increase the volume of research being done on mass incarceration and the carceral state. The Research section of the site hopes to support unique scholarship in this subject area by curating materials across genres and media. This section allows users to browse scholarly articles and books, multimedia films and podcasts, news aggregators, from popular films like Fruitville Station to innovative projects like HAL: States of Incarceration. For those just beginning research in this subject area, the suggested resources to the left offer a great place to start your scholarship.



Another main goal of the Carceral Studies Network is to grow instruction on the subject of mass incarceration and the carceral state. The Teaching section of the site sets out to scaffold teachers’ incorporation of materials about this subject in their classrooms. This section allows teachers to browse course syllabi and classroom assignments that have been generously shared by other instructors and remix and reuse them in their courses. The site also contains resources for teaching about mass incarceration and the carceral state in the classroom, as well how to teach in a prison settings. For those new to the subject or just beginning to think about how to incorporate the subject into their courses, the suggested resources to the right are a great place to start.

Suggested Teaching Resources
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Fighting Imperviousness With Vulnerability

Teaching in a Climate of Conservatism Teaching Philosophy Jeanine Weekes Schroer June, 2007 This essay explores challenges that arise for professors who teach critical theory in our current climate of conservatism. Specifically, it is argued that the conservative commitments to non-revolutionary change and reverence for tradition are corrupted in our current political and intellectual climate.… Read More »Fighting Imperviousness With Vulnerability