Public History and Mass Incarceration

Mary Rizzo
Rutgers University-Newark
Discipline(s): American Studies
Syllabus Last Updated: 
January, 2016

This course will ground students in the theory, methods, and practices of public history and the public humanities to consider how to engage the public with the history of mass incarceration and the specific issue of immigrant detention. Students will examine the relationship between mass incarceration and immigrant detention as historical processes that have changed over time. Immigration restrictions have always been about defining who is unfit to be part of the nation, whether because of race, gender, sexuality, politics, religion or ability. By focusing on a specific local incident--a "riot" in 1995 at the Esmor detention facility (now Elizabeth Detention Center), we asked how we could tell this forgotten story in a way that privileged the voices of immigrant detainees even though our sources were scanty.