No Use to the State: Phrasing Escape and a Black Radical Epistolary of Disability in Early Twentieth-Century Alabama Prisons
Keywords:Racial capitalism, disability, fugitivity, labor, prisons, Black feminism, Black women's history, archives
This article explores how Black women experienced and theorized disability from within Alabama’s prisons in the early twentieth century. Early-twentieth-century custodial prisons were a primary place in which disabled, southern Black women encountered the state. Some women entered prison disabled and many left with disabilities they had not had before. Indeed, disability was a condition of incarceration: a function of its punitive labor demands and the violence used to enforce disciplinary measures. Black women intimately understood and resisted this multifaceted violence and attempted to negotiate with the state for their release. Their handwritten letters, an archive that was unintentionally preserved by the state, demonstrate that incarcerated Black women’s articulation of uselessness was a profound critique of racial, carceral capitalism. Through close reading of recursive strategies, this article examines incarcerated Black women’s textual invocations of unproductivity as a disruption of the binary of metaphor and materiality in racial studies of disability.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Micah Khater
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