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Fugitive Thought: Prison Movements, Race, and the Meaning of Justice

Michael Hames-García
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Fugitive Thought
    Book Description:

    Michael Hames-García argues that writings by prisoners are instances of social theory that seek to transform the world. Fugitive Thought reinvigorates moral concepts like “justice,” “solidarity,” and “freedom” through focusing on writings by black and Latina/o lawyers and prisoners to flesh out the philosophical underpinnings of ethical claims within legal theory and prison activism._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3553-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-lii)

    The one-hundred-year-old walls are cold and all around me sounds the archaic and brutal crash of heavy metal gates. This is the Maximum Security Correctional Facility in Elmira, New York, where human bondage does not wear the clinical mask of efficiency that one finds at more modern prisons and jails, with their hospital-like air, all clear (bullet-proof ) glass, and white walls. After giving a lecture on the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico, to a class of prisoners, I am approached by a prisoner/student who asks me how old I am. When I tell him, he says that we are...

  5. PART I. Justice, Race, and Law

    • CHAPTER 1 Toward a Critical Theory of Justice
      (pp. 3-48)

      Let me begin with an example in order to illustrate the complexity of questions of justice and morality. The 1961 film directed by Stanley Kramer and written by Abby Mann,Judgment at Nuremberg, depicts the story of a retired judge from New England who has been called to preside over one of the final war crimes tribunals in Nuremberg, Germany, after World War II. The judge, played by Spencer Tracy, must preside over the trial of German judges who served on the bench during Nazi rule and enforced laws that sentenced Jews, political opponents of the regime, the mentally retarded,...

    • CHAPTER 2 In Contempt: Lawyering out of Bounds
      (pp. 49-92)

      My discussion of justice and natural law in the last chapter argues that one can appeal to moral concepts in a way that is radically visionary without being an idealist. My analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideas and the practical efforts of critical criminologists and justice reformers like Ruth Morris points toward a complicated relationship between existing legal systems, on the one hand, and moral realist accounts of better and more enabling standards of justice, on the other. Morris’s theory of “transformative justice” moves away from traditional criminological, legal, and penal conceptions of justice as either retribution, fairness, or...

  6. PART II. The Practice of Freedom and U.S. Prison Movements

    • CHAPTER 3 The Practice of Freedom: Assata’s Struggle
      (pp. 95-140)

      In the introduction, I maintain thatfreedomadmits of multiple meanings. This fact gives rise to the subtlety of the epigraph to this chapter, as well as of Thoreau’s declaration that prison is a “more free and honorable ground [. . .] the only house in a slave-state in which a free man can abide with honor” (720). There are many traditions of theorizing freedom, ranging from traditional liberal political theory to anarchist thought to existentialism.¹ Perhaps one of the richest and yet intellectually undervalued traditions in the West, however, exists in the autobiographical, literary, political, and philosophical words of...

    • CHAPTER 4 Resistant Freedom: Piri Thomas and Miguel Piñero
      (pp. 141-190)

      In one sense, freedom is not just about where one lives (in prison or out) but how one lives. In novelist Toni Morrison’s words, “Freeing yourself [i]s one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self [i]s another” (95). Claiming ownership of that freed self entails, in part, making a number of ethical choices about how one will live in the world. These choices are major concerns of New York–raised Puerto Rican (Nuyorican) prison writers Piri Thomas and Miguel Piñero. A childhood vignette related in Thomas’s prison memoir,Seven Long Times, stresses how freedom for others entails ethical choices about...

  7. PART III. Rebellion, Poetry, and Praxis

    • CHAPTER 5 Toward a Praxical Moral Theory: Prison Poets and Intellectuals
      (pp. 193-248)

      In “Toward the United Front,” assassinated prison movement leader George Jackson makes many ambitious claims for what a movement organized around prison conditions and political prisoners can accomplish.¹ Much like other radical prison intellectuals, Jackson does not consider mere prison reform or the release of political prisoners to be among the most significant possible accomplishments of a unified prison movement in the United States. A more significant accomplishment would be the development of “new initiatives that redirect and advance the revolution under new progressive methods” (113). Jackson hopes that the prison movement will be radically diverse and ecumenical, telling his...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 249-254)

    In his well-known and influential discussion of intellectuals, Italian marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci argues that what makes one an intellectual is not any peculiar quality of one’s work or any exceptional mental capacity. Instead, intellectuals exist because of their function in society. As he puts it, “All men are intellectuals . . . but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals” (9). He also distinguishes among types of intellectuals. For example, there are technicians, economists, engineers, lawyers, and other specialists who come into existence historically with the formation of the capitalist class. These kinds of intellectuals, who...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 255-288)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 289-326)
  11. Index
    (pp. 327-352)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 353-353)