Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Social Death

Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected

Lisa Marie Cacho
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 236
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Social Death
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2013 John Hope Franklin Book Prize presented by the American Studies AssociationSocial Death tackles one of the core paradoxes of social justice struggles and scholarship - that the battle to end oppression shares the moral grammar that structures exploitation and sanctions state violence. Lisa Marie Cacho forcefully argues that the demands for personhood for those who, in the eyes of society, have little value, depend on capitalist and heteropatriarchal measures of worth.With poignant case studies, Cacho illustrates that our very understanding of personhood is premised upon the unchallenged devaluation of criminalized populations of color. Hence, the reliance of rights-based politics on notions of who is and is not a deserving member of society inadvertently replicates the logic that creates and normalizes states of social and literal death. Her understanding of inalienable rights and personhood provides us the much-needed comparative analytical and ethical tools to understand the racialized and nationalized tensions between racial groups. Driven by a radical, relentless critique, Social Death challenges us to imagine a heretofore unthinkable politics and ethics that do not rest on neoliberal arguments about worth, but rather emerge from the insurgent experiences of those negated persons who do not live by the norms that determine the productive, patriotic, law abiding, and family-oriented subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2377-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Violence of Value
    (pp. 1-34)

    Hurricane Katrina decimated the poorest, the brownest, and the blackest neighborhoods along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. By almost all accounts, the people most devastated and the places most damaged were disproportionately black and impoverished. And while not all coverage was without sympathy, some articles’ portrayals of Katrina victims were disconcerting. News media and conservative weblogs stigmatized and criminalized poor African American victims of Hurricane Katrina, particularly the residents of New Orleans. Among the most publicized examples of these incriminating images were snapshots of black people allegedly “looting” abandoned grocery stores. Several bloggers juxtaposed two virtually...

  5. 1 White Entitlement and Other People’s Crimes
    (pp. 35-60)

    High school teenagers Morgan Manduley, Bradley Davidofsky, Adam Ketsdever, Nicholas Fileccia, Steven DeBoer, and Kevin Williams (ages 15–17) set out to “hunt” undocumented Mexican migrant workers on July 5, 2000. They cased an area near their homes in Rancho Peñasquitos, an affluent suburb of San Diego, California. They found Andres Roman Díaz (age 64) walking back from work, carrying groceries and drinking water. They shot him with BB guns from their Subaru station wagon, then got out of the car to chase him on foot. Roman ran back to the nursery where he worked, and the young men got...

  6. 2 Beyond Ethical Obligation
    (pp. 61-96)

    Oun Roo Chhay was ambushed by members of a gang that called itself the Local Asian Boyz (LAB) in the parking lot of his apartment building in the Rainer Valley neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He was 20 years old when he was murdered. Four young adults were arrested for his murder; three were convicted. Kim Ho Ma, only a high school sophomore, was among those convicted. Ma was tried as an adult because Washington state law mandates that 16 and 17 year olds be tried as adults for first-degree manslaughter. He was convicted and sentenced to thirty-eight months in prison....

  7. 3 Grafting Terror onto Illegality
    (pp. 97-114)

    In his September 2001 speech to O’Hare International Airport workers in Chicago, President George W. Bush proclaimed,

    We’re a nation based upon fabulous values.

    We’re also a nation that is adjusting to a new type of war. . . . We face a brand of evil, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time in the world. These are people who strike and hide, people who know no borders, people who are—people who depend upon others. And make no mistake about it, the new war is not only against the evildoers, themselves; the new war is...

  8. 4 Immigrant Rights versus Civil Rights
    (pp. 115-146)

    In 2002, Elvira Arellano was arrested during a sweep of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for using a false Social Security number. Implemented after and in response to September 11, “Operation Tarmac” was designed to find and deport unauthorized airport workers. On the day she was ordered to report to immigration in 2006, she defied her deportation orders and took sanctuary at Chicago’s Adalberto United Methodist Church with the help of her good friend and fellow immigrant rights activist, Emma Lozano, and Lozano’s husband, the Reverend Walter “Slim” Coleman, also a local activist. While trying to work with her very few...

  9. Conclusion: Racialized Hauntings of the Devalued Dead
    (pp. 147-168)

    On March 24, 2000, my cousin Brandon Jesse Martinez died in a car accident in San Diego, California.¹ He was nineteen. When Brandon was alive, he frustrated teachers, counselors, employers, and even his friends and family. He took drugs sometimes, drank sometimes, and sometimes slept all day. He liked low-rider car culture and Tupac Shakur. He was quick witted and too clever, thoughtful and impulsive, well intentioned as well as reckless. His teachers thought he was “lazy” and a “troublemaker”; he proved them right by never graduating from high school. He lied on job applications and didn’t pay his bills...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 169-212)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 213-223)
    (pp. 224-224)