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The Carceral Web We Weave: Carceral Citizens’ Experiences of Digital Punishment and Solidarity

Tue, August 14, 8:30 to 10:10am, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, 105AB


How do formerly incarcerated people navigate digital technologies? Using the metaphor of a spider web, I use 18 months of ethnographic observations with formerly incarcerated women of color to argue that formerly incarcerated people must contend with what I call the Carceral Web—the spatial intersection between carceral institutions and digital technologies. I identify two primary features of the Carceral Web: stickiness and entanglements. I characterize stickiness as the Internet’s ability to make carceral histories inescapable across time and physical space, thereby making it impossible for formerly incarcerated people to shed their criminal histories. I characterize entanglements as the intersections and tangles of institutional carceral relationships that result from practices and norms of digital connectivity. I argue that formerly incarcerated people are compelled to contend with the Carceral Web because of the pervasive significance of digital connectivity to everyday life, but stickiness and entanglements make them susceptible to exploitation and reincarceration; I call the Carceral Web’s production of vulnerable subjects predation, which I characterize as a type of hidden sentence. I contend that despite having limited resources to navigate predation, formerly incarcerated people are tasked with co-opting the Carceral Web to build solidarity and training as a self-defense survival mechanism.


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