Making Killing Work: Capital Punishment and the Productive Circuits of the Death Chamber

Authors: Alex Colucci*, Kent State University
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: Capital punishment, political-economy, political geographies, carceral geographies, dialectics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: 8217, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A death chamber where executions occur, on the surface, appears to be a rather straightforward space. Typically, they appear as simple rooms with blank walls and often nothing more than a medical table. Yet, the appearance of the contemporary death chamber in U.S. prisons belies the wide variety of objects, humans, and knowledges that move through this space. By conceptualizing the spatiality of the death chamber in terms of this movement of material and ideas, we can begin to understand execution processes as a technologic process produced through the capitalistic circulation of materialized knowledge commodities. Indeed, capital punishment requires the production of the death chamber-as-meeting-place for a variety of commodity objects, and their activation through knowledges of how to kill. Formal capital punishments, then, happen only when certain combinations of material objects and humans become both fixed in execution space and set in motion by specific knowledges. The changing circuitous means by which objects and humans become fixed in place results in different and transforming modes of capital punishment. This demonstrates how our understandings of capital punishment and its spaces must be tied to an analysis of political-economy.

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