Camp LaGuardia and the Changing Politics of Coercion and Consent

Authors: Christian Siener*, CUNY Graduate Center
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: carceral state
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In defining state capacity, Ruth Wilson Gilmore explains that “power is not a thing but rather a relationship based on already existing activities.” What traces of power are available to archival researchers in geography? This paper explores one way in which archives can illuminate changing institutional power through an investigation of a New York City prison that transformed into a homeless shelter during the Great Depression. It analyzes how stories told in the institution’s newspaper provided a meaningful narrative for these material changes, smoothed out contradictions, and built cohesion for an in-house work rehabilitation program. The newspaper grounded the stories in a revived theatrical genre, minstrelsy, to reconfigure ideas of race, class, and gender. These “forgeries of memory and meaning,” to use Cedric Robinson’s term, were therefore part of the renovation of state capacity to manage political challenges by displaced workers during economic crisis.

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