DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINOLOGY, LAW, & JUSTICE, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO
Kurwa, Rahim & Susila Gurusami (equal authors). "Carceral Migrations: Reframing Race, Space, and Punishment," Social Service Review 96(2), 353-388
We theorize state governance through population spatial trajectories to capture how seemingly disparate systems of punishment employ the same set of punishment logics and technologies to spatially regulate populations of color, which produces and reifies racial projects. Advancing a theoretical framework called carceral migrations, we argue that governments use legal punishment to force, restrict, and prevent movement as a racializing project of settler empire and anti-Blackness. Carceral migrations extend understandings of mass incarceration beyond confinement and holding by articulating three major points. First, the state’s regulation of populations’ spatial trajectories is punishment by design. Second, these spatially-oriented punishments operate as race-making and reinforcing technologies by producing punitive and recognizable spatial trajectories (or nontrajectories) for groups of people of color. Third, despite appearing race neutral in language, the development and application of legal codes and policies have disparate impacts on the spatial trajectories of people of color.
Gurusami, Susila & Rahim Kurwa (equal authors). Forthcoming. "From Broken Windows to Broken Homes: Homebreaking as Racialized and Gendered Poverty Governance." Feminist Formations.
- 2022 Distinguished Article Award Honorable Mention, ASA Section on Sex and Gender
Broken windows policing is traditionally understood as a tactic of governing public space, but in this essay, we show how this mode of policing also constitutes a war on domestic space. We take up Joy James’s call to investigate how the domestic of domestic warfare necessitates an understanding of the home and household, and we ask how the state leverages broken windows–style policing to govern the home. Drawing from three different cases in Los Angeles County—gang injunctions, post- release supervision, and housing vouchers—we use ethnographic data, interviews, and court filings to show how the state treats the homes of people of color as broken sites of disorder. We contend that it is the state that engages in homebreaking, not the residents. Contextualized within Black feminist scholarship, we identify homebreaking as the state’s attempt to break the home as a site of social reproduction and refuge from oppression, one of many state practices that fracture families of color and their homes, and we identify and examine two such stages of homebreaking: spying—surveillance of the home in ways that mark everyday behaviors and conditions as disordered and punishable; and raiding—punitive state intrusion that forces changes on the home or leads to punishment for perceived disorder.
Gurusami, Susila. 2019. “The Carceral Web We Weave: Carceral Citizens’ Experiences of Digital Punishment and Solidarity:” Punishment & Society, https://doi.org/10.1177/1462474518790237.
This article asks: How do formerly incarcerated people navigate digital technologies? Using the metaphor of a spider web, I use 18 months of ethnographic observations of formerly incarcerated women of color to argue that formerly incarcerated people must contend with what I call—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, making it impossible for formerly incarcerated people to shed their criminal histories. I characterize entan- glements as the intersections of institutional carceral relationships that result from practices and norms of digital connectivity. I argue that the pervasive significance of digital connectivity to everyday life compels formerly incarcerated people to contend with the Carceral Web, 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. Understanding the Spider of the Carceral Web as the convergence of corporations and state interests allows us to see how it feeds on the lives of formerly incarcerated people by consuming their marginalization and exclusion in the interests of racialized and gendered profit.
Gurusami, Susila. 2019. “Motherwork Under the State: The Maternal Labor of Formerly Incarcerated Black Women.” Social Problems
- 2020 Oliver Cromwell Cox Article Award, ASA Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities
- 2020 Article of the Year Award Honorable Mention, ASA Section on Family
- 2018-2019 Social Problems High Impact Article Designation in "Most Cited" category
- 2016 Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award, ASA Section on Race, Class, and Gender
Although Black mothers are disproportionately represented among formerly incarcerated mothers in the United States, existing research has largely neglected to document the challenges they face in resuming their parenting roles after prison or jail. This study addresses this gap using 18 months of participant observations with formerly incarcerated Black women to examine how state surveillance under post-release supervision and Child Welfare Services shapes and constrains formerly incarcerated Black women’s mothering practices. The study develops a typology of three context-specific strategies these women employ to anticipate, react to, and cope with state interventions that threaten their mothering: collective motherwork, hypervigilant motherwork, and crisis motherwork. These findings suggest that contrary to popular constructions of formerly incarcerated Black women as negligent mothers, they navigate multiple, overlapping sources of violence to protect their children. Yet, the labor of navigating the state structures that put their children at risk often placed these women in conflict with the state. This paradox suggests the state criminalizes the maternal labor of formerly incarcerated Black women and that these state logics are used to justify state intervention in Black women’s post-incarceration parenting.
Gurusami, Susila. 2017. “Working for Redemption: Formerly Incarcerated Black Women and Punishment in the Labor Market.” Gender & Society 31(4):433–56.
- 2019 Arlene Kaplan Daniels Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP)
- 2018 Cheryl Allyn Miller Award, Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS)
- 2018 Distinguished Article Award Honorable Mention, ASA Section on Race, Class and Gender
- 2018 Distinguished Article Award Honorable Mention, ASA Section on Sex and Gender
- 2017 James E. Blackwell Graduate Student Paper Award, ASA Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities
This article uses 18 months of ethnographic observations with formerly incarcerated Black women to contend that they are subjected to what I term rehabilitation labor—a series of unwritten state practices that seek to govern the transformation of formerly incarcerated people from criminals to workers. I reveal that employment is subjectively policed by state agents and must meet three conditions to count as work: reliable, recognizable, and redemptive. I find that women who are unable to meet these employment conditions are framed by state agents as failing to demonstrate an appropriate commitment to their moral—and therefore criminal—rehabilitation, and consequently experience perceived threats of reincarceration. Building a theory of intersectional capitalism, I argue that rehabilitation labor is situated within a broader historical project of making Black women legible to the state through the labor market.