© 2019 Susila Gurusami

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PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS

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.

Gurusami, Susila. 2018. “Motherwork Under the State: The Maternal Labor of Formerly Incarcerated Black Women.” Social Problems (online first 13 Feb 2018)/

- 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.

The Carceral Web we weave

Gurusami, Susila. 2018. “The Carceral Web We Weave: Carceral Citizens’ Experiences of Digital Punishment and Solidarity:” Punishment & Society, July. 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.

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