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NeMLA 2022 Panel: Locked Up--An American Landscape (NeMLA 2022)

Baltimore, Maryland
Organization: Northeast Modern Language Association
Event: NeMLA 2022
Categories: Popular Culture, 20th & 21st Century, Cultural Studies, Film, TV, & Media, History
Event Date: 2022-03-10 to 2022-03-13 Abstract Due: 2021-09-30

It’s a statistic we hear often: America incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation. Yet, most Americans can go about their daily lives without thinking about their physical proximity to prisons or the people locked within. With few exceptions, prisons are built in rural, remote areas, set back from main highways and not visible from shopping centers, restaurants, and housing developments. Likewise, America’s political landscape works hard to obfuscate the realities of life locked up, reducing discourses of mass incarceration to shocking statistics and incomprehensible numbers. 

While geography and political discourse work to obscure the realities of who is locked up, where, and for how long, cultural anxieties about America’s penal practices come to life in American literature and film. Prison settings add clanging bars, cold cinderblock buildings, and razor wire to the list of great American landscapes, as much a part of America’s story as western frontiers, suburbs, and shopping malls. 

This panel investigates Americans’ longstanding cultural impulses to write, read, and watch stories about prison. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Narratives that complicate guilt/innocence binaries;
  • Narratives that interrogate systemic racism in judicial and carceral practices;
  • Impacts of incarceration on the LGBTQIA community;
  • Violence in prison narratives and/or prisons as violent spaces;
  • Social and cultural impacts of prison narratives;
  • Intergenerational effects of incarceration;
  • Narratives that depict restorative or transformative justice models;
  • Cultures that emerge within prison spaces;
  • Literature and writing as modes of resistance and/or sites of personal agency;
  • Relationships that develop within prison spaces;
  • Depictions of animals in prison literature;
  • Depictions of prison labor;
  • Survival strategies of the incarcerated;
  • Prisons in speculative fiction;
  • Effects of mass incarceration on prison staff (corrections officers, clergy, administration);
  • Utopian visions of societies without prisons

Please submit 300 word abstracts using the NeMLA portal: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/19355 and email valerie.surrett@ung.edu with any questions. Session #19355 



Valerie Surrett