Brown bag talk sponsored by the Disability Studies Program.
Abstract: Persons with disabilities are overrepresented within the
prison population. With the growing number of inmates with
disabilities prisons are increasingly instituting inmate caregiving
programs. Through these programs, inmates without disabilities are
employed as personal assistants for inmates with disabilities,
supporting them in daily activities. Disability studies has
traditionally condemned the provision of care as a form of oppression
and sought to take the “care out of care work” by reconceptualizing it
as personal assistance. Feminist scholars, however, have historically
focused on care through the prism of gender, uncovering the
exploitation of caregivers, and seeking to recapture the concept by
theorizing its emancipatory potential in the face of the dominant,
masculine, market-based value system. Prisons are hypermasculine
spaces often devoid of care, where positive, mutual relationships of
concern (or care) are scarce and inmates are subjected to abuse and
social isolation. We discuss the meaning and the potential of
caregiving programs to become a form of even greater subjugation and
oppression of both inmates receiving and giving care and,
alternatively, its transformative potential in the lives of individual
inmates and the larger prison environment as posing an alternative
relationship to the hypermasculine imperative.
Bio: Stephen Meyers is an Assistant Professor at the Jackson School of
International Studies and in the Law, Societies, and Justice Program.
His areas of research interest are Human Rights, Disability, and
Global Civil Society. In particular, he focuses on grassroots
associations of persons with disabilities working at the local level
in Nicaragua and their interactions with international organizations
promoting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities, which was passed in 2006.