HL90 FW: Carceral Empire

There’s still time to apply for one of our spring HL90s! Balraj Gill told us about her new course, “Carceral Empire,” which meets Thursday, 9:45-11:45.

What inspired you to teach this class?

Mass criminalization is one of the most pressing problems in the United States, but rarely is it considered from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and communities. This course confronts this invisibility by delving into the long history of Indigenous confinements under ongoing colonialism—from enslavement in the sixteenth century to current entanglements with criminal legal systems. This course thinks about carcerality in a capacious way to include geographic confinements in the form of reservations and reserves and institutional confinements beyond the prison such a boarding and residential schools. As folks organize for prison abolition, this course wonders what the implications of an expanded understanding of carcerality—one that has and continues to serve colonialism in North America—might mean for this organizing.

Are you doing any cool assignments?

We’ll be compiling a Resistance Mixtape/Exhibition! So much of the course content is focused on different forms of colonial subjugation and violence, but it’s important to remember that Indigenous peoples resisted in all kinds of ways. I’ve already added some songs and a poem to the mixtape that speak to this resistance: Lyla June’s “All Nations Rise,” Tanya Tagaq’s “Colonizer,” Frank Waln’s “Concentration Camp Blues,” Joy Harjo’s “Calling the Spirit Back,” and Dakota Bear’s “Freedom.” We’ll be listening to these on the first day of class. I’m excited about what students will add to this over the course of the semester.

How can students learn more?

Check out the syllabus on Canvas or reach out to me at bkgill@fas.harvard.edu.

Published by Hist & Lit

Committee on Degrees in History & Literature at Harvard University

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