January 2022

From Lynch Mobs to the Killing State: Race and Punishment in the United States

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-221

Faculty

Austin D. Sarat (Section 01J)

Description

Other than war, punishment is the most dramatic manifestation of state power. Whom a society punishes and how it punishes are key political questions as well as indicators of a state's character. The character of punishment in the United States has been shaped, throughout American history, by race and racism. This course considers the connections between punishment, race, and politics in this country. We will ask how far we have come in the journey from lynch mobs to the killing state. We also will consider whether we punish too much and too severely, or too little and too leniently, and the ways race has shaped the ways we punish. We will examine the politicization and racialization of punishment and examine particular modalities through which the state dispenses its penal power. Among the questions to be discussed are: Does punishment express our noblest aspirations for justice or our basest racialized fears and desires for vengeance? Can punishment ever be an adequate expression of, or response to, the pain of the victims of crime? When is it appropriate to forgive rather than punish? How do race and racial antagonism shape the answer to that question? Throughout we will try to understand the meaning of punishment in the United States by its intimate connections to this country’s racial history.

Limited to 40 students. January term. Professor Sarat

If Overenrolled: Professor will seek a mix of class years and majors

Keywords

Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing

Offerings

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in January 2022, Spring 2022