Lisa Guenther (Vanderbilt) — also the author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives — has made public the syllabus for her course on the philosophy of police violence and mass incarceration.
Here’s the course description:
The killing of unarmed black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by police in Missouri and New York, and the grand jury process that judged both homicides to be justifiable, has provoked a powerful social movement affirming that Black Lives Matter. The history of police violence against black people is as long as the history of policing itself; arguably, the first organized police forces in the US were slave patrols in South Carolina. As Beth Richie, Dean Spade, and other scholars have shown, women of color, people with disabilities, and queer, trans and gender-nonconforming people are also exposed in various ways to disproportionate police surveillance, arrest, and incarceration. Not only does the US have high rates of police violence and misconduct, we also have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Contemporary scholars have called this situation of mass incarceration in the US neo-slavery, the New Jim Crow, the Prison Industrial Complex, and the Golden Gulag.
In this course, we will engage philosophically with issues raised by police violence and mass incarceration in the US, asking both what philosophers can bring to the conversation and also what we can learn from the critical analysis and collective action of thinkers and activists beyond the academic discipline of philosophy. Our challenge is not only to read the work of contemporary philosophers, and not only to respond to current events, but to re-think what the practice of philosophy could become if philosophers sought not only to interpret the world, but also to change it.