Lisa Guenther on Arendt and the 2013 California Prison Strikes

In the Canadian Journal of Human Rights here (open access):

On July 8, 2013, over 30,000 prisoners in California joined together across racial and regional lines to launch the largest hunger strike in state history. This article analyzes the prison conditions that led to the hunger strike as a form of world-destroying violence, drawing on Heidegger’s account of Beingin-the-world and Arendt’s account of being cast out of the common world and deprived of the “right to have rights”. The paper then examines the process by which prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison reached across the social barriers of race and gang affiliation to organize a nonviolent resistance movement and, in so doing, to rebuild a meaningful sense of the world and of political action. Ultimately, the California prison hunger strikes are more than a struggle for human rights; they are also a struggle for meaning, and for the possibility of a common world.

I was planning on using a chapter of Guenther’s Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (2013) in my ethics course (the theme is crime and punishment) but this might go instead, since we are taking up Arendt and evil this week (as well as her writings on the punishment for Eichmann).