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Held in the Body of the State

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  • Date and time: Tuesday 8 May 2012, 12.45-1.45pm
  • Speakers: Colin Dayan, Sharon Shalev
  • Chair: Conor Gearty


The prison is the central public institution in the United States. Though hidden out of sight, it defines the public in profound ways. Nowhere is the curbing of life and the categorizing of persons more extreme than in the Supermax prison - the newest weapon in America's punitive armoury. Prison practices there are ever more refined, torturous, and invisible, and this legal disposal is key to the ongoing exclusion of the poor and the racially suspect.


Colin Dayan is Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University and the author of ‘Haiti, History, and the Gods’ (1995, 1998). Her recent books include ‘The Story of Cruel and Unusual’ (2007) and ‘The Law is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons’ (Princeton, 2011). She is currently at work on two books: ‘Like a Dog: Animal rights, human cruelty, and pre-emptive justice’ and ‘Punishing Haiti: Private prisons and the politics of containment’.

Sharon Shalev is a Fellow at the Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE, and a researcher at the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford. Her key publications include the 'Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement' (2008) and 'Supermax: Controlling risk through solitary confinement' (Willan, 2009), which had been awarded the British Society of Criminology's Book Prize for 2010. Dr Shalev is currently working on a project examining European practices of solitary confinement.

Conor Gearty (chair) is Professor of Human Rights Law at LSE