The Fisher Center for the Study of Men and Women welcomes Juanita Díaz-Cotto, the second speaker in the center’s lecture series this academic year. Díaz-Cotto will continue the dialogue on imprisonment with her lecture “Latinas and Imprisonment in the U.S.” at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20 in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.
Díaz-Cotto has been an active figure in the human rights movement for more than 30 years, and is a professor of sociology, women’s studies, and Latin American and Caribbean studies – of which she is also the director – at the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is the author of a number of books, including “Chicana Lives and Criminal Justice: Voices from El Barrio,” which won an International Latino Book Award and a ForeWord Magazine Book Award, and has lectured in 17 countries and more than 40 U.S. cities.
The Fisher Center opened its “Imprisonment” lecture series with the words of Loïc Wacquant, one of the world’s foremost sociologists writing on prison today. Wacquant’s lecture “Engendering the Punitive State: Workfare and Prisonfare in Post-Civil Rights America,” presented a “big picture” for the series, providing those interested in the subject matter with the tools to explore the major themes of imprisonment and the penal state.
Wacquant discussed how the penal state has developed overtime. Emerging first as a tool to deal with the poor in post-feudal society, then slowly evolving into an agency to “fight crime,” Wacquant argued that prisons have become a reaction to social insecurity. In the United States, which is currently the largest incarcerator in the world, prison has become a way of managing the dispossessed; it is a way of maintaining symbolic boundaries between “us” and those who do not share our values. This in turn creates social turbulence, and fuels the welfare and workfare states that the women of the incarcerated men live in.
“Criminologists, please think out of the box!” pleaded Wacquant, who stressed the fact that prisons are filled with the most vulnerable members of society: the jobless, the homeless, migrants without papers, drug addicts, and the mentally ill. “Students of the state, bring the penal wing back into your model – it is a core state capacity. The state shapes reality, and can transform the life chances of those at the bottom of the social order.”
The Center was endowed with a $1 million gift from Emily and the late Richard Fisher, whose son Alexander graduated from Hobart College in 1993. Creation of the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men reflects a perfect intersection of the Colleges’ coordinate history and trends in the study of gender throughout academe.