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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Anne K Dwyer
BIS 393
Bothell Campus

Special Topics

Various topics designed to respond to faculty and student interests and needs.

Class description

This class begins with the presupposition that there is a politics of imprisonment, i.e., that the fact of incarceration cannot be understood solely as an individual consequence of a personal choice. There are 2.5 million people in prison in the U.S., a country that incarcerates more people than any other in the world. This system that many have called “mass incarceration” is built upon and crucial to enduring forms of racial, class, gender, and sexual oppression. This class will introduce students to the histories behind and contemporary realities of mass incarceration in the U.S., exploring how legal and legislative codes, policy decisions, institutions, and cultural ideas have shaped the emergence of the United States as a carceral state. While we will explore the social systems and institutional structures that sustain the prison system in the U.S., we will also imagine the possibilities of its undoing, tracing histories of anti-prison activism and locating present-day political interventions to create a world without prison walls.

Student learning goals

Learning about the U.S. prison system, its workings, and its inequitable effects

Learning about the U.S. prison system, its workings, and its inequitable effects

Developing capacities to think critically about the operation of power through legal, legislative, and institutional measures along different axes of identity (race, class, gender, and sexuality)

Developing critical thinking, writing, discussion, and presentation skills through individual and group work

General method of instruction

While the class will include some lecture and short video clips, class sessions will be largely discussion-based, focusing upon a diverse range of scholarship within history and the social sciences as well as first-person prisoner memoirs and other literary forms. Class sessions will also involve several community-engagement activities as well as conversations with currently or formerly incarcerated people and anti-prison activists. The course will be reading-intensive.

Recommended preparation

None

Class assignments and grading

Major assignments include a collaborative final project; an annotated bibliography of independent research; and an argument in a public genre of choice. Short tests, in-class writing, and in-class participation will also factor.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Anne K Dwyer
Date: 08/18/2013