"I am a Human Being, and so was She": Prisons as Neocolonial Racial Gender Projects

Misty D. Saribal, University of Denver

Copyright is held by the author.


In this thesis I argue, prisons are neocolonial racial-gender projects, meaning that modern prisons use violence and labor specifically designed to divide and subjugate people into racial-gender hierarchies based on colonial constructs of race, gender, and sexuality. This project engages poetic autoethnography methods to analyze personal experiences of facilitating programs in women's prisons, prisoners' narratives, poetry, and essays that show how prisons use violence and labor to enforce colonial racial-gender hierarchies. Additionally, this thesis explores how some prisoners, discovered within the stories, resist and survive neocolonial racial-gender violence and labor. The following questions guide my analyses: What are the racial-gendered aspects of punishment and racial-gendered repression? How do people in women's prisons resist? What is the revolutionary potential of unaccounted and underground labor? One example of many, prisoner poetry demonstrates how some prisoners collectively harness grief as a revolutionary labor, troubling colonial racial-gender subjectivity and reclaiming, momentarily, political agency.