"Stone walls do not a prison make": Bare Life and the Carceral Archipelago in colonial and postcolonial societies

Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan
Publication Type:
Chapter
Citation:
Human Rights and Incarceration: Critical Explorations, 2018, 1, 1 pp. 257 - 283
Issue Date:
2018-09-16
Metrics:
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This chapter offers what Edward Said (1993) referred to as a ‘contrapuntal’ reading of Australian prisons as exclusive sites of settler colonial repression. We suggest that Indigenous peoples are part of The Camp outside of the prison where settler colonial relations reduce their lives to ‘bare life’. We refer to transcripts from the 2016-17 Royal Commission into Child Protection and Youth Detention in the Northern Territory to reveal how the racist treatment of Indigenous children in prisons is part of the same continuum of the racist treatment of Indigenous people across the Northern Territory. Imprisonment is characterised not as an exceptional state of un-being, outside of ‘normal’ social relationships for Indigenous people. Rather, in the colony the exception is the norm. While we support penal abolitionism, we maintain that this can only be meaningful within a decolonizing process that also decolonizes other sites of exception and indistinction for Indigenous people. The rights for Indigenous people cannot be afforded individually but need to recognise and account for Indigenous dispossession, state domination and Indigenous sovereign claims.
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