Parrhesia 1 (30):88-102 (2019)

Elese B Dowden
University of Queensland
There is an inherent link between colonisation and carceral institutions, and in this paper I aim to illuminate and critically review the philosophical implications of prison structures in relation to coloniality. I draw on the work of Lewis Gordon, Frantz Fanon & Nelson Maldonado-Torres in arguing that physical incarceration not only colonises the body, but the mind too, as a form of structural violence. In order to establish an existential phenomenological framework for coloniality in incarceration, I also make reference to Hannah Arendt. Her work on both totalitarianism and the banality of evil help to develop the framework, and I further utilise Lisa Guenther’s work on solitary confinement in taking a phenomenological approach to thinking about incarceration. After this critical discussion of the coloniality of incarceration, I apply the framework to the New Zealand context, where Māori are hugely overrepresented in prisons. In invoking Sharon Shalev’s recent report into solitary confinement in Aotearoa, I argue that the disproportionate numbers of Māori in New Zealand prisons are symptomatic of the inherently colonial nature of carceral institutions, and also maintain that understanding the fundamentally colonial nature of prisons is key to ensuring the Crown and government fulfil certain obligations to Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi.
Keywords decoloniality  settler colonial studies  settler colonialism  aotearoa  new zealand  solitary confinement  prisons
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