Criminalizing Care and Neglect in Sexual Assault Sentencing: Race and Punishment in Milwaukee, WI.

Sameena Mulla - Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University
Mon March 6th 2023, 3:30 - 5:00pm
Event Sponsor
Department of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 50-51A (Colloquium Room) & Zoom

This talk examines the role of care in the U.S. courts, particularly as it is scrutinized during the sentencing of people who have been convicted of sexual assault. I argue that as testimony emerges, courts cultivate a worldview that casts suspicion on what the court perceives as Black kinship, community, and household. In the course of a trial or a hearing, judges, attorneys, and witnesses often appeal to particular notions of community and public good. These forms of community are predicated on the narrow recognition of care, while they fail to see or even condemn other forms, often along lines of race. Sentencing decisions are embedded in whether the court imagines the community as a place where care and rehabilitation can take place. In the absence of the court’s ability to imagine community-based care, sentences relegate prisoners to in-custody imprisonment in the name of punishment, rehabilitation and deterrence. Drawing on fieldwork from Milwaukee County felony courts, this talk works through the entangling of race, power, and sexuality driving the ways in which community emerges and is reconfigured in the courts. We can begin to see manifestations of the court’s politics of race, the narrowing pathways for sexual assault survivors to attain justice, and the production of courtroom spectacle amidst the crisis of mass incarceration.

This is a hybrid event. For Zoom information, please contact pdios54 [at] (pdios54[at]stanford[dot]edu).