March 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm

Political Science Colloquium | Too Busy to Hate: Race, Capitalism and Carceral Policy in New South, April 1


Dr. Kirstine Taylor, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law, Justice & Culture, presents a talk on “Too Busy to Hate: Race, Capitalism, and Carceral Policy in the New South” on Monday, April 1, from 11:50 a.m. to 12:50 Bentley Annex 202.

The talk is open to all students and faculty and is part of the department’s Research Colloquium series that features members of the department who present their ongoing and recent work. Taylor’s research focuses on American political development and race in American politics.

Abstract: This talk investigates an important yet poorly understood aspect of the origins of the U.S. carceral state. Many explanations attribute the rise of mass incarceration to the conservative tide in American politics beginning in the late 1960s: “tough on crime” policies advanced by southern Democrats and Republicans, white backlash against black civil rights, and the law-and-order politics of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” But in focusing on conservatives, prevailing theories have ignored how the changing economic and political landscape of the post-World War II South shaped how policymakers thought about crime. I examine how key elements of the carceral state emerged in the rapidly growing, metropolitan, and business-minded Sunbelt South between 1954 and 1970, using North Carolina as a test case. Drawing on a variety of archival sources, I unearth how moderate southern politicians with material links to extra-regional sources of capital, political links to northern liberal elites, and ideological links to postwar liberalism pioneered state-level carceral policy. I argue that the swift development of crime policy in mid-century South was the product of how the state’s moderate elites chose to govern the emerging Sunbelt economy in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education and the civil rights movement. The problems of rampant civil disorder, racial extremism, and lawlessness, they argued, threatened economic progress and required the implementation of strong yet race-neutral crime policy. I offer a framework to understand how the Sunbelt South, in shedding Jim Crow and entering the national political and economic mainstream, came to help spearhead the carceral turn in American politics.

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