Ruth J. Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

The Carceral State Reading Group is a collection or perhaps commons of Brown Students, formerly incarcerated organizers, practitioners, artists, professors; we are committed to serious study, intellectual vulnerability, and collaborative creation as we develop analyses around contemporary conditions of captivity and relationships/power to help us contest, and outlive these conditions. We meet once a month for two hours around dinner and an assigned reading, film, poem, or piece.

The Carceral State Reading Group was designed and facilitated by doctoral student Kristen Maye and undergraduate Sophie Kupetz during the 2018-2019 academic year and further developed with the support of Felicia Denaud. The reading group was conceived of as a laboratory for the exercise of critical rigor, intellectual vulnerability, and creative collaboration among its members. Different from a university course or seminar, this group was built by its participants to foster an intimate space for honest conversation, deep learning and collaborative decision-making. 

Given the diverse, and structurally uneven background of the group’s membership, participants are pushed to think critically about how they show up in space, their motivations for being a part of this group, the origins of the questions they bring to this subject matter, as well as their capacity to contribute to each other as committed interlocutors. Through sustained close readings of texts exploring the violence of carceral practices (slavery, incarceration and surveillance), this is a unique learning environment that engages participants as whole beings, and models critical thoughtwork as an active, collaborative life-practice. This group takes up the written works of captive intellectuals like George Jackson, the scholarship of academics like Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Joy James; and the creative works of incarcerated people today.

Please reach out to if you are interested in learning more about the group.