Pink is the Warmest Colour; Or Connective Affections in Prison (Resisting Normalisation)

Living is a problematic and situated, although not stationary, condition. It – albeit not a reified, calcified  ‘it’ — is is. Connecting via consumption, bread to mouth (Levinas, Totality and Infinity) etc., taught/instructed flesh-ing ‘pivots’ worlds world-ing worlds. Breathing, eating, shitting, sexing, texting, writing, driving all traverse in- and through- care. A taking care is an a priori condition; even the most limpid, hypo-motile creature slithers, addressing survivability. Complexing interactivity involves radically re-illuminating sense, nonsense and socioeconomic, cultural feasibility. During the development of hyper-administrative jurisprudence, ‘bio-political’ aggregates of statistically-derived epidemiological modelling produce care/control paradigms. Functional Analytical modelling devises several registers: ‘information’ utilised by medico-juridical researchers, enforced micro post-pedagogical instrumentalisation for contemporary homo saucer subjectivities. 

Post-pedagogical instrumentalisation interpolates, introduces and actuates entire regimes of control. Figuring prominently as the hyper-controlled, ‘the prisoner’ — captured ‘criminals’ — is acceptably experimented upon. In fact, there is a near universal consensus that prisoners, loosing their civil liberties, are without agency in determining mobility, medical and even intellectual/conceptual freedoms. Through the ‘tertiary’ services of many US-UK prisons, post-pedagogical instrumentalisation is a requirement, a part of penance, for parole, improved conditions and lowering one’s security status. What is this post-pedagogical instrumentalisation? Evolving from Utilitarian-Christian ideas of transformed souls and public safety, via utilising psychometrics, ‘evaluations of risk,’ addressing the subject’s diachronic social history, motivations, biochemical substance usages, promoting faith-based repentance, power here is actuated by subtle social work mechanisms. Testing reading and writing abilities coupled with ‘education,’ one that aims — at its most ambitious moments– to create an economically obedient semi-functional prison-subject capable of being an instrument. Moving toward prisoner-as-instrument for social control is the central rubric of the prison-industrial complexes’ ‘social work.’ Prisoner reformed proves ethical legitimacy, encourages further programmes of post-pedagogical instrumentalisation, a kind of administrative-bureacratic de-intellectualisation devised to stupefy, placate and subdue. Of course prisoners en masse use, reject-resist, dis-identify and play with these formations; few take them seriously. Systematically, the post-pedagogical instrumentalisation of the prison represents its most humanist trends whilst paradoxically internally-repatriating the citizen-reject into a mainstream socius. At the same time a whole hyper-overt regime of punitive punishment, from cellular-caging practices for extended periods of time; 23 hours at a time, sometimes more — I once documented myself in a 12 X 7 cell with another person for 38 hours; to physical violence (‘bending up’), segregation to ‘the block,’ passive-aggressive denial and delays of mail, laundry services, limited or no access to cleaning supplies, nutritionally nonexistent ‘food;’ cage-wages, I earned £9.00 a week for 27 to 33 hours of work, full-time in the library and part-time teaching sociology via a programme with the Prison Education Trust and Goldsmiths (as the prison education department had no one capable of teaching this pedagogical praxis).

Rothko
Rothko

Finally, in my upcoming book Prison as Power I will discuss the intimate relationships I formed with some of my fellow prisoners, including an extraordinary person named Andrew Elliott, a mixed race (Black father, White mother), man with an extraordinary capacity for compassion and ethics. His life experiences, familial incarceration (he bonded with his father in prison, both his brothers have been in prison), coupled with his psychodynamic history and our ‘odd’ pairing (straight, Muslim, ‘street’ and queer intellectual) made for moments of glorious hilarity and life-saving alliance. He protected me. I owe a debt of gratitude to Andrew  (I will find his prison number, lost whilst I was being deported, and publish for people to write to him). Explicating ambitiously ambiguous alliance-friendships within prison is essential to understanding the horizontal connective tissue that bonds prisoners in a space where paranoia, animosity and institutional/structural anti-intellectualism pervades; I witnessed great solidarity, love and bodily interaction in a space where heterosexuality is mostly denied;  for survival reasons, the question I never asked my semi-homophobic friend: have you ever had sex in prison? A gap created by a social fusion outside of commonplace interactions ‘on road…’ A gap created by a presence. I never spoke of my homosexuality with him; albeit it was understood. He passed me pink highlighter during a Goldsmiths’ lecture and laughed saying “That’s YOUR colour.” Living is indeed complex and situated, inside prison or outside, and the connective tissues of alliances based compassion can provide ambiguous antidotes to xenophobia, control and iso-imaginary vindictive/indifferent narratives that provide the micropractices upholding statist capitalism.

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