Tony Robert Cochran (b. 1987) is a prison abolition theorist, queer and sublime-abject social object with mirror(s). He is an ex-prisoner, spending 10 months of a 36 month sentence in UK prisons. Before incarceration he worked in the US labor movement (SEIU, Unite Here and AFSCME), and also as the Communications Director for Occupy 477 Sugar Hill-Harlem.
Whilst ‘inside’ prison he witnessed and experienced unprecedented nihilism, anguish and resistances within the prison-industrial complex. Finding that all those who work, daily, locking away their fellow beings into cages are — irregardless of excuses — ethically culpable in a hideous historical aberration. Critiquing the individual and institutional ‘gatekeepers’ of the prison administration melange, from the wing guard to the governor, from the social workers to the psychiatrists and chaplains, he will explicate both the socioeconomic and psychoanalytical dimensions involved in prison pathos. Utilizing the works of Julia Kristeva to analyze the diachronic developments of sadomaschism in prison operators, prisoners and ‘outsiders’ he strives to understand if a certain teleology is at work; in other words, is there a systematic goal to mass incarceration and how does it operate through individuals? Particular critiques in his forthcoming book Prison As Power will be based on the work of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, with updates for the 21st Century from an ‘insider.’ Racial, class and gender dynamics all coalesce to create a massive structural hypocrisy; hypocrisy reified is the banality of evil, and a spectre is haunting the globe: authoritarianism. This phenomenon involves contouring, creating, marking and punishing prisoners — with the intention of making the subject enjoy their subjugation and actively participate in it. The powers to police, prosecute and imprison have become so imbued as total social praxis, that prison dynamics of control and submission coupled with enjoyment and suffering form the central nexus of totalitarian regimes from Washington to Moscow, from London to Lima, from Laos to Lagos. Starting with his former prison cell, Cochran examines globally nebulous disciplinary, imprisonment, and capital-racial apartheid circuit-boards.