“Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation # 474” (1954)Aaron Siskind

“Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation # 474” (1954)
Aaron Siskind

Is it possible to be astonished and at the same time not surprised?

President Josiah Bartlett, The West Wing

A general summary of my reaction when reading the news.

I begin by exploring the deluge of requirements that follow a woman’s receipt of government subsidization of her prenatal health care costs.  That is, as a condition of receipt of Medicaid coverage of prenatal care expenses, poor, uninsured pregnant women are compelled to meet with a battery of professionals— namely nurses, nutritionists, social workers, health educators, and financial officers— who inquire into areas of women’s lives that frequently exceed the purview of their medical care. This chapter argues that, as a result, Medicaid mandates an intrusion into women’s private lives and produces pregnancy as an opportunity for state supervision, management, and regulation of poor, uninsured women. In essence, the receipt of Medicaid inaugurates poor women into the state regulatory apparatus.

Khiara M. Bridges, Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization (excerpt here)

We need an intersectional analysis, a race/gender/class/disability dimension of analysis, of surveillance culture.  The dominant discourse around surveillance, privacy rights, and civil liberties marginalizes or discredits the reality of state regulation and violation of human lives, as described above.  It’s not that I don’t care that the government has access to voicemail records, it’s that I don’t think we can understand why or how that is happening without taking seriously the relationship between state surveillance and the criminalization of reproduction or state-based sexual assault, among other items.

free marissa alexander

Hey tumblr,

You may have heard about Marissa Alexander, the black survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, FL who was sentenced to 20 years for defending herself from her abusive estranged husband.  Despite the fact that Marissa caused no injuries and has no previous criminal record, and despite the fact that Florida’s self-defense law includes the right to “Stand Your Ground,” she was arrested by Jacksonville police, charged with aggravated assault, and sentenced to 20 years due to mandatory minimum laws.

Marissa’s supporters are getting organized and there’s a Free Marissa tumblr: http://freemarissanow.tumblr.com

and a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FreeMarissaNow

So, please help spread the word!

Marissa’s case is one of many that shows us how Black women and other marginalized people are especially likely to be criminalized, prosecuted, and incarcerated while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives. Her case also reminds us why anti-domestic and sexual violence advocates and activists must work to end mass incarceration, address the intersection of race, gender, poverty and prisons/policing, and seek truly transformative solutions to violence.

The prison nation, which is a broader concept than the prison industrial complex, for me represents the combination of both incarceration in the literal sense – an influx of people into the criminal legal system in all of its apparatus: jails, prisons, detention centers, etc. … [It is an] increase in arrest and removal of people from their communities into facilities, but it also represents the ideological shift and policy changes that use criminalization and punishment as a response to a whole range of social problems. Not just crime, but also things like policing people who are on welfare, using the child protective services system to control families, the ways that schools have become militarized. So it’s a broad notion of using the arm of the law to control people, especially people who are disadvantaged and come from disadvantaged communities.

- Beth E. Richie, author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation.

We need a better politics about state and corporate surveillance and control of daily human life — especially those lives that regularly intersect with public institutions — than a frame of privacy rights.  I keep trying to understand the shock about the NSA collecting phone and internet data, but then I see this painful video of a woman who was sexually assaulted by police, tries to tell a judge what happened, is ignored, arrested, and has her child taken to protective services, and I am reminded that we’re not having the same conversation about “privacy.”  

I appreciate how this notion of “prison nation” makes clear that punishment surveillance extends out of literal prisons and into schools, streets, homes…  Some of us have lives that are rendered fundamentally accessible and for the taking.  The fact that some guy has a list of my facebook friends, or whatever, is tangential to this core and more urgent truth.


brixton 1981.


brixton 1981.

Betye Saar, “The Phrenologer’s Window,” 1966

Betye Saar, “The Phrenologer’s Window,” 1966

Best performance in Purple Rain.

In “The Book of Woe,” Mr. Greenberg takes us on a rollicking journey from the DSM-5’s inception to its publication, regaling us with stories, alternately hilarious and infuriating, of internecine battles, personality clashes and political machinations. Mr. Greenberg is an outsider by virtue of not being a psychiatrist but an insider by virtue of serving as one of the investigators involved in field-testing some proposed diagnoses on actual patients. He interviewed the major players; he watched as feathers were ruffled and smoothed; he attended conferences, documenting with growing disbelief the failures of the American Psychiatric Association’s task forces to produce the scientific results they had aimed for.

Why would the APA rush publication in spite of unfinished field trials and failures to find high reliability among clinicians, the very things that their claims to a scientific DSM rely on? Do the math, Mr. Greenberg answers. In recent years, the APA has been steadily losing income from dwindling membership and dwindling ad revenues for its journals. The DSM-IV, which has earned $100 million, keeps the organization in the black. Faced with a looming deadline and terrible data, Mr. Greenberg suggests, the DSM directors did what any reasonable, self-protecting institution would do: They lowered the statistical criteria for acceptable standards of reliability and turned defeat into victory. As Allen Frances puts it in “Saving Normal,” they accepted agreements among raters that were “sometimes barely better than two monkeys throwing darts at a diagnostic board.”

- Carol Tavris, “How Psychiatry Went Crazy”