INCARCERATED SPECTACLES: PRISON REALITY TELEVISION AND THE LEGACIES OF HUMAN ZOOS
Individuals and collectives living in different centuries and locales have been fetishized through violent narratives and media and alienated from their histories, turning them into spectacles for scientific inquiry and popular entertainment. In this presentation I demonstrate how narratives and media images that turned human beings into objects of spectacle in anthropology displays at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, tightly link to constructs about incarcerated people in the American prison reality television program, Lockdown. Organizers of anthropology displays employed social-evolutionist assumptions, masquerading as truth upheld by scientific authority, to justify the captivity of primitivized peoples deemed expendable. While on display, humans from diverse cultural contexts were situated as representations of innate and extreme human natures, linear temporalities, and of the supremacy of the American nation-state. The television show Lockdown, airing from 2007 to 2017 and continuing in reruns today, similarly displays incarcerated people as examples of the violent extremes of human existence and asserts that their captivity, in the form of incarceration, is necessary for the safety of the American nation-state. I argue that turning incarcerated people into spectacles through prison reality programming is central to how the prison-industrial complex remains a white supremacist settler fantasy based on dispossession and extermination.
"INCARCERATED SPECTACLES: PRISON REALITY TELEVISION AND THE LEGACIES OF HUMAN ZOOS,"
Georgia Journal of Science, Vol. 81, No. 1, Article 130.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.gaacademy.org/gjs/vol81/iss1/130