Joseph Eugene Hiller
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationDuke U.
Grant numberGr. 10308
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleHiller, Joseph (Duke U.) "Love-Politics and the Prison-Society Nexus: Care, Confinement, and Carceral Transformation in Colombia"
Prisons are at the heart of struggles over impunity and accountability. This research looks to the vortex of Colombian prison worlds to interrogate what penal technologies achieve, what they fail to solve, and how they might be transformed. In Colombia, prisons are sites of intense abjection and death. Colombia’s prison system is entangled within legacies of violence both domestic and international, including the U.S.-backed “wars” on drugs and terror, Colombia’s internal conflict, and the underfunding of social safety nets. COVID-19 imposed unprecedented constraints on both prisoners and their loved ones. Yet Colombia is also a hemispheric leader in progressive prison policy, especially regarding innovative rights to intimacy, gender expression, and human rights advocacy. Within this fraught context, the family members and loved ones of incarcerated people perform exhausting labors to sustain caring relationships with people behind bars. Coordinated through nonprofit, academic, and social movement organizations, these labors, which I theorize as expressions of “love-politics” (Nash 2020), can be transformative, for both individuals and communities. Ethnographic study of the “prison-society nexus” (Cunha 2014) through engaged research with prisoner advocacy organizations enables critical reflection on what justice has meant and what it might come to mean, in Colombia and beyond.