Samuel Maull

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 9349

Approve Date

October 5, 2016

Project Title

Maull, Samuel, Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'Family on the Inside: Kinship and the Crisis of the Criminal Justice System,' supervised by Dr. Angela Garcia

Preliminary abstract: A significant aporia still exists in theorizing the role families play in the US criminal justice system (CJS), despite much recent work showing its centrality to understanding the effects of incarceration (Cunha, 2014). This is largely the result of an approach to ‘the family’ which is not informed by anthropological studies of kinship; taking the family as a given, un-problematized, and universal institution (made up of parents, partners, children, and siblings). My research differs on this fundamental point by using an anthropologically informed notion of kinship to explore how kinship is formed in the context of incarceration and vice versa. I will do this with a particular focus on responsibility, seeing both kinship and the CJS as centrally concerned with the distribution of responsibility in a ‘moral economy’, a term I draw from moral anthropology (Fassin, 2012). To this end my research will be guided by 3 questions: 1. How are family obligations construed and enacted in the context of familial incarceration? 2. How does the family appear as an object of suspicion or blame for the CJS? 3. Why does political identity and action nucleate around kinship ties with incarcerated people? By using responsibility to explore the intersection of incarceration and kinship I aim to illuminate the ways that raced and gendered narratives of responsibility structure the distribution of ‘penal harm’ in such a way that the widely documented mass incarceration of poor black and brown men finds a corollary in the much less visible impoverishment and indebtedness of black and brown women. In the execution of this research I will conduct 17 months of ethnographic work across a range of sights, inside and outside of penal institutions, in the San Francisco Bay Area.