When time and self unhinge : tracing the rhetorical markers of solitary confinement
Kalief Browder, an African American incarcerated at Rikers Island for three years, spent most of his imprisonment in solitary confinement. Less than a year after his release, Browder took his own life. In this thesis, I argue that Browder’s case illuminates the ways that first person narratives of solitary confinement provide insights into the duality of self that occurs in solitary confinement, and how that duality of self remains a part of the formerly incarcerated self even after release. Looking at Browder’s post-release discourse, I identify changes in tense and the use of the third person. By identifying these rhetorical tactics, we can in turn identify ontological disruptions of time that occur for individuals who have served time in solitary confinement. Browder’s case points to the ways that these ontological disruptions in time infect the post-release lives of formerly incarcerated individuals, often with devastating consequences. These ontological disruptions of time reveal new ways we can understand the violence of solitary confinement. As such, I argue that the U.S. carceral state should abandon the use of solitary all together.
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