Necropolitics: The Religious Crisis of Mass Incarceration in America explores the pernicious and persistent presence of mass incarceration in American public life. Christophe D. Ringer argues that mass incarceration persists largely because the othering and criminalization of Black people in times of crisis is a significant part of the religious meaning of America. This book traces representations from the Puritan era to the beginning of the War on Drugs in the 1980s to demonstrate their centrality in this issue, revealing how these images have become accepted as fact and used by various aspects of governance to wield the power to punish indiscriminately. Ringer demonstrates how these vilifying images contribute to racism and political economy, creating a politics of death that uses jails and prisons to conceal social inequalities and political exclusion.
Christophe D. Ringer is assistant professor of theological ethics and society at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Chapter 1: The Politics of Death in the Arche of the American Experience
Chapter 2: The Necropolitics of Social Death and Statecraft
Chapter 3: Beyond the Death-Bound-Subject
Chapter 4: Necropolitics and Juridical Power
Chapter 5: The Eschatological Production of Mass Incarceration
About the Author
Necropolitics: The Religious Crisis of Mass Incarceration is a theoretically astute and methodologically sophisticated examination of the political and religious dimensions of the American carceral state. The crisis of mass incarceration is not merely a failure of public policy. Rather, it is a symptom of a foundational compromise that governs and orders American democracy itself. Christophe Ringer justly challenges us to confront the necropolitical nightmare of mass incarceration in moving beyond a politics of sacrifice to a politics of justice.
This innovative account of necropolitics focuses on the religious narratives and theological imagination that undergird the animalizing and criminalizing black people. The practical outcome of this antiblack outlook and habit-formation, which displaces the imago dei with the fearsome image of the animalistic super predator, is the hyper- and mass incarceration of black people. As socially dead subjects, blacks are the living dead, simultaneously objects of biopolitics and necropolitics. This antiblack theopolitics of life and death is the arche of the American project.
Christophe Ringer’s fine book is an essential contribution. The book challenges scholars to explore the complex religious roots of the racialized police violence and mass incarceration in today’s neoliberal order. It is the great gift of this book that Ringer weaves artful personal reflection with some of the best of critical theory and theology, provoking readers to view mass incarceration as a politics of death, a 'necropolitics' that for the United States is its 'ordeal of the world' (Mbembe). In so doing, Ringer’s discerning critique exposes U.S. citizens’ and residents’ vulnerability and finitude amid the U.S. carceral state that services white and corporate interests. Still, Ringer illumines paths to a future that is 'otherwise.'
Christophe Ringer’s Necropolitics: The Religious Crisis in Mass Incarceration is a compelling examination of the carceral industry in the United States from the colonial period to the twenty-first century. Interweaving theology, critical social and political theory, and philosophy, Ringer illuminates how mass incarceration and the political anchors undergirding it have wrought suffering and death upon Blacks. He explains how the 'City on the Hill'—an imagined political community championed by conservatives and neoliberals—criminalized and animalized Blacks through the advancement of zero-tolerance and neoliberal policies. Necropolitics also sheds light on the dynamism and tactical innovation of the carceral state’s central actors such as their use of execution sermons, coerced confessions, constructs such as superpredators, narrations of dystopian cities, and retrenchment of social welfare programs. Altogether, Ringer’s fascinating book reveals that mass incarceration is wedded to a public theology that encourages Black death and situates racial hierarchy as a foundational principle of the U.S. nation-state.
Necropolitics is a theological-religious interrogation of mass incarceration and the social agreements upon which it is based. Those who want to better understand the purpose and function of a criminal penal system built on and sustained by a capitalistic system of human labor exploitation, that disproportionately views Black life as expendable, will learn much by reading this book.