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Punishment and the Revocation of Citizenship

Hana Nasser | Graduate Student, University of Virginia

Friday, September 24, 2021 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM



This paper utilizes Foucault’s analysis of modern systems of punishment to analyze the punishment of revoking citizenship. The punishment of revocation does not conform to several criteria of what Foucault deems are necessary features of modern punishment. First, is that punishment is aimed at rehabilitation, and is concerned with targeting the soul of the condemned, with the body acting as an intermediary between the punitive technique and this soul. Second, is Foucault’s contention that modern forms of punishment have a social function in that through confinement, criminals who deviate from the norms of society in their behavior can be better surveilled and their behavior categorized. Third, punishment, according to Foucault, will increasingly become standardized, with the structure of the prison becoming the dominant mode of dispensing punishment. When examined in terms of its social effects, the punishment of revocation has important features of what Foucault outlines are criteria for modern forms of punishment such as its productive and subject constituting effects. In this paper, I argue that elite discourses construct a criminal subject worthy of the punishment of revocation. I further test the limits of the applicability of extending Foucault’s insights about punishment to the revocation of citizenship by investigating the punishment’s trans-national quality.

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