Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Asafa Jalata

Committee Members

Michael L. Benson, Faye V. Harrison


This dissertation investigates how dominant groups and classes in US society secure,perpetuate,and expand their wealth,power,and privilege by segregating and criminalizing African Americans.Using a caste-class model of crime and punishment differentiation,I compare five phases of UShistory and "prehistory" to reveal longstanding program of race formation that explains the circumstances blacks have confronted vis-a-vis crime patterns and the criminal justice system.The Five phases compared are (1)the development of racial slavery and class formation the European world-system and the evolution of punishment from the late Middle Ages The early North American colonial period(c.1450-1618);(2)the establishment of capitalism in North America,where a class-caste system was fashioned and white supremacy was achieved,a period covering the introduction of African labor into Virginia through the war of national independence that founded the United States (1619-1789); (3) the post-"Revolutionary War"period,during which the regionalization of wage-labor and slavery became fixed,the penitentiary system was developed,and leading intellectuals constructed an ideology of racial scientism (1790-1865);(4)the abolition of slavery,the development of apartheid in the South and racial segregation in the North,and the increasing disproportion of blacks in the criminal justice system(1866-1964);and(5)the abolition of formal apartheid,its replacement by color-blind racial hegemony,and the expansion of the prison-industrial complex(1965-present).Comparing phases that cover key aspects of the history of European colonization of North America and the United States and the oppression of Africans and their descendants,and linking these with structures and processes of law and order, I contend that it is an error to suppose that recent trends in prisonization of African Americansrepresenta unique development in UShistory.Rather,I theorize that blacks are experiencing removal from and relocation to analogous conditions of unfreedom and servitude,and that criminal definitions and prisons are but concrete forms in a series of general forms of physical punishment and social injustices that blacks have historically suffered at the hands of white capitalist society.

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