Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Michelle Brown

Committee Members

Harry Dahms, Lois Presser


The production of prison is assumed to be a humane, reformist, and a radical step toward rooting out corporal punishments. Contrary to the common assumption, this study shows how liberal reforms worked actually within the judicial system as a state apparatus to distribute power among all state authorities. Rights, which are supposed to free individuals from state repression and the arbitrary use of power, function in a paradoxical way which can ultimately contribute to the carceral state. This study illustrates, through a genealogical perspective, how liberal rights by their universal characteristics fail to emancipate individuals from state coercion and violence, and can instead ultimately legitimate and provide a place for disciplinary power of the state. In this thesis, I will work through this paradox through an analysis of rights discourses against the rise of mass incarceration in the United States.

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