Frames of Care: Guantánamo Bay Prison & Mass Incarceration (Panel)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

NeMLA conference in Baltimore, MD, March 10-13, 2022


In her 2009 book Frames of War, Judith Butler theorizes the frames of recognizability that enable a particular culture of war to take hold, shaping our “affective and ethical dispositions through a selective and differential framing of violence.” But more than just a diagnostic, Butler makes an ethical demand to become critical readers who can “frame the frame,” notice where the frame breaks, and enact other models of moral responsiveness. Looking back at this seminal work, this panel launches from one of the primary sites that Butler focalizes, Guantánamo Bay Prison, to re-evaluate the entangled frames of war and mass incarceration.

Since its opening, Guantánamo Bay Prison has always been contextualized in a culture of war as well ashumanitarian outrage demanding that we care enough to change the frames of recognition. In January 2022, the prison camp will have been open 20 years, while the conclusion of the Afghanistan War has already been announced and yet another administration has promised to close the prison. Arguably, Guantánamo Bay has more or less been an invisible fixture for the youngest generation of Americans, rehearsing the politics of in/visibility and the “specters” of imperial violence that Anne McLintock sees deployed in the services of the so-called “War on Terror.” During this same period, there has been a vocal movement to reform the structural conditions of mass incarceration within the U.S., a public conversation amplified by Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

This panel aims to consider both the problems of care within the prison (heightened, as much has been, during the covid-19 pandemic) and the question of public consciousness about prisons once again. What are the frames of recognition -- or frames of care -- that surround mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex? How does the prison circulate in our publics? Beyond care, what forms of outrage, critical responsiveness, and solidarity are called for or already being heard?

Discussions of Guantánamo Bay Prison are particularly welcome. Additional topics/perspectives may include but are not limited to:

●      Literary, artistic, and popular representations of the prison industrial complex

●      Writings “from inside” or by former prisoners

●      Humanitarianism, empathy, and reading

●      Abolitionism and carceral care

●      Impacts of covid-19 pandemic at Guantánamo and in other carceral spaces

●      Human rights discourse and advocacy campaigns

●      Release and resettlement of former prisoners

●      Rhetorics of war, terrorism, Islamophobia, racism, criminalization

●      Comparative and relational analyses of other camp spaces, e.g. detention, labor, re-education, refugee camps, etc.


Submit abstract on the NeMLA website: