Criminal

The figure of “the criminal” permeates the symbolic, ideological, and militarized racial-­economic foundations of the U.S. nation-­building project. Gendered racial notions of criminality permeate the foundations of U.S. modernity, structuring the primary power relations of chattel enslavement, (conquest and settler) colonialism, global imperialism, and variations of domestic warfare (from Manifest Destiny to the War on Drugs).

While religious and (proto)juridical discourses of crime and the criminal can be traced to multiple points of civilizational origin, the U.S.—­and hemispheric “American”—­case furnishes a paradigmatic example of the structural interdependence between two methods of conceptualizing/inventing the criminal that guide its deployment across geographies and moments. First, the legal-­cultural creation of the criminal as an abstracted category of human social deviancy contextualizes the overlapping, interdisciplinary emergence of criminology, early-­twentieth-­century eugenics, and contemporary “racial profiling” (as both de facto forensic practice and police tactic). In this sense, historically specific conceptions of the criminal rely on …

This essay may be found on page 57 of the printed volume.

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