Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Leonard Harris

Committee Chair

Leonard Harris

Committee Member 1

Sandor Goodhart

Committee Member 2

Nancy Heitzeg

Committee Member 3

Lee A. McBride

Committee Member 4

Daniel Smith


The project explores the ethical, social, and political subject of incarceration. I investigate Angela Davis’s multifaceted critique of the prison industrial complex – focusing primarily on the tenets of racism, classism, and capitalism – and take an interdisciplinary approach to advancing her call for prison abolition by way of Giorgio Agamben’s radical adjustments to traditional discourses about ontology in his work The Coming Community. Agamben’s rendering of ontology in terms of impotentiality and indifference, when put in dialogue with Davis, exposes latent and unexplored philosophic suggestions Davis is making – specifically regarding a non-normative interpretation of temporality and an operation of liberation best understood as indefinite rather than finite and attainable. Ultimately, the poetic re-thinking Agamben applies to ontology and its political consequences serve as one blueprint for the kind of cognitive re-orientation vital for the prison abolitionist project: abolishing the conditions which allow for the prison industrial complex to be an unquestioned, inevitable part of social reality. Experimenting with thinkers that have seemingly disparate concerns and styles creates a space for more imaginative approaches to potentially mitigating limited, oppressive modes of thought, practices, and institutions.

Included in

Philosophy Commons