Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Attica Is: Revolutionary Consciousness, Counterinsurgency and the Deferred Abolition of New York State Prisons
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Available after 31 December, 2018

Attica Is tells the story of how multiple, loosely affiliated groups of imprisoned activist-intellectuals engaged in a protracted war against the inhumanity of prisons in New York State. The narrative begins in 1970 by demonstrating how - through a series of consciousness-raising activities and concerted political actions culminating in the Attica prison rebellion of 1971 - imprisoned people throughout New York State achieved a new “revolutionary consciousness,” which threatened to abolish the prison system. It then demonstrates how prison authorities in New York State sought to contain and diffuse the revolutionary thrust of the rebellion by launching a counterinsurgency, which included the deployment of repressive violence as well as a series of putatively progressive prison reforms. While the state’s response to the rebellion had a profound impact on the future development of incarceration techniques in New York State, it failed to eliminate organized resistance against the prison. Following the rebellion, new communities of imprisoned activist-intellectuals formed in order to preserve and extend the life of the struggle. This dissertation examines two such groups. From 1972 to 1992 a group of imprisoned activist-intellectuals called “The Think Tank” struggled actualize the insights and demands generated during the rebellion by appropriating the tools of formal scholarship, public policy and research. From 1992 to the present, a group of currently imprisoned activist-intellectuals known as “The Black Consciousness Coalition,” have fought keep the memory of Attica and the Think Tank alive, while also struggling to preserve their humanity, dignity and masculinity within and against the dehumanization of state captivity.