Publication Date



J. Kehaulani Kauanui


American Studies (AMST)


English (United States)


The state of California has been dealing with unprecedented issues in terms of prisons and drought in the past three decades and is seeing an uptick in proposed expansion and construction of county-run jails. In times of increasing ecological vulnerability, archival data of case studies illuminating air, soil, and water contamination as related to incarceration begin to expose the relationship between incarceration and layers of ecological and human health. In order to properly contextualize the instances of sewage pollution and cancer clusters among other issues, I start with the brief histories of water transportation and prison facilities in California, as well as the motivating political forces behind each of these systems. When bringing these two systems' histories together within an analysis of state power, as well as conceptions of the human and the living are important analytics with which to understand the symbolic roles of life and death at work. I argue that forms of domination across many dimensions and against many types of bodies shape the geographies of the desakota as related to prisons and health. The cases of soil, air, and water contamination that I present are iterations of health depletion and denial that come above the surface but do not explain in themselves the extent of the issue.



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