“Food and Carcerality: From Confinement to Abolition” Call for Papers due July 24, 2020

Call for Papers: Special Journal Issue Food and Foodways – Food and Carcerality: From Confinement to Abolition

Co-Editors: Ashanté M. Reese (University of Texas at Austin) and Joshua Sbicca (Colorado State University)

What does carcerality offer to theorizing and understanding the food system, food cultures, and food relations? 

Carceral spaces – such as neighborhood zones of police surveillance and plantation prisons that exploit confined racialized, classed, and gendered labor – reflect and reproduce systems of oppression that are also present in the food system (Gilmore 2007; LeFlouria 2015; Reese and Carr 2020). The state regularly polices poverty instead of addressing the institutional racism and capitalist urbanization that perpetuates the lack of access to goods like healthy food (Wacquant 2009; Camp 2016). Additionally, the food system relies on carceral practices to secure disciplined labor by weaponizing the possibility of deportation for racialized undocumented workers and wielding the threat of violence to keep workers in the fields (Mitchell 1996; Horton 2016; Rice 2019). And of course, there is slow death tied to low-quality food in prisons, prison food and agriculture industries, force feeding of prisoners, and the use of food (or its denial) as punishment (Camplin 2016; Smoyer 2019).

But there are also seeds of struggle for the abolition of penal logics and institutions that maintain the violence of the ongoing practices and legacies of colonialism, white supremacy, and institutional racism vis-à-vis food (Heynen 2016; Murguía 2018; Pellow 2018). Hunger strikes and food riots have long been used as a tool to gain the sympathy of the public, shame political opponents, and gain concessions from the state and penal officials (Scanlan et al. 2008; McGregor 2011; Bargu 2014). Food is also a site for resistance in prison, whether to celebrate cultural foodways or assert a sense of self and autonomy (Ugelvik 2011; Gibson-Light 2018). Food and environmental justice activists have also sought to intervene in mass incarceration and the prison pipeline with campaigns and initiatives that support prisoners and formerly incarcerated people (Sbicca 2018; Nocella, Ducre, and Lupinacci 2016).

In this special issue, we seek to bring together interdisciplinary scholarship that engages carcerality and food from a variety of different perspectives and welcome both empirical and theoretical papers. In particular, while we aim to critically diagnose the carceral through food, we also encourage submissions that imagine and speculate on abolition futures. 

We are especially interested in papers working through food and carceral politics through the lens of racial capitalism, racial neoliberalism, the Plantationocene and plantation ecologies, abolition, environmental justice, and food justice. 

Some possible orienting topics include:

  • Farming, gardening, and horticulture programs in prison
  • Prison food industries
  • Social, cultural, and spatial dimensions of prison food
  • Plantation and carceral logics and the food system
  • Prison food riots and hunger strikes
  • Prison abolition and reform efforts that engage with food politics
  • Impacts of toxic prisons and prison development on agriculture 
  • Food and environmental justice activism with prisoners and formerly incarcerated people
  • Social movement alliances between food and prison abolition/reform activists 

Please send paper titles and abstracts (300 words maximum) to Ashanté Reese (ashante.reese@austin.utexas.edu) and Joshua Sbicca (j.sbicca@colostate.edu). Please send by July 24.


Bargu, Banu. 2014. Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Camp, J. T. 2016. Incarcerating the Crisis: Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Camplin, E., 2016. Prison Food in America. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Gilmore, R. W. 2007. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Heynen, N., 2016. Urban political ecology II: The abolitionist century. Progress in Human Geography40(6), 839-845.

Horton, S.B., 2016. They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields: Illness, Injury, and Illegality Among US Farmworkers. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

LeFlouria, T. L. 2015. Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

McGregor, J., 2011. Contestations and consequences of deportability: hunger strikes and the political agency of non-citizens. Citizenship Studies15(5): 597-611.

Mitchell, D., 1996. The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Murguía, S.J., 2018. Food as a Mechanism of Control and Resistance in Jails and Prisons: Diets of Disrepute. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Nocella II, A.J., Ducre, K.A. and Lupinacci, J. eds., 2016. Addressing Environmental and Food Justice Toward Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Poisoning and Imprisoning Youth. New York, NY: Springer.

Pellow, D.N., 2018. Political Prisoners and Environmental Justice. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. 29(4), 1-20.

Reese, A. and R. Carr. 2020. Overthrowing the Food System’s Plantation Paradigm. https://civileats.com/2020/06/19/op-ed-overthrowing-the-food-systems-plantation-paradigm/. June 19.

Rice, S. 2019. Convicts are returning to farming – anti-immigrant policies are the reason. The Conversationhttps://theconversation.com/convicts-are-returning-to-farming-anti-immigrant-policies-are-the-reason-117152. June 7.

Sbicca, J., 2018. Food Justice Now!: Deepening the Roots of Social Struggle. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Scanlan, S.J., Cooper Stoll, L. and Lumm, K., 2008. Starving for change: The hunger strike and nonviolent action, 1906–2004. In Research in social movements, conflicts and change (275-323). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Smoyer, A.B., 2019. Food in correctional facilities: A scoping review. Appetite. 141(1).

Ugelvik, T., 2011. The hidden food: Mealtime resistance and identity work in a Norwegian prison. Punishment & Society13(1), 47-63.

Wacquant, L. 2009. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.