Skip to main content

Political scientist in podcast: reclaiming humanity in prisons

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson

Mary Fainsod Katzenstein

Is it possible that a maximum-security prison can be a place to express the complexity of what it means to be human, asks Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, the Stephen and Evalyn Milman Professor of American Studies Emerita. She explores whether prisoners are mere objects of control, without agency or individuality, in “Human Dignity and the Incarcerated,” a new episode in the “What Makes Us Human?” podcast series.

“Prisons are, almost by definition, sepulchers to inhumanity,” says Katzenstein in the podcast, citing the isolation from society, physical deprivation, threats of violence and punishing practices like solitary confinement. But in the Cornell Prison Education Program classrooms, she says, “prison students and instructors alike can recuperate individual and collective dignity.”

“What Makes Us Human?” from the College of Arts and Sciences, showcases the newest thinking from across the disciplines about what it means to be human in the 21st century. Featuring 3-4 minute audio essays written and recorded by Cornell faculty, the series releases a new episode each Tuesday through the fall.

“What Makes Us Human” podcasts are available for download on iTunes and SoundCloud and for streaming at as.cornell.edu/humanities, where text versions of the essays are also posted.

- Linda B. Glaser


Story Contacts