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.
- Linda B. Glaser