Critical Theorists Discuss the War on Drugs

Deborah Burris-Kitchen, Tennessee State University

This panel discussion will be a way for those who are critical theorists in the Stephan Pfohl and Michael Foucault tradition to discuss the war on drugs as it is related to power and knowledge. The panelists and participants will discuss the realtionship of European Colonization, the Conquest of Native Americans, the enslavement of African people, the conquest of Mexico and the recruitment of and exclusion of Asian workers. The discussion will continue by looking at how this relationship of power, control and dominance has led to the denial of human rights and property rights and how the denial of those rights has led to the inability to accumulate material wealth which is directly related to political power. The panel will also discuss how denial of political powers has left many people of color vulnerable to the abusive power of the state, specifically the legislative process, law enforcement procedures, and incarceration. It will conclude with a discussion of how the war on drugs is a symbolic ritual of social control that has been used to legitimate the overrepresentation of arrest, incarceration, and death of the poor and minority. At this point, it appears to be common sense that this is how we control those who violate the laws, but as Foucault pointed out, we can't be doing it any more wrong. That was in the late 1970s, imagine what he would think today, when over 2 million people are under some form of criminal justice supervision, most of them for drug offenses, and over 80% of those incarcerated for drug offenses are black or latino.

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Updated 05/20/2006