Call for Papers: Rethinking Prisons Conference 2013
Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee
May 3-5, 2013

Keynote Speakers: Joy James and Susan Rosenberg

The Vanderbilt Committee for Rethinking Prisons invites submissions of workshop presentations that interrogate and share knowledge on issues raised by the American prison system. The conference seeks to foster conversations between activists and scholars who share common concerns and bring different knowledge, methods, strategies and experience to the table.

The format will be discussion-based workshops. Panels of three will present their work for the first 30 minutes of the session. Their presentations will be followed by 45 minutes of discussion.  Our conversations will address (but will not be limited to):

(1)  Intersections between the work of prison activists and research in political, literary, legal and social theory.

(2)  Challenges faced by an activists seeking transformational alternatives to the U.S. prison system

(3)  The promise and shortcomings of present death penalty and solitary confinement legislation

(4)  The intersections of the U.S. prison system with race, gender, class, and sexuality.

(5)  The intersections of the U.S. prison system with politics.

In addition to the workshops, we will have two keynote speakers, Joy James and Susan Rosenberg.  Joy James is the editor of several important anthologies of work on prisons and by prisoners, including The New Abolitionists: (Neo) Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings (2005), Imprisoned Intellectuals (2003), and States of Confinement: Policing, Detention and Prisons (2002).  Susan Rosenberg is a writer, educator, and former political prisoner.  Her memoir, An American Radical: A Political Prisoner In My Own Country (2011), is a moving account of her experience of incarceration and of her HIV/AIDS activism, both in prisons and beyond. As a result of her lawsuit with Silvia Baraldini and Sylvia Brown, Lexington’s High Security Unit, an experimental prison for women, was permanently closed.

Guidelines for Submission of an individual workshop presentation

E-mail Address
Affiliation – or independent scholar, activist, educator, etc.
Title of workshop proposal
Abstract of 250-300 words
Equipment needs

Guidelines for Submission of Group Session

Name of panel contact person, and of each panel member
Address of all panel members, including email
Affiliation – or independent scholar, activist, educator, etc. for each person
Title of panel proposal
Abstract of 250-300 words for the panel as a whole
Titles of individual papers
Abstract of 250-300 words for each paper
Equipment needs

Note: Due to the length of sessions, we will only consider panels of no more than three persons. We will give preference to panels that include both scholarly and activist perspectives.

Chairing a Session

If you would be willing to serve as a session chair, please indicate this on your submission form. Session chairs are responsible for timing presentations, and ensuring that each presenter gets her or his fair share of the available time.


All submissions must be submitted electronically by December 1, 2012.

Submissions should be in an email attachment (.doc, .docx, or .pdf) sent to  (send abstracts, not completed papers).


If you have any questions, please contact the program committee:

Lisa Guenther: 

Geoff Adelsberg: