Alessandro De Giorgi
Current Research Activities
My current research agenda is focused on two main areas: (1) A theoretical critique of the political and economic processes underlying mass incarceration in the United States, with particular reference to the impact of racial and class inequalities on punishment; and (2) An qualitative/ethnographic understanding of the lived experience of incarceration and post-prison "reentry" among underprivileged urban communities in the United States, with particular reference to the struggles formerly incarcerated people face as they return to their communities after incarceration. In both of these areas, my creative activities have resulted in conference presentations, peer-reviewed publications, and public interventions aimed at a larger non-specialist audience.
Research Connections to Current Events
The main focus of my research activities—i.e., the relationships between social inequality and the disproportionate exposure to policing and imprisonment among racialized poor communities—has clear connections with current developments in the United States. Over the past few years, mass incarceration and the related "correctional crisis" in the United States has finally gained some centrality in political debates, both under the Obama presidency, and—although in the opposite direction—under the Trump administration. In particular, recent (and ongoing) instances of racialized police brutality have prompted a broader conversation about forms of structural/institutional racism pervading the US criminal legal system at all levels—from school discipline to policing, from imprisonment to community corrections. In this regard, my research activities are driven by an urgency to better understand these structures of social inequality in view of the possibility to develop alternative, more just and humane policies and institutions.
Personal Connections to Research
This has been my field of research (and teaching) since I started my academic career. I have always been convinced that how a society treats its criminalized populations (and the extent to which it resorts to the penal system to "discipline" its marginalized groups) is a significant indicator of its level of social justice or injustice. I have always been shocked both by the sheer dimension and by the racial and class selectivity of the US criminal legal system, and this has inspired much of my research in the field. When it comes to inspirational authors, I would definitely mention the works by Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Frantz Fanon and, more recently, Angela Davis and Ruth Gilmore. One experience I have found particularly inspiring has been to conduct fieldwork among formerly incarcerated people in Oakland, as this has exposed me to the unthinkable levels of social suffering, civic disenfranchisement, and existential insecurity experienced by criminalized populations in the US inner city.
Critical Criminology; Political Economy; Imprisonment; Urban Ethnography; Marxist Theory; Critical Theory; Immigration.