Criminalized Representations of the Black Body and how they Impact Mass Incarceration

Proceedings of The 4th World Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities

Year: 2022



Criminalized Representations of the Black Body and how they Impact Mass Incarceration

Areyana Proctor, Pr. Angie Chuang



The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. A disproportionate number of people within our prisons are people of color. Historically, media images of people of color, and Black people, in particular, have been criminalized. Research has well established these negative historical and current criminalized images within the mass media. These criminalized messages can and have reshaped laws in society. These criminalized messages have been revitalized in new landscapes that continue to conceptualize Black bodies as sites of social control. The prior research that I have analyzed establishes the history of racial control in the United States through various means such as slavery and mass incarceration, the continuous criminalization of the Black body through mediated images, and the connection of the two. For this project, I plan to examine criminalized representations within select pieces of historical and current forms of media, including films, tv shows, and news reports. Through exploring specific examples of Black representation, I will examine whether or not they criminalize the Black body, and explore the question of how this may connect to mass incarceration. This research will add to the overall body of research that suggests mass incarceration is a form of social and racial control, and that the media has been a contributing force. These findings will be developed into a short film. This film will include my analysis of the specific mediated images, along with expert and professional interviews, and images that highlight the pervasiveness of the carceral state. This overall project will ultimately highlight these criminalized representations, their connection to mass incarceration, how this connects to a larger racial project within the United States, and how the media can move forward with improved representation.

keywords: media representation, carcerality, technology, mass media, mass incarceration, prison-industrial complex, systemic racism.