Episode 11 Prison Labor, Fighting Wildfires, & Crafting New Identities with Lindsey Raisa Feldman

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Anthropology Doctoral Candidate Lindsey Raisa Feldman (Photo courtesy of Ms. Feldman)

The United States has faced an astonishing number of wildfires in the fall of 2017, but who is on the front line combating them? It turns out there are a number of state, community, and federal agencies battling the flames, but one group we don’t often hear about is men and women serving time in prison, released temporarily to fight fires on the frontlines.

Lindsey Feldman is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and she has spent the last few years photographing, interviewing, and fighting fires alongside members of the prison wildland firefighters in Arizona. While Feldman, and many others, maintain that the use of prisoners for underpaid and dangerous labor presents deep ethical problems, Feldman’s on-the-ground ethnographic research provides a different, coexisting perspective. For prisoners able to join the firefighting teams, the experience can be extremely meaningful, allowing them to forge new relationships, new identities, and new promises for life after prison.

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For more information on Lindsey Feldman:

A prison inmate battling wildfires in Arizona (Photo courtesy of Ms. Feldman)

Ms. Feldman’s personal webpage: www.lindseyraisa.com

More information on Ms. Feldman’s research:

Ms. Feldman’s article on prison wildland firefighters: https://www.sapiens.org/culture/arizonas-inmate-firefighters/

Ms. Feldman’s reflections on fighting fires: http://allegralaboratory.net/fighting-a-wildfire-on-a-gun-range-or-the-sensuous-memories-of-fieldwork/

Ms. Feldman’s article about criminality and the “hot felon” phenomenon: https://popanth.com/article/hot-felons-branding-jeremy-meeks

More resources about prison labor and other topics discussed in this episode:

Prison inmates battling wildfires in Arizona (Photo courtesy of Ms. Feldman)

Michel Foucault’s famous treatise on the origins of prisons and their relationship to state power: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

A recent NYT article about women inmate firefighters: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/31/magazine/the-incarcerated-women-who-fight-californias-wildfires.html

Legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s examination of the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a system of race control: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor by Tara Herivel and Paul Wright

Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected (Nation of Nations) by Lisa Marie Cacho

Anthropologist Laura Nader’s call to “study up” institutions of power rather than focusing solely on non-western or disenfranchised populations: https://upwardanth.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/nader-studyingup.pdf

Wildfires blazing in Arizona (Photo courtesy of Ms. Feldman)

The wiki page on the anthropology of institutions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropology_of_institutions#cite_note-4


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