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This course will examine the welfare and penal systems as interconnected state approaches to social vulnerability. It will explore these state projects from a comparative and historical perspective, looking at how welfare states and penal systems evolved over time and across different global arenas. Conceptually, it will address how overlaps in these state systems may evidence the emergence of common forms of governance—and how those connote shifts in modes of state regulation, citizenship, and claims-making. Empirically, it will trace patterns of social provision and penal policy across a range of historical and geographical cases. The goal will be to unearth emergent forms of social vulnerability and state responses to them. One week will be devoted to Central European patterns and one week to those of Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Latin America.
This course will take a new approach to studying welfare and punishment as related state projects. It will bring these scholarly debates together as a way of arriving at a broader understanding of state structure and power. Conceptually, the course will be guided by several key questions: what does it imply, theoretically, to think about these state systems as comparable public arenas, both engaged in managing social vulnerability? Do they share institutional practices that suggest the emergence of common forms of governance? Do they converge in the kinds of social conduct they target and treat? And do these potential overlaps evidence larger shifts in forms of state regulation, models of citizenship, and modes of claims-making?
In addition to these conceptual issues, the course will have a clear empirical focus as we will trace and analyze what is happening—in concrete, practical terms—in the welfare and penal systems across East/Central Europe and beyond. Here we will document emergent forms of social vulnerability and state responses to them in different national contexts. To what extent have changes in welfare provision been accompanied by shifts in the policies and practices of punishment in Central Europe? Has there been a regional shift from the regulation of the poor through welfare policy to their management and control in prison? How do East/Central European patterns compare to those in Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Latin America? Is it possible to locate a common set of causal forces that motivate these changes across time and place—or is causality more locally-determined?
The course will be of interest to a wide range of young scholars and graduate students—particularly those doing research on welfare states, social policy, state punishment, prisons, and criminal law. Moreover, given the course’s empirical and practical focus, we hope to attract those working in welfare and penal systems and NGOs across the region.
You can listen to a talk with Megan Comfort about her book Doing Time Together: Love and Family in the Shadow of the Prison.