Changing the Subject: Conversation in Supermax



Although supermaximum prisons in the United States impose an extreme social exclusion designed to prevent interaction among inmates, some do find ways to talk with one another. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Washington State, I describe conversation in supermax and focus on a theme of persecution of child sex criminals that emerges from prisoners' accounts. I suggest that these facilities constitute a hidden and problematic public sphere in which a discourse of excluded citizenship develops around the figure of the victimized child. In conclusion, I offer a brief “to-do” list for considering the politics of bare life in the supermax prison.