Invisible Geographies: Violence and Oppression in the Prison Industrial Complex and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

Nowhere is the act of violence more complete, sustained, and systematically codified than in the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). Through overt physical domination, the psychological and bodily control of inmates is maintained. Lobbying by the private prison industry and the war on drugs and terror have fueled the increase in the United States prison population and have contributed to the commodification and objectification of inmate bodies. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) perpetuate violence in organized and efficient ways. The commodified animal body—controlled through confinement, restriction, and pain—systemically parallels the treatment of inmate bodies. Just as the PIC maintains itself though lobbying efforts, law, and manipulation of public opinion, CAFOs have relied on lobbying efforts, deregulation, and profiteering to fuel growth. Central to these industries is the invisibility of their operations. Both of them rely on a “post regulatory” systematized objectification of bodies, the visceral nature of which would be publicly inflammatory, and thus detrimental to economic profit. Therefore, these industries have created hidden geographies that conceal their physical locations and processes while at the same time normalizing the notion that Americans need prisons to stay safe and meat to stay healthy. This article discusses the historical development of these industries and examines the meta-structures that sustain them in order to highlight the violent and oppressive social, political, and economic structures and forces behind the treatment of inmate and animal bodies.

By Richard Merritt and Scott Hurley

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