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Legal segregation in the United States (characteristic of Foucault’s “social partitioning”). Image borrowed from:

“This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all events are recorded, in which an uninterrupted work of writing links the centre and periphery, in which power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, in which each individual is constantly located, examined, and distributed among the living beings, the sick and the dead–all this constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism” -Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975/1995, p. 197)


Throughout American inner cities black communities are riddled with poverty and social misery. There is a blatant contrast between black communities and white communities. These communities are determined and reinforced by what W.E.B. Du Bois calls the “color-line.” The color-line is “the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men” (1903/2009, p. 16). This relation is based on the level of superiority and domination one has over the other due to one’s skin color. From this distinction exists an invisible barrier that separates the black community from the white community with a mutual understanding that one does not belong in the other. This degree of separation can manifest in many ways, however, most significant to African-American history is legal segregation.

According to Foucault, discipline “is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, [and] targets” (1975/1995, p.215). Foucault further emphasizes that in order to ensure the proper formation of a disciplinary society, there has to be “enclosed disciplines,” or alternatively, “a sort of social ‘quarantine’” (p. 216). Warehousing African-Americans in prison and targeting their community with heavy surveillance is a form of social quarantine. These measures to quarantine African-Americans in society are simultaneously brought forth from the segregating effects of the color-line with the target already assumed.



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