Executing Freedom : The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United States - Lachance, Daniel

Executing Freedom : The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United States

Daniel Lachance

Yayınevi: Chicago University Press

Yayın tarihi: 12/2016

ISBN: 9780226066691

Ciltli | İngilizce | 272 Sayfa | 16x23,88x0,23 cm.

Tür: Tarih Çalışmaları

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We now live in the era of lethal injection as the instrument of death for condemned prisoners. Lethal injection, as Danny LaChance shows, conflates punishment with medicine. And even in Texas, the capital of capital punishment, the tradition of preparing the last meal for the condemned is no longer carried out. If punishment for capital crimes has been emptied of meaning, there is still an instinct to make vivid the condemned and their victims, at least when journalists are present. They give details like the inmates’ last words, the facial expression of the witnesses watching the execution, or expressions of grief or relief. Reporters try to import a punitive essence onto events that have become ever more sterile. The history of capital punishment in America entails many thingsthe transformation of executions from spectacles to bureaucratic procedures, but also a story of increasing distrust of government in most arenas (e.g., little confidence in a healthcare system being run competently), but not in others (the ability of the state to take its own citizens’ lives). The vision of the state as simultaneously technocracy and vigilante posse (and of condemned inmates as monsters vs. responsible subjects) has provided a rich and contradictory cultural reservoir, one in which the law as well as popular culture show a resurgence of individualism in the post-War period that feeds the growth of the American demand for capital punishment. LaChance shows throughout the tension between pro-death penalty rhetoric and the actual administration of capital punishment (in decline). This makes it a game-changer for all future histories of capital punishment. In showing how the death penalty generates ideas of freedom (responsibility for actions, possessed of a visible will, even transcendent heroes in death), LaChance demonstrates how fantasies of freedom sustain the death penalty in America.

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