Criminality as Seriality

Posted: 22 Feb 2011

See all articles by Andrew Dilts

Andrew Dilts

Political Science; University of Chicago - Society of Fellows


Building on Iris Marion Young’s reading of gender as seriality, itself based on Sartre’s analysis of serial collectives in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, this paper think through the possibilities and limits of such an approach when applied to a collective such as “felons� in the contemporary United States. I argue that such an approach to the theorizing the “identity� of the “felon� is especially useful for revealing the degree to which persons convicted of criminal offenses are similarly situated not primarily through their own actions or ascriptive attributes, but through how those very actions and attributes are essentialised through punitive and exclusionary practices. Nevertheless, the limits of such an approach are apparent in the danger of downplaying how other actions and ascriptive attributes are frequently suppressed, disavowed, or ignored precisely through so-called color-blind and gender-blind approaches to questions of both criminal and social justice. Ultimately, the case of the felon as a serial collective helps us to understand the deeper necessity for rethinking the foundational tensions between punishment and membership in political communities, move beyond projects that seek to get punishment or citizenship “right,� and confront such tensions as tensions to be managed openly through a critical and self-reflective democratic practice.

Suggested Citation

Dilts, Andrew, Criminality as Seriality. Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN:

Andrew Dilts (Contact Author)

Political Science

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