Research

Below, I’ve provided a snapshot of my dissertation research and linked to my publications as well as access copies of select conference presentations. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about any of the work linked here.

Dissertation: “Carceral Literacies and Lifeworlds: Charting the Literate Activity of Charting the Literate Activity of College-in-Prison Educators”

Description: Prisons across the colonized world are manifested by—and themselves manifest— white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and heteropatriarchy. They reproduce violence on all of these fronts (and more), both inside of their walls and in those communities from which scores of multiply minoritized people are snatched every year. As of 2020, over 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the U.S. criminal legal system, with over 1.2 million individuals locked up in U.S. prisons alone. At the same time, education, both on the outside and on the inside, is positioned as a key solution to the crises of mass incarceration. More specifically, higher education in prison (HEP) programs are often billed as liberatory and transformative. Many such initiatives are described as social justice-focused endeavors that not only provide university education to incarcerated people but also significantly reduce recidivism rates.

The aims of education and prisons are, to say the least, knotted and commingled in paradoxical ways—education in prison, itself, even more so. Yet to paraphrase Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, the university not only produces incarceration but also plays a vital role in the social control of individuals. And per Eli Meyerhoff, universities and prisons do not so much exist at opposite ends of a spectrum as much as they are “two sides of the same coin,” especially considering that these institutions often serve and imprison, respectively, 18-22 year old individuals.

These tensions between the university, the prison, and college-in-prison animate the heart of my dissertation, titled “Carceral Literacies and Lifeworlds: Charting the Literate Activity of College-in-Prison Educators.” As each of these institutions is driven by the same carceral logics of punishment, control, and obfuscation, both research and teaching in college-in- prison contexts must account for the hegemony of the university—a truth that is too often ignored in HEP scholarship. In this project, then, I use abolitionist frameworks to simultaneously acknowledge the twin violences of literacy and the university and to argue for complicating the project of higher education in prison at large. I divest from all-too-straightforward narratives about the role of education as an antidote to mass incarceration, and in doing so, strive to connect individual and institutional scales of both the university and the prison by exploring the literacy, teaching, and learning experiences of college-in-prison educators.

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Publications:

Screencap of the first page of "More than Transformative: A New View of Prison Writing Narratives" by Larry Barrett, Pablo Mendoza, Logan Middleton, Mario Rubio, and Thomas Stromblad

“‘More than Transformative’: A New View of Prison Writing Narratives.” Larry Barrett, Pablo Mendoza, Logan Middleton, Mario Rubio, and Thomas Stromblad. Reflections, vol. 19, no. 1, 2019, pp. 13-32.

Abstract: Common in higher education in prison (HEP) and writing studies research is the idea that writing and education are transformative for incarcerated populations. While we believe that both can be powerful tools for reflection and social change among people on the inside, the prevalence of such transformation narratives can contribute to stereotypical depictions or understandings of incarcerated people and their literacy practices.

Drawing upon our experiences with the Education Justice Project (EJP), a college-in-prison program, this article argues for expanded recognition and study of literacy practices, genres, and prison education beyond those typically discussed in HEP and writing studies scholarship. In doing so, we draw on the work of Martinez (2017) to present four personal scenes of writing and education as counterstories that intervene in master narratives about how incarcerated students are transformed by literacy. This approach not only grounds our work in methodology that values the lived and experiential knowledge of marginalized people but also enables us to push back against stock stories of prison writing that might inadvertently stereotype incarcerated students. Through telling our stories in this article, we call on academics to join us in composing different stories about incarcerated students that honor the complexities of our multiple identities and literacy practices.

Precarious Rhetorics” (review). Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 106, no. 3, 2020, pp. 361-365.

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Select Conference Presentations:

Beyond Prison Pedagogies and Programming: Exploring Critical Pedagogy (or Not) in Prison Reentry Contexts.” National Conference for Higher Education in Prison 2021.

Multimodal Listening for Social Change: Researching Sonic Experience and Uptake in the Classroom.” With Nicole Turnipseed. Online asynchronous presentation. Symposium on Sound Studies, Rhetoric, and Writing Conference 2020.

Embracing Abolitionist Futures: The University, the Prison, and Radical Horizons for College-in-Prison Programing.” Conference on Community Writing 2019.

Sounding Out in the Classroom Sonic Archives: Exploring Audio Genres and Methodologies in Student Sound Projects.” Symposium on Sound, Rhetoric, and Writing 2018.

Re/Designing the Multimodal Composition Classroom: Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Access.” Computers and Writing 2018.

“‘Earning Your Steps’: Developing an Affective Rhetorical Framework for Wearable Technologies.” Conference on College Composition and Communication 2018.