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EARLE, Chris S.

Spring 2016, 46.1, pages 46-64

Dispossessed: Prisoner Response-Ability and Resistance at the Limits of Subjectivity

Abstract: I argue for conceiving agency via dispossession rather than possession, specifically in the context of prison writing. While the study of prisoner discourse tends to link agency and resistance to the subject through what I term the recuperative narrative, I map out an alternative paradigm through an analysis of Nawal El Saadawi’s prison memoir and Václav Havel’s prison letters. I demonstrate how the prisoners write to retain their fundamental address-ability and response-ability that is the condition for any sense of self, and not (only) to reclaim a subject position and voice. I conclude by considering how this response-ability provides the potential for resistance, a kind of agency and resistance that does not rely on notions of the individual will. I argue that our primary dispossession can serve to redress the unequal distribution of forcible dispossession and that rhetoricians have a significant role to play in this project.

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