Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Chandra Talpade Mohanty


Identity, Nonviolence, Prison, Social Movements, Solidarity, Transnational Feminism

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation tells the story of modern anti-war prisoners of conscience in the United States-people who are incarcerated for six months or more as a result of nonviolent resistance. It explores how they intentionally use and learn about their own privilege in solidarity actions that land them in the belly of the imperial beast; the prison. It traces the lives of forty three such prisoners of conscience, from discernment of action through release, to show how "who they are" (in terms of their visible identities and private senses of self) impacts their experiences, the ways they are understood, and their own interpretations of their actions. The story that emerges is about what it feels like to resist the state with your body, how "whose body" matters in the shaping, interpretation, and efficacy of resistance, and what white, financially stable, well educated, Christian U.S. citizens learn about their own positionality through living for months and years in America's jails and prisons. What they learn and how they are changed by their experiences is significantly impacted by their racialized gender identities, and the focused story of these individuals works to tell a larger story about patriarchy, neoliberalism, foreign policy, and the contemporary prison industrial complex. The study also provides a model of solidarity activism that takes account of political location, privilege, and "speaking for." It challenges nonviolence theory and practice to better understand and articulate its strategy of prison witness, and is also an important intervention into the politics and actual "doings" of border crossing solidarity activism that is attentive to personal and global relations of power.


Open Access