A Discursive Construct of Race in America: The Jim Crow Analogy and the Study of Mass Incarceration

  • Oakley Alexander Ramprashad University of Victoria


A very specific racial discourse defined the Jim Crow era in the United States. Many believed that overturning the laws of segregation and oppression that defined the Jim Crow era through court decisions and legislation would fundamentally change racial discourse in the United States. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, scholarship on the mass incarceration of black American men emerged which invoked the Jim Crow analogy. This scholarship claimed that the racial caste system that had defined the Jim Crow era had simply evolved and was as present as ever. The utilization of the Jim Crow analogy suggests that as a society, the United States has maintained the same racial realities since the turn of the 20th century. Scholars have set up opposing camps in favour of and against the use of the Jim Crow analogy. This paper attempts to explore the divide that has emerged in the study of mass incarceration. 

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