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Philosophy Department

Contact Information

phone: (615) 343-2206
229 Furman Hall


PhD, Philosophy, University of Toronto, 2002 
BA Honours, Philosophy, Bishop’s University, 1994 
BA, English, Bishop’s University, 1994

R.E.A.C.H. Coalition
Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice

Lisa Guenther

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Research Areas

Phenomenology; Feminism; Mass Incarceration, Capital Punishment, and the Carceral State; Race and Racism

Current Research

I am currently working on a book that is tentatively entitled, Life Against Social Death: From Reproductive Injustice to Natal Resistance. The book explores the structural and historical connections between reproductive politics and the politics of mass incarceration and capital punishment in the United States.  It begins with a biopolitical analysis of philosophical and political debates over abortion and the death penalty from the 1970s to the present.  The main chapters of the book then situate these debates in relation to the politics of mass incarceration and prison abolition, elaborating a critical phenomenological method for naming, mapping, and dismantling the oppressive structures that (re)produce the carceral state.  The book concludes with concrete case studies of prisoner resistance and other radical social movements for decarceration.

Recent Courses

Graduate: Biopower and Biopolitical Resistance; Race, Gender, and Mass Incarceration; Rethinking Prisons (Foucault and Black Radical Thought); Levinas and his Readers; Theories of Sexual Difference, Husserl and his Readers

Undergraduate courses: Phenomenology; Gender and Sexuality; Contemporary Philosophy (with special topics such as: Police Violence and Mass Incarceration; Philosophy and the Occupy Movement; Phenomenology and Cognitive Science; Biopower)


Phenomenology, Feminism, Contemporary Continental, Social and Political

Representative publications

Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration. Co-edited with Geoffrey Adelsberg and Scott Zeman. Fordham University Press, 2015.

Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives. Minnesota University Press, 2013.

‘Beyond Guilt and Innocence: The Creaturely Life of Prisoner Resistance,’ Active Intolerance, ed. Andrew Dilts and Perry Zurn.  Forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan in 2015.

‘The Social Ontology of Solidarity and Resistance in the 2013 California Prison Hunger Strikes,’ Body/Self/Other: The Phenomenology of Social Encounter, ed. Luna Dolezal and Danielle Petherbridge. Forthcoming from SUNY Press.

‘Life Behind Bars: The Eugenic Structure of Mass Incarceration,’ Bios: Feminist Philosophies of Life, ed. Hasana Sharp and Chloe Taylor. Forthcoming.

‘The Most Dangerous Place: Pro-Life Politics and the Rhetoric of Slavery.’Postmodern Culture 22:2 (January), 2013.

‘Beyond Dehumanization: A Post-Humanist Critique of Intensive Confinement.’Journal for Critical Animal Studies 10:2, Special Issue on Animals and Prisons, 2012.

‘Resisting Agamben: The Biopolitics of Shame and Humiliation.’ Philosophy and Social Criticism 38:1, 2012, pp. 59-79.

For a more complete list of academic publications, click here.

Public Philosophy

A Theorist Unchained,’ David Schimke, Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 August, 2015.

Teaching Philosophy on Death Row: An Interview with Lisa Guenther,’ Albert W. Dzur, Boston Review, 26 June, 2015.

The Professor: Lisa Guenther,” Steven Hale, Nashville Scene, People Issue, 19 March, 2015. Full interview here.

‘The Concrete Abyss: Why Solitary Confinement Degrades Us All,’ Aeon Magazine, 16 April 2014. 

Solitude’s Despair,” Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek, 3 April, 2014.

Alone and Apart,’ Philosopher's Zone (ABC Radio Interview), 13 Oct., 2013.

The California SHU and the End of the World,’ Society and Space, Forum on The US Carceral Society, 24 Sept., 2013.

Alone Inside,’ Ideas (CBC Radio Documentary on Solitary Confinement), 3 Sept., 2013.

What is the Experience of Isolation?’ Interview in The Believer, June 2013.

The Living Death of Solitary Confinement,’ The New York Times, 26 Aug., 2012.

Regular Contributor to New APPS blog

Webmaster for R.E.A.C.H. Coalition and Tennessee Students and Educators for Social Justice

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