“You know what? You can’t be a ‘Black Man’ in prison.” Negative impositions of Blackness, grounded in the myths of Black Criminality, shape assessments of risk and rehabilitation within the scriptural economy of the contemporary prison. This creates a rehabilitative colour line that results in specific forms of narrative labour, whereby prisoners attempt to control the recording and interpretation of their Black identities. From Social Relations, to Appearance, to Language Use, more of the life of a Black prisoner is interpreted negatively than other prisoners. This paper explores how Black lifers, are forced to adopt narrative labours that ‘whiten’ their ‘Blackness’ in order to mitigate their perceived risk and navigate the prison’s pathways to release. This article is based on quasi-ethnographic field work conducted in two prison sites between 2011 and 2014 in which more than 120 indeterminately sentenced prisoners were consulted.
Warr, J. (2022). Whitening Black Men: Narrative Labour and the Scriptural Economics of Risk and Rehabilitation. British Journal of Criminology, Article azac066. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azac066