Faculty Writing: NRA History, HIV and Coronavirus, and the Political Economy of Incarceration

In Bookforum, Patrick Blanchfield reviews Frank Smyth’s recent book The NRA: The Unauthorized History. Glad for a popular history of the NRA written by someone “not on the NRA’s payroll,” Blanchfield takes issue with Smyth’s tendency to “see the NRA as singularly powerful and overlook its position within a broader network of conservative organizations.” For Blanchfield, the history and ideology of the NRA is entwined with the nation’s, evolving in-step with the ideology of settler colonialism: “The NRA’s nineteenth-century nativism and imperialism morphed into twentieth-century anticommunism and white-backlash politics.”

For Medium, Joel Osmundson challenges the stigma of infection through his experience as a scientist and a gay man living in the shadow of the HIV crisis. With statistics and radical compassion, Osmundson acknowledges our responsibility to act cautiously, and with others in mind, while also challenging the systemic violence of the current pandemic: “The stigma of being infected, well, fuck that, because viruses aren’t malicious, they’re a mistake, and people aren’t reckless, they’re living human beings, and all living human beings are flesh, and flesh is vulnerable to this virus.”

In Dissent, Rafael Khachaturian and Joe Soss discuss the political economy of criminal punishment and the increasing privatization, marketization, and securitization of the American carceral system. Criminalization as revenue-generation is proving particularly costly, in human terms, with the onset of Coronavirus: “In pursuit of mass incarceration, the United States built an ideal setting for contagion, illness, and death: seas of people—many with pre-existing medical conditions—crammed into tight, closed-air quarters, and unable to maintain social distance.”

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