Vanishment: Girls, Punishment, and the Education State
by Sabina E. Vaught - 2019
Background/Context: This article emerges from several scholarly traditions, chief among them feminist and critical ethnography; school–prison nexus; and critical feminist and race theories.
Focus of Study: The larger study that informs this article was an 18-month ethnographic inquiry into youth prison schooling in one state. This study explored both the specifics of schooling inside the system and attended to the ways in which it mimicked, mirrored, or resonated with schooling on the outside—offering a qualitative map of power and discipline in schooling writ large. The story that undergirds this article is drawn from that larger study. Here, I attend carefully to one ethnographic moment to conceptualize broad questions of punishment, gender, race, and sexual identity.
Setting: The research took place inside multiple institutions across one state’s juvenile detention and prison system. The article organizes its inquiries around an ethnographic vignette from Inside one state’s largest juvenile detention facility.
Research Design: The research that informs this article is both a long-term critical ethnographic study and rigorous theoretical research across several areas.
Conclusions: I both begin and conclude this article by offering an initial conceptualization of one form of punishment: vanishment. Vanishment is a punishment that works in concert with imprisonment, banishment, and treatment to organize the disciplinary practices of U.S. school and society. In considering vanishment, the article offers an initial development of the construct and reflects on inquiries that might begin to excavate its seemingly hidden mechanisms. I invite consideration of this punishment across multiple sites and through a variety of approaches.
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