Association for Feminist Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In 2014, California passed Senate Bill (SB) 1391, which enabled community colleges to scale up face-to-face course offerings to incarcerated individuals inside California state prisons. Teaching anthropology courses in the prison for the last two years to individuals who have never been exposed to the field and its theories has provided insights into micro-level enculturation processes and subsequent worldview shifts due to student self-reflection and exploration of place. Anthropology has the unique ability to bring awareness to the complete human story, history based on science, and concepts that can be used as guiding principals and values to reform a holistic worldview, which for the incarcerated students can help rewrite their cultural connections and path. Anthropology’s ability to break down the human experience across diverse traditions, languages, and religious experience has broadened the students’ views of what it means to be human, bringing them to an awareness that their own understanding of the world were incomplete. Concepts of cultural relativity and cultural identity have reshaped students’ identity and their place in the cultural process. Study groups and discussions on the yard for specific courses have and continue to form. This correlates to Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of cultural production, which has spread to the perspective facilities themselves and is represented by a new sub-culture, where students have also formed peer mentoring groups, peer tutoring, and college level discussions. To this end, incarcerated students have formed unique micro-cultures within college classrooms, which have dismantled race, ethnic bias, and in-group and out-group segregations.