Conference on Probing the Penal State

An interdisciplinary conference

Organized by

Loïc WACQUANT (UC-Berkeley) & Bruce WESTERN (Princeton)

Friday May 5 and Saturday May 6, 2006

Universityof California, Berkeley

Center for the Study of Law and Society (2240 Piedmont Avenue), on May 5, and the Blumer Room, 402 Barrows, on May 6

This conference is co-sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Center on Institutions and Governance at IGS, the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology, the Princeton University Department of Sociology, the Center for the Study of Law & Society, the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, and the Boalt Hall School of Law

Featuring 10 faculty and 16 doctoral students from UC Berkeley, Princeton, New York University, Chicago, Minnesota, San Jose and San Diego, this conference aims to give a new generation of scholars working on crime/law/punishment across the disciplines an opportunity to gather collective steam and put the penal state squarely on the intellectual map by creating firmer linkages between research on deviance, policing, the courts, corrections and their extensions, on the one hand, and broader social institutions, economic structures, political trends, and cultural constellations, on the other. The conference is an opportunity for scholars across the gamut of disciplines -- sociology, history, the law, political science, justice studies, anthropology, and public policy -- to share problems and perspectives and engage in a vigorous dialogue liable to help them better disentangle the nexus tying penal policies and practices to new forms of inequality and identity emerging in the United States at century’s dawn.

For further details and updates, as well as abstracts of the papers presented, see the full program at

This interdisciplinary conference focused on the politics of the prison boom and its causal relationship with and contribution to resurging inequality. It also stimulated the participation of scholars who have not previously focused on the police, the courts, and corrections, in an effort to bring penal institutions "back" into core areas of sociology, including research on stratification and the labor market, race and ethnicity, public opinion and public policy, social welfare, and urban sociology. The conference provided advanced doctoral students and new assistant professors with a platform not only to present their own work but also exposed participants to research on the various interacting aspects of the criminal justice system being carried out in sociology, anthropology, political science, history, law, the humanities, and public policy. The conference was sponsored by the CIG, the Department of Sociology, the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, and the Princeton University Department of Sociology. The event was held on Friday, May 5, at the Center for the Study of Law and Society (2240 Piedmont Avenue), and on Saturday, May 6, in the Blumer Room (402 Barrows Hall). For the conference program, please click here. For abstracts and papers that were presented at the conference, please click here.