University of Rochester


Tip of the Spear: Revolutionary Organizing and Counterinsurgency in New York State Prisons

Orisanmi Burton

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Funded by the Humanities Center

In this talk, Orisanmi Burton analyzed the prison as a form of counterinsurgency warfare. He traces how, beginning in the early 1970s, the massive growth and development of the New York State prison system has occurred in response to revolutionary, anti-racist organizing inside and outside prison walls. Burton provided a critical theoretical framework for understanding prisons as war and for apprehending the ways in which contemporary prison protocols are designed to prevent radical political consciousness, outside solidarity, and struggle.

Orisanmi Burton is Assistant Professor of anthropology at American University. His work has been published in North American Dialog, Cultural Anthropology online, and he has forthcoming publications in The Black Scholar and PoLAR. Dr. Burton is an active member of the Critical Prison Studies Caucus of the American Studies Association and the Abolition Collective and is hard at work on a book manuscript, tentatively entitled The Tip of the Spear, which analyzes the historical development of the radical movement in men prisons throughout New York State from 1963 to the present.