Despite the number of people held at this very moment inside prisons, detention centers, black sites, reformatories, stockades, refugee camps, and even the hulls of ships, there has been surprisingly little self-consciousness about the analytical power of captivity in social thought. This essay foregrounds such a conversation across such varying fields as global prison studies, the history of slavery, and the sociology of debt to provoke a common political project that can extend beyond the limits of the case study.

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