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"Prison Foodways in Orange is the New Black" (by Ami E. Stearns, Morgan Wilson, and McKenzie Richard): Review 2

Published onJan 17, 2024
"Prison Foodways in Orange is the New Black" (by Ami E. Stearns, Morgan Wilson, and McKenzie Richard): Review 2

Vote: Publish Pending Minor Changes

  • Overall, the piece is interesting, well written, well structured, and original. The discussion section, however, feels a bit light and superficial compared to the literature review sections and thematic analyses. I recommend that it be expanded and nuanced in the following ways:

  • It would be helpful if the authors grappled with/addressed the fact that 1) cafeterias are progressively being removed from prison settings, with prisoners having to eat in their cells or blocks. This is due to the cafeteria as a site of prisoner organizing, resistance, and rioting. 2) Prison systems are increasingly moving towards cook-chill production methods for prison food and diets, meaning that there are effectively no kitchens or food prep on site. The potential source of power held by kitchen work could then look very different in reality, as would access to raw food items in any shape or form. What does this then mean for OITNB’s portrayal in which (relative) power is held by those assigned to kitchen work or by those who can access food items to smuggle nonfood items? It would also mean that the vegetable produce mobilized toward sexual ends would not in most cases be in the prison legitimately, anyway. Indeed, prisoners in jurisdictions using cook-chill lament the fact that all vegetables are a beige slop.

  • Specific to the use of food items as commodities for trading, and given the article’s framing around race, privilege, and power it would be helpful to provide some context as to how prisoners obtain the food items, such as jalapenos, candies, ramen, etc. that they use to trade (i.e., are their loved ones putting money in their commissaries? Are they exchanging other favors/items, etc.? Is Piper using her earnings from her underwear economy to buy ramen to then recruit women?)

  • Additionally, some minor context as to the reason for the hunger strike would also bolster the authors’ argument.

  • As well, the authors might want to consult Anastasia Chamberlen’s Embodying Punishment: Emotions, Identities, and Lived Experiences in Women's Prisons which takes up women prisoners’ experiences of food, as well as Kelly Struthers Montford’s “The Embodiment of Contempt: Ontario Provincial Prison Food” which analyzes prisoner’s experience of food quality and the role of food in the underground economy.

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