Jisha Menon

“The Drama of the Death Penalty: Dignity and Personhood in Clemency”

Thursday, April 13, 2023
5:00 PM CST
Elvehjem L140

“Imagining Abolition”

Friday, April 14, 2023
12:00 PM CST
University Club Rm 212
432 East Campus Mall

*To attend the workshop
please RSVP to cvc@mailplus.wisc.edu
All are welcome!



While the purpose of punishment may be retributive or utilitarian, rehabilitative or symbolic, it inaugurates a particular kind of moral subject at the heart of its sanction. This talk explores conceptions of legal personhood that are animated in scenes that hover between personhood, dignity, and dispossession. The debates around the abolition of the death penalty converge on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.” This talk discusses Chinonye Chukwu’s film, Clemency, to raise questions about the relationship between punishment and personhood, between State power and vulnerability, between dignity and deterrence.


This workshop will consider ways in which we can think about the work of art in the abolitionist project. Readings to be announced.


Jisha Menon is a scholar of postcolonial theory and performance studies whose research interests lie at the intersection of law and performance; race and the carceral state; affect theory, cities, and capitalism; gender and sexuality; cosmopolitanism and nationalism. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Brutal Beauty: Aesthetics and Aspiration in Urban India (Northwestern UP, 2021,) which considers the city and the self as aesthetic projects that are renovated in the wake of neoliberal economic reforms in India. The study explores how discourses of beauty are mobilized toward anti-democratic ends. Sketching out scenes of urban aspiration and its dark underbelly, the book delineates the creative and destructive potential of India’s lurch into contemporary capitalism. Her first book, The Performance of Nationalism: India, Pakistan and the Memory of Partition (Cambridge UP, 2013), examines the affective and performative dimensions of nation-making. The book recuperates the idea of “mimesis” to think about political history and the crisis of its aesthetic representation, while also paying attention to the mimetic relationality that undergirds the encounter between India and Pakistan. She is also co-editor of two volumes: Violence Performed: Local Roots and Global Routes of Conflict (with Patrick Anderson) (Palgrave-Macmillan Press, 2009) and Performing the Secular: Religion, Representation, and Politics (with Milija Gluhovic) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.)Sponsors:

Our work is made possible by support from the Anonymous Fund, the College of Letters and Sciences, and the Department of Art History. Series co-sponsors include the Departments of Afro-American Studies, Art, Chicano & Latino Studies, Communication Arts, English, Gender & Women’s Studies, Asian Languages and Cultures, Spanish & Portuguese, and Theatre & Drama as well as the Institute for Research in the Humanities, Wisconsin Center for Film & Theatre Research, Center for South Asia, Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies Program, and Latin American, Caribbean & Iberian Studies Program.