Two philosophy majors graduating this year from Wesleyan University earned their degrees while incarcerated.
The students’ educations were facilitated through Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE).
James Davis III will be graduating with a double major in Philosophy and English. A published author, his writings include “Law, Prison, and Double-Double Consciousness: A Phenomenological View of the Black Prisoner’s Experience,” which appeared in The Yale Law Journal in 2019. Here’s the abstract of the article:
This essay introduces double-double consciousness as a new way of conceptualizing the psychological ramifications of being a black prisoner. It begins by revisiting W.E.B. DuBois’s theory of double consciousness. It then offers a phenomenological exposition of double-double consciousness—the double consciousness that the black prisoner came to prison with, coupled with the double consciousness that the black prisoner develops in prison. Thought and feeling, time and space are all different in the prison. This world relentlessly imposes the prisoner identity on all those who inhabit it, requiring them to reconcile their new status with their conceptions of self. Based on my own experience as a black prisoner, I conclude that double-double consciousness is a mechanism through which the prisoner can maintain dignity despite living in captivity.
David Haywood will be graduating with High Honors in Philosophy. Lori Gruen, a philosophy professor at Wesleyan who works with the CPE, says that Mr. Haywood is “the first of our Center for Prison Education’s student to attempt an honors thesis and was terrifically successful.” He is also the 2023 Wise Prize recipient, a prize established by Daniel Wise (Wesleyan class of 1859), to recognize student excellence in philosophy. Mr. Haywood’s thesis is entitled “On Being Haunted: Affective Violence in Colonial Modernity.” Professor Gruen says:
This is a profound work of interdisciplinary philosophical scholarship that gives voice to the experience of the emotional, embodied terror of being disappeared. Haywood’s thesis addresses what it means to experience what he calls “haunting or affective violence” and how to resist it. Writing an honors thesis while in prison, with very limited access to a computer on which to type and no internet access, seemed almost impossible. It is a testament to David Haywood’s commitment and vision that this brilliant work was completed.
In 2021, three incarcerated students earned their undergraduate degrees in philosophy from Wesleyan.