Ian Alexander

Visiting Lecturer in American Studies

I study the US prison regime, media history, revolutionary and abolitionist movements, and the history of capitalism.

For the past few years, my research has looked at the ways prisons and prisoners use media technologies in the US. From the early days of radio to new digital tablets, prisons have deployed media technologies to repress, surveil, pacify and torture captives; reformers have looked optimistically to the same machines as tools for social conditioning; and all the while imprisoned intellectuals and organizers have used media systems to raise politicize their fellow prisoners and struggle against the prison regime. Media technologies have long been essential to prison operations and to anti-prison organizing. I call this carceral process “the carceral media regime.”

I am also interested in the politics of prison education, the relationship between prison surveillance and “free-world” surveillance, debt and finance capitalism, carceral imperialism, Marxism, sound studies and music history, and film history.

My teaching covers a range of related topics: critical prison studies, media studies, media history, Marxism and political economy, film studies and film history, and sound studies. In all of my classes we will focus on systems and histories of exploitation, oppression, colonialism, extraction, and other forms of violence along the lines of race, gender, class, and geography. I am committed to treating texts from outside the academic canons as vital theory, from a range of radical traditions and media forms. Pamphlets and zines, activist documentaries, and speeches often appear on my syllabi alongside peer-reviewed academic articles and books. I also welcome creative but rigorous student work, both within and beyond the structure of the written paper. In my classes I strive to cultivate a collaborative environment for students and myself, where students feel supported to take intellectual risks and engage with challenging texts and questions.

Outside of teaching and research, I most interested in supporting and contributing to liberation movements.

I'm into music, especially jazz, old-time, hip-hop, glam rock, and country.