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Subordination, Consumption, Resistance, and Transformation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2020

Monica C. Bell*
Yale Law School and Department of Sociology, Yale University
*Corresponding author: Monica C. Bell, Associate Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Sociology, Yale University, E-mail:


This article sets forth four modalities of the relationship between members of marginalized communities and the criminal justice system: subordination, consumption, resistance, and transformation. These modalities attempt to break out of traditional ways of thinking about community members’ formal roles in the system—defendants, witnesses, victims, judges, prosecutors, police officers, correctional officers, and the indeterminate but oft-invoked “community.” Instead, these modalities are fluid and situational. This article also calls for new research, scholarship, and advocacy that takes seriously how members of communities that the criminal legal system most deeply and directly affects engage in these fluid and situational modalities. Attention to the complexity of “community” is essential to creating lasting change in social systems of blame and punishment.

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Copyright © Hutchins Center for African and African American Research 2020 

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