Michelle Brown, assistant professor of sociology, is a criminologist who specializes in law and society, visual criminology, and carceral studies. Her book The Culture of Punishment (NYU Press, 2009; Recipient of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency Prevention for a Safer Society Award, 2010) takes readers on a tour of the sites where culture and punishment meet— television shows, films, prison tourism, and post 9/11 new war prisons—arguing that because most Americans sanction the infliction of pain from a distance, we risk overlooking the reasons for democratic oversight of the project of punishment and, more broadly, justifications for the prohibition of pain.
A more recent volume, Criminology Goes to the Movies (co-authored with criminologist Nicole Rafter, NYU Press, 2011) examines criminological theories through the lenses of popular culture. Her latest project explores the relationship between empathy and law, work that developed while serving as a visiting fellow at Indiana University’s Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions (2010-2011). Here, Brown explores how law moderates life and death amid carceral formations that exceed conventional notions of punishment – sites such as immigrant detention hubs, conflict and disaster zones, war prisons, and refugee camps.
Brown is Division Head of Law & Culture for the Center for the Study of Social Justice and a member of the editorial staff for the journal Theoretical Criminology.