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Executing FreedomThe Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United States$
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Daniel LaChance

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226066691

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226066721.001.0001

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Disabling Freedom

Disabling Freedom

(p.183) Epilogue Disabling Freedom
Executing Freedom

Daniel LaChance

University of Chicago Press

For years, cultural constructions of executable subjects and the killing state have attempted to maintain the death penalty’s sublime possibilities in spite of its increasingly prosaic form. From dying declarations on Texas’s death row website to prosecutorial rhetoric in Houston courtrooms to the redemption narratives of films like The Green Mile, the cultural life of capital punishment has continuously worked to deinstitutionalize the act of sentencing a person to death and executing him. In these practices, speeches, and stories, the imposition of a death sentence could become an act that was spiritually regenerating and morally meaningful. Over time, however, retributive rhetoric has lost its ability to compensate for technocratic reality. A dawning conservative disillusionment with the death penalty, the result of this failure, is perhaps the most crucial part of the steady decline of support for the death penalty over the past fifteen years.

Keywords:   death penalty, life without parole, recession, exonerations, botched executions, Dancer in the Dark, abolition of the death penalty

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