Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
David W. Miller
This dissertation uses the idea of a moral polity as an organizing concept to help understand how the Irish Republican Army and Black Panther Party understood their own actions and the imprisonment of large numbers of their members. In referring to the “moral polity” this study describes socio-political structures and relations created by people who are animated by a series of collectively held ideas about how authorities and populations should interact. The collectively held ideas that provide the foundation for a moral polity emphasize reciprocities between authorities and a population living under those authorities, fairness and justice between these two parties, and trust between the authorities and that population. Moral Polities promote human dignity and the welfare of the community, and the beliefs that undergird them are formed in opposition to established socio-political structures. The first chapters reveal the moral polities created by the BPP and IRA, looking first at precursors of these moral polities and then focusing on the opposition their creators faced from the governments and security forces of the United States, Northern Ireland, and Britain. As the Panthers and IRA espoused a radical reordering of society based on their collectively held beliefs, they threatened power structures who resorted to counterintelligence and internment without trial in their attempts to quell the threats they saw coming from the BPP an IRA, which in turn resulted in in large numbers of prisoners. The last chapters examine the decline of the Black Panther Party and the rise of the Irish republican prisoner. The BPP was unable to overcome the divisions within their party which the FBI exploited in the years before 1973. This left them unable to uphold the moral polity they had created around chapters across the nation. Although some members of the Party struggled to keep the Party and its envisioned society afloat, the BPP did not last beyond 1982. Conversely, when British authorities revoked special category status in Northern Irish prisons, and therefore, destroyed the IRA’s reordering of prison society, the IRA embarked on five years of sustained protest which resulted in a recreation of their moral polity.
Oppenheimer, Rachel Alayna, "Of Prisons and Polities: The Black Panther Party, Irish Republican Army and Radical Socio-Political organization, 1966-1983" (2017). Dissertations. 979.