The Book

“This book is revolutionary.”
— Matt Ferner, Editor-in-Chief at The Appeal

N*gga Theory shows mass incarceration is not just cell blocks brimming with black bodies. It’s a pervasive and deep-seated way of talking and thinking about morality, law, and politics in matters of blame and punishment; it’s a punitive impulse and retributive urge that runs so strong and deep in most Americans that taming it will take a revolution in consciousness.

The book frames a transformational new way of thinking about guilt and innocence, words and symbols, social perceptions and moral judgments, and the political power of the performing arts to humanize and rally support for America’s most maligned and marginalized citizens.

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Jody Armour - N*gga Theory book cover

Ferner "This book is revolutionary. Prof. Armour challenges us all to reject the vast systems of oppression and dehumanization that seek to sow — and capitalize on — fear and division among us. With compassion and rigor, Prof. Armour renders a new political, moral, legal, and philosophical framework for a more equitable world — one centered around our shared humanity, our shared vulnerability, and the dignity that we all deserve." — Matt Ferner, Editor-in-Chief at The Appeal Bazelon "In N*gga Theory, Jody Armour takes the most reviled word in the English language and uses it as performative art and a battle cry to unite African Americans divided by class because they share a vital common interest in eradicating the racism rooted deeply within the criminal justice system. Armour demonstrates — through lived experience, empirical data, and storytelling — that the historical and..."Read more — Lara Bazelon, Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Juvenile Justice Clinic and The Racial Justice Clinic
McHugh "Jody Armour’s N*gga Theory is a powerful exploration of race, class and justice, particularly criminal justice, in today’s America. Whether you agree or disagree with one or more of Armour’s approaches, this book will again and again make you stop and think. And thinking, deep thinking, in those areas is something all of us – citizens, policy makers, academics, stakeholders all – sorely need to consciously confront and then address the injustices and inequalities we all know are there." — James F. McHugh, Former Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court
Gruber "N*gga Theory is a provocation, a poem, a lyric urging racial solidarity with every body caged in the American penal state, even or especially those classified as “violent offenders.” Through riveting personal narrative and rigorous interdisciplinary research, Jody Armour gives us the transgressive penal theory necessary in this racially troubled era." — Professor Aya Gruber, author of The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration
Chatfield "N*gga Theory is a masterpiece. This book is a confirmation and a revelation. My copy is marked with underlines and exclamations, circles, and folded-down corners of pages. It confirms what anyone who has worked for and with a Black person caught in the American criminal legal system knows in our bones and in our hearts, but for which we have had no theory to explain. This entire system — from the police officers..."Read more — Kate Chatfield, Senior Advisor for Legislation and Policy at The Justice Collaborative
Goodman "Part memoir, part hard-core critique, the in-your-face title lets you in on what’s ahead in the radically progressive moral, legal, political and linguistic, scholarly takedown of our legal system, particularly criminal (in)justice.

Law professor Jody Armour, from a decidedly lofty academic chair, applies the charged title of his book to himself as well as to “otherized” brothers in San Quentin, Attica, Angola or death row anywhere. ..."Read more
— Justice Emily Jane Goodman, New York State Supreme Court (Ret.)
Boudin "Jody Armour’s new book is a timely and forceful contribution to the criminal justice reform movement combining legal research and reasoning with critical race theory into a radical and urgent demand for reevaluating this country’s commitment to draconian punishment.

Armour makes a frontal assault on false moral equivalencies, mass incarceration, and calls into question virtually every aspect of the criminal justice system. Provocative prose and rigorous research...Read More
— Chesa Boudin, District Attorney of San Francisco
Mosby "I applaud Jody’s heroism and bravery for illuminating the entrenched failures of the criminal justice system and its disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities. His keen insight in this book unpacks the dreadful stain of mass incarceration on this country and helps show how this unfortunate reality has led to overcrowding, severe racial disparities, and the criminalization derived from a systemic “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality...Read More — Marilyn J. Mosby, Baltimore City State’s Attorney
Satterberg "Prof. Armour has radically re-purposed “The N-word” to describe a new theory of race, law and justice, and he uses unflinching language to reveal uncomfortable truths about racial bias in the justice system. He unpacks the moral judgments underpinning criminal law and procedure that serve to “otherize” certain criminal defendants to their detriment, and he offers a new lens through which we should view justice...Read More — Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney