Past Event

Illinois Humanities Presents Elective Studies Supper Club, Vol. 16

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Elective Studies Supper Club, Vol. 16: Reuben Miller

In partnership with Land & Sea Dept., Illinois Humanities presents the next volume of the Elective Studies Supper Club for Illinois artists, featuring a lecture by scholar Reuben Miller, a meal by Chef Darnell Reed of Luella’s Southern Kitchen, and an opening drink by Land & Sea Dept. Beverage Director Paul McGee.

This event is part of our Elective Studies series, created to help artists find inspiration from the world around them. Through a combination of lectures by top-tier experts and meals crafted by the city’s finest chefs, these convenings are designed to unite, inspire, nourish, and connect.

This year’s Elective Studies series converges with Envisioning Justice, which is an initiative created and facilitated by Illinois Humanities using the arts and humanities to engage Chicagoans in a citywide conversation about the impact of incarceration and jails with the goal of imagining a new criminal justice system.


Lecture: “Halfway Home: Race, Citizenship and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration”

Reuben Miller

University of Chicago

While more people are incarcerated in the United States than in any other nation in the history of the western world, the prison is but one (comparatively) small part of a vast carceral landscape. The 650,000 people released each year join nearly 5 million people already on probation or parole, 12 million who are processed through a county jail, the 19 million U.S. residents estimated to have a felony conviction, and the staggering 79 million Americans with a criminal record. Yet the size of the population marked by the carceral state is secondary to its reach. Upon release, incarcerated people are greeted by more than 48,000 laws, policies, and administrative sanctions that limit their participation in the labor and housing markets, in the culture and civic life of the city, and even within their families. They are subject to rules other people are not subject to, have rights others do not have, and shoulder responsibilities other people are not expected to shoulder. They, in fact, occupy an alternate form of political membership—what Miller calls “carceral citizenship.” This presentation examines the afterlife of mass incarceration—the hidden social world we produced through our laws and our crime control policies and practices. Drawing on ethnographic data collected in three iconic American cities—Chicago, Detroit, and New York—this presentation explores what it means to live in a “supervised society” and, more importantly, how we might find our way out.

Reuben Jonathan Miller is an Assistant Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and a faculty affiliate at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. His research examines life at the intersections of race, poverty, crime control, and social welfare policy. He has conducted fieldwork in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Glasgow, London, and Belgrade, examining how law, policy, and emergent practices of state and third-party supervision changed the contours of citizenship, activism, community, and family life for poor black Americans and the urban poor, broadly defined. In 2016, Professor Miller was invited to membership in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, one of the world’s leading centers for curiosity-driven research, and this year, Professor Miller was selected to be a visiting fellow at Dartmouth University.

Miller will share findings from his forthcoming book, Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration. Halfway Home is based on 15 years of research and practice with currently and formerly incarcerated people and will be published by Little, Brown and Company in late 2019.


Chef Darnell Reed’s first memories of food include the wondrous dishes prepared by his great-grandmother, Luella, for whom the restaurant is named. Chef Darnell completed his studies at Chicago’s Washburne Culinary Institute. He began his professional career in 1997 at the Palmer House Hilton where he served as Restaurant Chef at The French Quarter and The Big Downtown. In 2005, he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef at the Embassy Suites Chicago Lakefront. In April 2007, Reed was promoted to the dual Executive Chef position at the Hilton of Oakbrook and Hilton Garden Inn of Oakbrook. In May of 2010, he accepted the Executive Sous Chef position at the Conrad Chicago Hotel and was promoted to Executive Chef in 2011.

If you are interested in being added to the list of artists invited to these gatherings, please email
If you require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in this program, please contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event.