Submit for the Abolition Blog! – An Open Call to Amplify Local Resistance

With the Trump regime upon us, the Abolition Journal blog aims to highlight the organizing happening in communities by featuring examples of local resistance projects. We hope that this platform can contribute to inspiring the ongoing work of mutual aid, solidarity, direct action, and debates amongst resistance movements. We seek to combat the liberal-capitalist co-optation […]

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"Dancing in one spot number 6" by Ashon Crawley

Spirituality and Abolition – Call for Submissions

A Call for Submissions for an issue of the Abolition journal on “Spirituality and Abolition,” to be edited by Ashon Crawley.

Abolition is a spiritual practice, a spiritual journey, a spiritual commitment. What does abolition mean and how can we get there as a collective and improvisational project, how can we define it and get there as a desired and desirous practice? To make a claim for abolition as spiritual practice, journey and commitment is to consider the ways abolition — in the historical and contemporary sense including movements against slavery, prisons, the wage system, animal and earth exploitation, racialized, gendered, and sexualized violence, and the death penalty; movements against patriarchy, capitalism, heteronormativity, ableism, colonialism, the state, white supremacy, etc. — necessitates epistemologies that have been foreclosed through violent force by Western thought of philosophical and theological kinds, it is to claim that the material conditions that will produce abolition are necessarily Black, Indigenous, queer and trans, feminist, and also about disabled and other non-conforming bodies in force and verve.

This Call for Submissions asks: what can prison abolition teach us about spiritual practice, spiritual journey, spiritual commitment? And, what can these things underscore about the struggle for abolition as a desired manifestation of material change in worlds we inhabit currently? To ask about the relation between abolition and spirituality is not to contend fundamentally with particular doctrines, creeds or theologies rooted in particularities of religious traditions, though those traditions in their particularities might create a path in the direction of such an idea and imagined possibility. It is to consider the ways abolition provides a framework for thinking with and also against the strictures of doctrine, creeds and theologies that have us contend against each other for purportedly squandered resources of imagined connection. To consider the relation of abolition to spiritual practice, spiritual journey, spiritual commitment, is to underscore the resurgence, survivance, reparation, and oppositional futurities of Black, Indigenous, queer and trans, feminist, and also about disabled and other non-conforming bodies imagination, being in worlds otherwise. We seek essays, poetry, artwork and reflections that attempt to think through these relations and relationalities.

Please submit abstracts to Ashon Crawley – [email protected] – by November 1, 2018.

Final submissions will be due by March 1, 2019.

The image above is a painting titled “Dancing in one spot number 6” by Ashon Crawley.

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Democracy Against Representation: A Radical Realist View

by Paul Raekstad

Abstract: 

In recent years, radical movements from the Arab Spring to Occupy and beyond have been calling for “democracy.” These movements also claim to reject representation—a keystone of many contemporary liberal understandings of democracy. How can we make sense of this? There is ongoing debate about this in these movements and their descendants, part of which consists in figuring out what we should take “democracy” to mean. This article tries to contribute to this process of collective self-clarification by reconstructing one notion of what we could take “democracy” to mean. Thereafter, we will see how we can use this concept to make sense of the critique of representation in many contemporary radical movements and how useful it can be for helping to guide social change and the practices seeking to bring it about. I will thus argue that a coherent conception of democracy can be found, and that it can be a powerful tool both for understanding and critiquing the shortcomings of contemporary societies and for guiding our efforts to overcome them.

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Already Something More: Heteropatriarchy and the Limitations of Rights, Inclusion, And the Universal

There have been significant expansions in civil and human rights for queer and trans people, yet systemic power relations that cause violence and harm continue. How might we account for this contradiction? This article examines how this problem does not exist in the “misapplication of rights” but rather in the root connections between heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism, and universal rights. This article argues, by way of engagement with a genealogical inquiry into the colonial disciplining of “civility” through the imposition of the gender binary and heterosexuality, that demands for LGBT inclusion into the sphere of universal protection via rights-based redress is inherently limited because of its colonial construction. This article builds from contemporary queer and trans critique of the mainstream gay rights agenda, and aims to demonstrate that incorporation through the achievement of rights-based inclusion ultimately will not shift the deeper power dynamics of heteropatriarchy within settler colonialism.

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Albert Ponce speaks at a DACA event at Diablo Valley College on Sept. 7, 2017. (Photo by Olivier Alata)

Abolition Collective Statement of Support for Albert Ponce

Last October, Albert Ponce, a member of the Abolition Collective, who teaches at Diablo Valley College, gave a lecture on campus, addressing the historical reality of the United States as a white supremacist, patriarchal, heteronormative, capitalist system. This lecture was recorded, and subsequently shared across social media by an array of alt-right, white supremacist forces who, emboldened by the current political landscape, have seized the opportunity to harass him.

Prof. Ponce has become the target of a racist internet troll campaign run by Red Elephant, Breitbart News and others, and has been subjected to hundreds of death threats. He has been subjected to doxxing since December of last year.

The Abolition Collective unequivocally supports Albert Ponce and his body of work. We defend his speech not only on the grounds of academic freedom and free speech, but even more strongly on the basis of its political content.

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Burn it Down: Abolition, Insurgent Political Praxis, and the Destruction of Decency

“Let us burn this motherfucking system to the ground and build something better.”

-Claire Vaye Watkins

In this article, the authors examine the ways in which the state, broadly understood as a technique, practice, and effect of modern governance and its optimization, creates impossible conditions for radical political transformation in the U.S. To illustrate these conditions, the authors show how the state relies upon notions of decency or civility to enact and elide blatant colonialism. The authors draw from the following examples to advance this argument: the “EPA Spill” or the ongoing environmental genocide shaping life across occupied Indigenous lands in the U.S. Southwest; the surprising, yet all too ordinary, election of President Trump; and the racist detainment of children from Central America in the name of humanitarian “law and order.” The authors contend that because these acts illustrate how Euro-American colonial norms continue to shape everyday violence, abolition as a praxis and vision must contend with how to burn down all of the mechanics of contemporary governance, to cooperatively dismantle the state as such, before promoting alternative social systems and political worlds. One way that the authors propose to accomplish this is to incinerate decency as an organizing precept for democracy, civic comportment, and political participation.

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Meeting Mumia Abu-Jamal: The most well known political prisoner in the US

He was Mumia Abu-Jamal, an award winning journalist, a former member of the Black Panther Party and the most well-known political prisoner in the U.S. We were two Black women, who were members of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home (CBMH), a grassroots organization formed by scholar-activist Johanna Fernandez in 2012 to bridge Mumia’s long standing support base in the movement to free political prisoners with a new generation of young people fighting to end mass incarceration. CBMH members had been placed on Mumia’s list of authorized visitors and serendipitously, me and Sophia’s names had been the first two to be cleared. For years we had occasionally written to Mumia and spoken to him on the phone when he called into conference calls, meetings or events. The opportunity to meet him in the flesh had pushed us out of our beds at 5am that chilly fall morning and jump started an unforgettable journey.

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Abolitionist Agency of (Political) Prisoners

The Abolition Collective is helping to highlight the agency of the incarcerated in abolitionisms of incarceration/policing/executions. We also support the right of the incarcerated to teach about abolitionism. A forthcoming Blog on the Abolitionist Agency of (Political) Prisoners invites contributions in prose, analysis, poetry, visual culture. Questions raised for consideration include: Where do the analyses of […]

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All our Community’s Voices: Unteaching the Prison Literacy Complex

by Michael Sutcliffe

Education, and particularly literacy, is often held up as a panacea for criminality and the key to prisoners’ reinvented social mobility. Reformers, educators, administrators, and government-funded corporate surveys tell us that if prisoners are educated, their behaviors will change as they learn to “solve their problems” in constructive rather than destructive ways. While much is to be said for the value of education, learning to read and write according to institutionally authorized conventional modes of discourse does little to counter the systems of state-sponsored violence, near-permanent poverty, racism, and devastating economic inequity that propagate the prison industrial complex.

This essay will demonstrate how current applications of prisoner education contribute to a “Prison Literacy Complex” by assuming deficits in the prisoner and positing education as remediation or as therapy. Traditional top-down models of literacy and their “voices-in” pedagogies mask systemic privilege and stratification. Instead, I argue for a “voices-out” pedagogical reframing for community programs in prisons and jails that can further substantive, redistributive social change. By bringing silenced voices and counterhegemonic memories out from behind bars, community efforts can reveal inconsistencies in popular “truths” and inspire the historicized criticism necessary for sustained projects of abolition. While primarily addressed to educators and community organizers working inside, the theoretical reorientation is a broader call for rethinking and reteaching ideological inheritance and community participation.

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(re)Thinking Sex Positivity, Abolition Feminism, and the #MeToo Movement: Opportunity for a New Synthesis

by Brooke Lober

Sexism, gendered harassment, and sexual assault are so common in our culture that they constitute norms; the phrase “rape culture” puts a name to this phenomenon. While assault and harassment remain rampant, a renewed sexual conservatism—consonant with the current right-wing power-grab and evacuation of the already ravaged social safety net—reproduces systematic inequity through an overt culture of misogyny, along with the privileging of marriage and monogamous partnership, heterosexuality, and sex/gender normativity. This hierarchy is produced at the expense of sexual outsiders including survivors of rape, abuse, and harassment, who lead the current public outcry on gender-based violence.

For the last forty years and more, feminist and queer movements have arisen to identify and resist the conditions of social subordination that are created through sex and gender hierarchy, while at the same time, these movements propose expansions of sexual freedom and gender self-determination. The current wave of protest and public speech against sexual violence, under the sign of #MeToo, while extraordinary, is not without precedent. But it offers a renewed chance to synthesize a popular framework for freedom through which we can work toward two longstanding feminist goals: freedom from sexual violence, and freedom to enact and celebrate all forms of consensual sexuality. Two feminist actions demonstrate these two aspects of sexual liberty. Since 1975, Take Back the Night marches and rallies have provided space for the outpouring of stories of sexual assault; and since 2011, Slutwalk has offered a site for the reclamation of self-determined sexuality as a public, political, and participatory act. While often emerging as opposed interests, freedom from violence and the struggle for sexual liberation are linked. As Adrienne Marie Brown writes, “Your strong and solid no makes way for your deep, authentic yes.” Feminist movements including women of color feminism, abolition feminism, and the sex-workers’ rights movement all offer possibilities for the integration of freedom from sexual coercion, and the freedom to engage in all consensual forms of sex. The radical imaginaries offered by these movements are crucial for activists who are now considering the next steps for countering omnipresent sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.

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Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Foter.com / CC BY-NC.

“Prison Treated Me Way Better Than You”: Reentry, Perplexity, and the Naturalization of Mass Imprisonment

Renée M. Byrd

In the absence of a critique of the logics at the heart of the prison industrial complex, seemingly progressive trends such as prisoner reentry initiatives will simply bolster racialized state violence. This essay grapples with questions of representation and power, and details how the disposability of imprisoned people is reproduced and renaturalized through carceral practices. Academic accounts continue to be complicit in this process, without a complex theorizing of subjectivity, representation, and state violence. This essay uses interviews with formerly imprisoned people in the Twin Cities to disrupt the way that formerly imprisoned people’s narratives are “mined as rich sources” in pathologizing and voyeuristic ways. Prisoner reentry programs appear progressive on the surface; however, they expand the prison industrial complex through perplexing logics that make it harder for women to navigate toward freedom. I use the notion of perplexity as a rubric for understanding penal logics and subjectivities as they emerged in my interviews with people recently released from Minnesota’s only women’s prison and analyze how they reproduce the vulnerability of people leaving prison. The gender-responsive façade of this unique prison and the surveillance orientation of reentry programs naturalized imprisonment as a solution to social problems in deeply problematic ways.

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Beyond revanchism? Gentrification, prisons and anti-colonial revenge

Max Haiven is Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Northwest Ontario and director of the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL). He writes articles for both academic and general audiences and is the author of the books Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons, The Radical Imagination: Social […]

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