Abolitionist Feminisms – A Call for Submissions


Calling for Submissions for a special issue of Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics on Abolitionist Feminisms

Edited by Alisa Bierria, Jakeya Caruthers, and Brooke Lober

Nearly 20 years ago, prison abolitionist organizations, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and Critical Resistance produced the pivotal “Statement on Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex.” This was a broad call for movements that creatively and effectively respond to the mutually constitutive relationships between the carceral state and the constancy of domestic and sexual violence, as well as movements that catalyze a vision of worldmaking “based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity.” 

Carceral systems structure and secure a racist and sexist world; legacies of abolition feminisms have created insurgent possibilities that dismantle those systems and invent new forms of relationality. This CfP for Abolitionist Feminisms, a special issue of Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics, aims to explore and extend abolitionist feminist thought and action. Our focus on Abolitionist Feminisms arises from our commitments to feminist approaches to racial justice, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and other political philosophies and formations that constitute a genealogy of anti-carceral feminist epistemologies, strategies, and rebellion. 

For example, women of color feminisms and queer of color politics confront layered and intersecting systems of power and expose processes of marginalization and dispossession through a relational lens that is capacious enough to support coalitions to challenge and disrupt these orders of power. A powerful force catalyzing many forms of racial justice and women of color feminisms, Black feminist praxis is central to visionary abolitionist politics and practice. While the US carceral system anchors antiblackness in the US and globally, and imposes a binary sex-based form of violent control disproportionately on Black people, this CfP invites us to explore how Black feminist analytics such as the matrix of violence, domestic carcerality, paradoxical space, and intersectionality (which not only surfaces interlocking oppressions, but also lays bare the racist fallacies of Law itself) illuminate the structural relationships between confinement, punitivity, control, and intimate violence. 

Likewise, Indigenous feminisms are foundational to abolitionist perspectives. While a colonial state apparatus uses carceral systems to appropriate resources and exact genocide on Indigenous people in the US and beyond, Indigenous feminisms offer models for resistance and repair. How do Indigenous feminist and two-spirit movements shift the paradigm of heteropatriarchal white supremacy (which is central to the carceral apparatus and punitive project of “nation”) and explode with it the boundaries of the so-called “united” states? 

What are the impacts and challenges of carceral systems/logics on racialized and poor women, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people? We invite critical reflections on multivaried forms of feminism that add to an abolitionist feminist constellation. As racist systems of punishment have arisen to police migrants through militarized bordering tactics, feminisms focused on migration and bordering have transgressed and opposed state practices, inhabiting, reformulating, or undermining gender to produce resistance and resilience. As sex workers are targeted by law enforcement, sex worker feminisms merge with sex-positivity to formulate embodied freedoms as feminist praxis, and to challenge the logics of “work” under a capitalist regime. Queer and trans feminisms imagine and enact embodied freedoms, overspilling the confines of dominant scripts that prescribe normative gender and sexuality. 

This call for papers, poetry, interviews, stories, and art for publication in the Abolition journal and blog aims to engage moments of insurgency, creation, and destruction in the spirit of abolitionist feminism. We hope to glean knowledge of actions that fall both within and outside organized formations and movements. We seek submissions that speak to some of the following questions: 

  • What spontaneous and eruptive, or slow and deliberate acts of abolition are historically thriving and presently arriving that exemplify feminist theory and praxis as their thrust?
  • What are historical and contemporary feminist models and traditions for living otherwise — outside, differently with, and against heteropatriarchal carcerality? We invite discussions of possibilities and examples of insurgent tactics in the destruction and subversion of jails and prisons, policing, immigration and youth detention centers, military occupations, state territorialized land, and other carceral systems/logics.
  • What historical and contemporary archives of rebellion provide radical departures from logics of safety, harm, and violence precisely because of their attention to positionality and world-formations of women, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people while attending to hierarchies of class, race, and nation? 
  • How do radical feminist contestations of the longstanding disciplining and punishment of women, trans people, and other gendered others elucidate the multiple “cages” that define the conditions of gendered life?
  • How are organizers (both inside and outside of prison walls) leading the way in mapping the practice and promise of abolitionist feminisms? How does the vast network of mutual aid efforts that are too often overlooked in accounts of abolition politics pose critical subversions of carceral systems/logics?
  • Are there meaningful distinctions between the concepts, “anti-carceral feminism,” “decarceral feminism,” and “abolitionist feminism?” How do their concerns, priorities, and visions of freedom overlap or diverge? 
  • If abolition praxis is (and must be) constituted by transformative feminist politics, how can sexist and anti-queer abolitionist and other anticarceral formations transform to enact a consistent and meaningful feminist ethics?
  • What are feminist theories and practices of “living otherwise” that subvert, undermine, or undo the prison and its logics of carcerality and punishment as control? 
  • How is transformative justice a framework for producing ethical social relations beyond the hierarchies of value imposed by carceral logics, and a feminist practice — or, how could it be?
  • How do these themes articulate praxes that demand an inextricable account of abolition with feminisms? 
  • What is the force of this inextricable demand that carves an abolition praxis of limits that can be nothing but inescapable for future worlds imagined? 

To submit papers, poetry, interviews, and art for this issue, please go to the online system for Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics. We ask for complete submissions by March 31st, 2020. We look forward to receiving your work!

If you have any questions about this call, please send them to brookelober [at] gmail [dot] com.

Free Them All - art by Fizah Omar
“Free Them All” by Fizah Omar


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