When They See Us

Central Park Five Syllabus: A Supplementary Reading List 

As NYC-born and raised educators, organizers and activists who work on issues relating to race, class, criminalization and youth justice, we were deeply touched by the Netflix series When They See Us, directed by Ava DuVernay. Based on the case of the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latinx teenagers who were coerced into confession, wrongly convicted and harshly sentenced to prison for the alleged rape of a white woman, this series captures the socio-political and economic atmosphere of New York City in the eighties and nineties.
… The Netflix series touches on themes relating to race, class, gender, criminalization of youth and media moral panics, which we want to help students further unpack. The readings in this syllabus are meant to supplement the documentary series and allow students to engage critically with the historical and contemporary criminalization of working-class youth of color. We hope that youth educators will add to this syllabus and continue these important conversations inside and outside of the classroom. It is through expanding our knowledge about the past and present that we can organize against the criminalization and incarceration of our youth. Please use #exonerated5syllabus or #WhenTheySeeUsSyllabus to share.

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Abolitionist University Studies: An Invitation

We think it’s time to take up an abolitionist approach to the university. We can’t do it without you. But you’re anxious, as are we, when faced with the uncertainty of what that might entail. We’ve got that in common. Maybe you rather like universities and believe in their value. Or maybe you simply need to have a job, and yours happens to be there. Maybe you’ve been a prison abolitionist since long before everyone was calling themselves one, and you’re concerned about the drift of the signifier “abolitionist” from a specific set of collective struggles to an individual mode of self-branding. Or maybe you saw what the Right did (and continues to do) with calls for the abolition of whiteness from the journal Race Traitor in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And so maybe you’re concerned that bringing the word abolition into too intimate a proximity with the university might offer ammunition to Republicans eager to continue their assaults on higher education and to Democrats eager to distance themselves from the Left.

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Seeking Art Submissions for Our Issue on Spirituality and Abolition

Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics is seeking submissions by artists for our third issue, Spirituality and Abolition, to be edited by Ashon Crawley and Roberto Sirvent. Abolition conceptualizes art as another mode of knowledge creation and investigation, on par with other rigorous academic work. By putting visual art and poetry in conversation with academic articles […]

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Call for Submissions: “Native Liberation and Abolition,” a Blog Series

Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics invites submissions for a new blog series on “Native Liberation and Abolition.” We invite contributions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, writers, activists, organizers, and artists who can offer insight on the historical and contemporary forms of Native liberation movements and the liberatory practices incorporated in Indigenous societies and movement […]

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Rethinking American Prisons

This essay is adapted from Dan Berger and Toussaint Losier’s 2017 Rethinking the American Prison Movement (Routledge Press), a book that examines how incarcerated people have challenged prison conditions and other forms of inequality through strikes, uprisings, and other creative tactics, and in doing so have waged transformational struggles against America’s prison system. We republish it here on occasion of the nationwide prison strike, in the hopes that it will provide useful perspective on the ongoing struggles of our incarcerated comrades. To the end of prisons.

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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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