"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.

“Break Every Chain”: An Engagement with _Break Every Yoke: Religion, Justice, and the Abolition of Prisons_ by Joshua Dubler and Vincent Lloyd

by Joy James –
Spirituality without structure is not easily sustained in hostile, authoritarian environments. Although religions have historically been practitioners of organized predatory violence (the Catholic church’s child abuse scandals come to mind), Break Every Yoke illustrates how we can counter violence with religion that supports resilience and a healthy spirituality to resist: school to prison pipelines, foster care, residential homes for special needs children, detention centers, mental asylums, solitary confinement, death row, political imprisonment and mass incarceration.

Mass Incarceration Is Religious (and So Is Abolition): A Provocation

by Joshua Dubler and Vincent Lloyd

[This intervention is part of Abolition’s inaugural issue.]

 

The United States is not just a nation with an enormous number of prisons. It is a prison nation. Carceral logics and affects pervade U.S. culture, including in the arguments we make and in the fear and fury we feel. Not all Americans are equally implicated, but none of us is untouched. Just as Clifford Geertz once read from a cockfight a set of collectively shared secrets endemic to and constitutive of Balinese culture, so too in the United States today, careful observers can witness the knot of pathologies rooted in our prisons, pathologies that are also endemic to the politics and culture outside the walls. Mass incarceration contributes to this culture and politics, and it depends on it. A cursory list of our carceral maladies would include racial inequities, brutal class conflict, the violence of rigid gender norms, broken health care, hollow rhetoric of rights, the management of bare life, and much more. For our nation the prison is an apt synecdoche, and there’s no way to disentangle the part from the whole. For readers of Abolition, in asserting the preceding we are surely breaking little new ground.

Where we might stir you to surprise or resistance pertains to the issue of religion. Coastal elites and the media they control generally portray a country governed by fundamentally secular ideals, but the majority of our fellow citizens and non-citizens know better. We say this not to trot out statistics showing how many of us believe in God, or to venerate the vantage point of the marginalized millions who do. It is to make a more substantive claim about the ideals and values that motivate Americans to collective action. Namely, even those of us who would never be caught dead in a church are filled by the spirit of religion to roughly the same degree that we are subjects of this great and grotesque nation. American culture is soaked through with religious languages, practices, and themes: redemption, hope, love of neighbor, hate of other neighbor, beloved community, holy crusade. These and other religious tropes are woven into the national cultural fabric, and they furnish the tools by which Americans fashion selves and collectivities. This is true of those who comprise the ruling order, and it is equally if not especially true of those of us who struggle to dismantle that order. Considered in this way, religion then becomes a promise and a problem. In public, private, and in mass mediated spaces, elites frequently repress or carefully manage religion – just as they repress or carefully manage race, gender, sexuality, disability, immigration, and labor, so as to smoothly and seamlessly integrate these sites of potential disruption into the workings of power and flows of capital. To understand the U.S. as a prison nation—and to cure the maladies that afflict us—it is imperative that we understand the U.S. as a religious prison nation, and more specifically, as a Christian prison nation.

Read moreMass Incarceration Is Religious (and So Is Abolition): A Provocation