Angela Davis

Angela Davis and Prison Abolitionism

Instructor: Anthony Alessandrini
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

Angela Y. Davis’ 2003 book, Are Prisons Obsolete?, is arguably the foundational text for the intellectual and political work being done by the prison abolitionist movement today. More broadly, Davis’ wide-ranging writing and political activism over the past five decades mark her as one of the most important intellectuals of our time.

In this class, we will survey Davis’ body of work—from early autobiographical writings about her own time as a political prisoner, through ground-breaking books like Women, Race, & Class and Abolition Democracy, to her most recent work on the meaning of freedom and the just-published book Abolition. Feminism. Now, co-authored with Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners, and Beth E. Richie—and situate it in the developing context of the prison abolition movement. This course will locate Davis’ work within the Black Radical and Black Marxist traditions as well as in relation to her Frankfurt School teachers, Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno. We will consider Davis’s work and these background currents alongside emerging theoretical and political work on the global prison industrial complex, focusing on her analyses of racial capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism and internationalism, and the role of slavery and the abolitionist movement in the modern understanding of “freedom.” Accompanying texts will include works by writers such as W. E. B. DuBois, Michel Foucault, Cedric Robinson, Joy James, Stuart Hall, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, bell hooks, Mariame Kaba, Liat Ben-Moshe, and Michelle Alexander.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
May 10 — May 31, 2022
4 weeks


Registration Open

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