Prison Abolition: Freedom, Punishment, and the Carceral State
In Angela Davis’ 2003 book Are Prisons Obsolete?, she argues that, “We take prisons for granted but are often afraid to face the realities they produce.” How did prisons become a naturalized expectation within our socio-political imaginary? In what ways do their constant presence (re)enforce normative behaviors and social expectations? What is a “carceral state”? Can we understand justice apart from retribution and imprisonment? Taking on the framework of prison abolition requires us to confront what assumptions we make about innocence, and what responsibilities we have (if any) towards those who violate laws or do harm within our society. To explore these questions, we will turn to emerging theoretical and political work on the prison industrial complex, focusing on analyses of racial capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism and internationalism, and the role of slavery and the abolitionist movement in the modern understanding of “freedom.” Readings will be drawn from works by Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Mariame Kaba, George Jackson, Assata Shakur, Katherine McKittrick, Rinaldo Walcott, Jackie Wang, and Derecka Purnell.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
October 16 — November 06, 2023