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Abolitionist Environmentalism

Sat, October 9, 11:30am to 1:00pm EDT (11:30am to 1:00pm EDT), 4S 2021 Virtual, 8


This panel focuses on the intersection between two prevailing logics in contemporary North America: 1) a dominant environmentalism that focuses on harm minimization or optimization of existing industrial systems, rather than the eradication of the root causes of environmental harms, and 2) the carceral infrastructures and technologies that function to surveil, coerce, confine, and punish (Benjamin 2019). We collectively ask what environmentalism can learn from the insights and demands of prison-industrial complex abolitionists. Abolition insists that broad, cross-sectoral transformations of society, and not harm reduction alone, are necessary for alleviating the impacts of carceral violence. We also seek to better understand the possibilities and limits of what environmental research can do for prison abolition, and what sort of broad coalitions might be necessary to avoid the pitfalls of forensics alone. Our collective papers span the gamut of abolitionist thought and praxis, including: how mediation, accountability, and caretaking are being articulated in Flint, Michigan in the absence of a functioning welfare system; how the biomedical authority of coroners is deeply implicated in a lack of accountability for police violence; a comprehensive assessment of the environmental injustices of the US carceral system; and an inquiry of not only how to make prisons obsolete but how to memorialize decommissioned prisons as sites of violent heritage.


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