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Critical Prison Studies Caucus: Abolitionist Feminisms

Sat, November 11, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Atlanta, Ballroom Level West Tower

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format

Abstract

What are the abolitionist horizons of struggle? What feminist histories have been systematically made to vanish from our eyes? Where do we find them? How do we speak them? How do they speak to us? In this roundtable, we use the frame “Abolitionist Feminisms” to describe and connect longstanding, life-giving, creative traditions of resistance––from the everyday survival labors of black women in the community of slaves, to the tactics of sabotage and refusal deployed by women amid the quotidian terror of Jim Crow modernity, to the decades of work by women of color to illuminate and transform the nexus of state and intimate violence, to the present-day movement to disassemble the prison industrial complex and amplify community-driven practices of health, healing, and justice. Attentive to the dangerous proliferation of a ‘carceral feminist’ common sense at local, national, and international levels, session participants work together not only to lift up key figures in an ‘abolitionist feminist’ tradition, but also to challenge the underlying dehumanization and criminalization facing women and people of color in particular on a daily basis. Panelists work through such questions as: how do abolitionist feminist voices push us to expand the scope of what’s traditionally thought of as feminism? In so doing, panelists identify the critical theories and practices of “Abolitionist Feminisms,” towards the development of a series of collected goals, methods, and/or challenges for both academics and activists. Sarah Haley will discuss the abolitionist visions and practices of imprisoned women in Mississippi in the 1930s. Mariame Kaba will provide insight into the contemporary abolitionist organizing movement to defend black women who have been criminalized for self defense against intimate violence. Victoria Law will explore how the organizing of currently and formerly incarcerated women move feminism from Lean-In towards abolition. She will elucidate their challenges to the underlying dehumanization and criminalization facing women on a daily basis, explaining how their voices and actions push us to expand the scope of what's traditionally thought of as feminism. Robin McGinty will examine the systemic challenges in navigating the reentry and community reintegration continuum in New York City through the lens of formerly imprisoned women of color. Based upon her research on New Orleans, Laura McTighe will illuminate the often-hidden black feminist histories, practices, and geographies of struggle in America’s zones of abandonment, asking how abolitionist analyses are built in the context of everyday anti-criminalization work and how these visions for living otherwise become actionable. Dorothy Roberts will offer an analysis of the potential of abolitionist feminism to alter legal and policy frameworks in the context of reproductive, biotechnological, and economic violence and dispossession. Emily Thuma will examine how radical women of color and white antiracist feminists forged an organized resistance to the gendered and racialized violence of the U.S. carceral state in the 1970s and early 1980s. Activists in a range of locales focused their efforts on the interconnections between state violence and interpersonal violence and, in turn, eschewed carceral solutions. Stefanie Jones will serve as chair and moderator.

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