Issue 13.2 | Spring 2016 / Guest edited by Soniya Munshi and Craig Willse

Centering Prison Abolition in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

In Unmaking the Public University, Christopher Newfield powerfully reframes the contemporary crisis in higher education as a result not of impoverished state budgets but of a concerted conservative offensive against the democratizing and equalizing potential of public universities. Newfield notes that attacks on the legitimacy of racial justice projects within universities ranging from ethnic studies to affirmative action have figured prominently in this assault and that the unmaking of the public university emerged as a political project just as the university might have become a vehicle for the production of a multiracial middle class.[1] Arguing that “the culture wars were economic wars,” Newfield astutely shows how attacks on the university in the terrain of cultural politics through, for example, battles over the canon, the discourse of political correctness, and the targeting of radical professors facilitated the defunding of public higher education.[2] These attacks, which framed the university as plagued by excess, declining standards, and inefficiency rationalized the imposition of corporate principles on university funding and governance. As a result, privatization and the reorientation of the university toward profit generation have justified cuts in public funding, producing a massive budget crisis that “necessitates” furloughs, tuition increases, growing student debt, the increasing reliance on underpaid and overworked contingent labor, the consolidation or elimination of interdisciplinary programs such as ethnic studies and gender studies, and the devaluing of knowledge that does not have immediate utilitarian, capitalist functions.

Not coincidentally, the unmaking of the public university has coincided with what Ruth Wilson Gilmore has identified as the largest prison-building project in the history of the world.[3] As public universities have been systematically defunded, state investment in policing and prisons has grown tremendously. As Gilmore shows, this boom in prison building was fuelled by a series of crises in which surpluses of land, finance capital, labor, and state capacity produced by globalization were mobilized toward prison expansion. The resulting prison-industrial complex, an interconnected formation of state and capitalist interests, put forward prisons and policing as solutions to social, economic and political problems. In a context in which the Keynesian state’s legitimacy was increasingly called into question through tax revolts and the demonization of government services, the growing prison-industrial complex offered the state an opportunity to reinvent itself as a guarantor of safety and security.[4] This transformation can be seen clearly in the trade-off that has occurred between funding for higher education and funding for prisons and policing. For example, between 1980 and 2011, the state of California built more than 20 new prisons while constructing only one new college campus. While the state’s spending on higher education steadily declined from 15.2% to 12.7% of the total budget during this same period, criminal justice related expenditures steadily increased from 2.9% to 10.5%.[5] Placing Newfield’s analysis in the context of this massive prison expansion demonstrates that the fate of universities and the fate of prisons are deeply intertwined. Given the growing obstacles to higher education for Black and Brown students and the increasing rates of incarceration of youth of color, the state increasingly makes space for young people of color in prison cells rather than in university classrooms.

This context has sparked a growing demand for “education not incarceration,” an effort that makes visible the direct relationship between funding for higher education and funding for prisons. However, given the extent to which the university has also become a part of the prison-industrial complex, education and incarceration cannot easily be conceived of as opposites. Rather, today’s universities are very much a part of carceral economies. Not only do universities do business with corporations that provide privatized services in prisons and invest endowment funds in corrections corporations, they increasingly produce a workforce for and manufacture many of the logics and much of the research that sustain the prison-industrial complex.[6] In addition, the university acts as a gateway to different life possibilities for racially and class-differentiated populations. The university offers the promise of work, opportunity, achievement, and a better life for those who have access and who can bear the increasing costs. This promise, of course, is dependent on fundamentally leaving established life pathways intact and reinforcing those pathways by creating limited avenues of movement between them. As it offers upward mobility within society the way it is, the university also disciplines students and narrows the parameters through which they might imagine change in their own lives and in society at large, a phenomenon that is further compounded by the ways that growing student debt increasingly tethers higher education to future labor discipline.[7]

These dynamics have particular implications for those of us situated in programs that center the production of oppositional knowledges within the university. Not only are our programs often the first to fall victim to budget cuts, in the context of this contingency, we must also navigate the contradictions of working for radical change in institutions that are embedded within the very structures we oppose. This essay reflects on those contradictions with an eye toward what they mean for the field of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies (WGSS).[8] I look specifically at WGSS not only because it is where I am located but also because WGSS has had a particularly fraught relationship with the prison-industrial complex. Despite the fact that women and LGBT people are frequent targets of the criminal-justice system, WGSS scholars in conjunction with mainstream feminist and LGBT movements have often turned to that same system as a remedy to various forms of gendered and sexualized violence. From domestic violence to sexual assault to hate crimes, criminalization has emerged as a key strategy in mainstream struggles against violence, and, in many ways, the increased visibility of feminism, LGBT identities, and WGSS is intimately connected to their articulation to hegemonic law-and-order politics. To the extent that protecting some women and LGBT individuals has become a justification for prison expansion, WGSS programs have a responsibility to critically evaluate their relationship to the prison-industrial complex and are a crucial site from which to cultivate abolitionist politics within the neoliberal university.

I begin by exploring the historical relationship between WGSS programs, antiviolence movements, and the prison-industrial complex. Drawing on research on antiviolence movements and my experience teaching in a WGSS program at an urban public university that was deeply affected by neoliberal restructuring, I argue that the particular conceptions of identity that have been central to neoliberal social movements form the ground upon which problematic articulations between WGSS, mainstream feminist and LGBT movements, and the prison-industrial complex have been built. These connections limit our work by confining it to the terrain of promoting diversity, moving classroom interactions away from collaborative learning and toward more authoritarian structures, and conflating activism with service work in nonprofit organizations. Both the mandates of institutionalization and the precarious position of WGSS within the university exacerbate these dynamics. The second part of the essay asks more concretely what it would mean to center abolition within WGSS and how abolitionist frameworks might change the identities and issues that are central to our work. Throughout, my concern is not so much about making permanent space for WGSS and other liberatory projects within the university as it is about relocating the university as a central site of social struggle. As such, I believe abolition offers one important opening through which we might reimagine liberatory education.

Identity, Power, and Prisons

The first women’s studies programs were institutionalized in the 1970s as a result of feminist organizing on the part of students, faculty, and community members. Despite the diversity of feminist activism at the time, early women’s studies curricula tended to center the experiences of white, upper-middle class women in the United States. This was both a reflection of unequal power dynamics within feminist movements and the propensity of institutionalization to draw out the forms of activism that were least threatening to state interests. As a result, issues such as access to birth control and abortion, sexual assault, domestic violence, pornography, the glass ceiling, and inequalities between women and men came to be seen as clearly marking the terrain of women’s studies whereas issues such as immigration, colonialism, residential segregation, incarceration, and inequalities between women did not. Similar observations can also be made about early gay and lesbian studies programs and their tendency to center white gay identities that were privileged in relation to the actual diversity of LGBT social movements.

Since their institutionalization, there has been considerable critique of the foundational identities that organized the fields of women’s studies and LGBT studies. Critiques of the idea of global sisterhood and a global gay identity have made visible the imperialism and racism of many of the categories that organize the field.[9] For example, as Chandra Mohanty argued many years ago, the assumption that women are a coherent group that share common political interests functioned to not only obscure important differences between women but also contributed to the construction of a “homogenous Third World woman” who lacked agency and lagged behind her Western sisters.[10] Similarly, Cathy Cohen pointed to the limits of identity-based politics organized around the single axis of straight versus queer. Cohen argued that this dichotomy failed to account for the complex ways in which discourses about sexual normativity function to secure racial, class, and gender-based oppression and in doing so privileged white queer experiences.[11] Both Mohanty and Cohen called for a more complex interrogation of power that moved beyond the framework of presumed shared identities. Mohanty argued for a deeper interrogation of how categories are constituted while Cohen put forward a model of coalitional politics structured by shared relationships to power rather than a presumed common identity.

Despite many critiques such as these, WGSS is frequently still organized around the identities that Mohanty, Cohen, and many others challenged. While theoretically the field appears to have embraced concepts like intersectionality, this embrace has not necessarily meant a transformation of our understanding of categories like women or LGBT. Rather, intersectionality has frequently been appropriated as a call for plurality and inclusiveness—a move more in line with neoliberal multiculturalism than with the radical critiques from which the concept emerged. This reflects how neoliberalism cultivates depoliticizing understandings of identity by simultaneously displacing struggles over material inequalities with the representation of identities and elevating forms of identity that are atomizing rather than collectivizing.[12] These particular conceptions of identity provide the ground upon which connections between mainstream feminist and LGBT social movements, WGSS programs, and the expansion of the prison-industrial complex have been elaborated.

The relationship between antiviolence organizing and WGSS programs clearly illustrates this phenomenon. Many of the early founders of women’s studies programs were involved in mainstream antiviolence organizing, and violence against women became a national concern alongside the proliferation and expansion of women’s studies departments. As Kristin Bumiller demonstrates, the rise of neoliberal social policy had a pronounced effect on feminist antiviolence movements. In the context of the declining legitimacy of social welfare programs and increasing support for anticrime initiatives, antiviolence activists adopted strategies that focused on rehabilitating individual victims and criminalizing perpetrators.[13] As Bumiller notes, these strategies amounted to “a joining of forces with a neoliberal project of social control.”[14] One result of this strategy was the proliferation of feminist nonprofit organizations that focused on rehabilitating victims by providing shelter, job training, and therapeutic services. As these organizations became increasingly professionalized and dependent on state and foundation funding, their growing service orientation eclipsed any sense of victims of violence as part of a shared political struggle.[15] As Annanya Bhattacharjee observes, shelters depoliticize violence against women in that “they do not threaten important principles of straight bourgeois society: individualism, ideas of privacy, reluctance in naming the oppressor, a belief in the legal system, and a desire for feel-good benevolence.”[16] As I discuss below, WGSS programs often develop collaborations with these organizations and the growth of this particular nonprofit sector has offered many of our graduates a career trajectory.

The turn toward criminalization within antiviolence activism relied upon the construction of women as innocent victims of violence who deserve protection from the state, a premise that excluded criminalized populations from the fruits of antiviolence activism. As Beth Richie explains, “[b]y likening [violence against women] to other forms of assault . . . what we did was categorically exclude women who were involved in illegal activity from the services they need as battered women.”[17] Undocumented immigrants, substance users, sex workers, welfare recipients, and individuals from criminalized communities such as people of color, queers, and transgender people were more likely to be targeted by than helped by the criminal-justice institutions that antiviolence activists turned to. Derived from an analysis that both failed to consider the intersectional character of structures of oppression and created a false separation between interpersonal violence and state violence, criminalization linked mainstream antiviolence activism to hegemonic discourses about law and order. These strategies framed the state as a protector rather than as a perpetrator of violence and in doing so failed to address and even exacerbated the myriad of forms of state violence that women of color and other marginalized groups experience on a day-to-day basis.[18]

Mainstream LGBT antiviolence activism reflects a similar set of problems.[19] For example, rather than address the structural dimensions of violence, hate-crimes legislation both individualizes violence by transforming it into a question of law and order and absolves the state and society of responsibility for that violence. As Lamble observes in relation to Transgender Day of Remembrance, the narratives that have been deployed to garner recognition of transphobic violence rely heavily on casting transgender victims of violence as innocent victims. These narratives fail to grapple with the specificities of violence against transgender people or to make broader connections between this violence and others forms of state-sanctioned violence, particularly state violence against people of color.[20] As a result, “the trans murder victim emerges as the product of an individual hatred or fear rather than the result of accumulative effects of social institutions (such as legal, economic, and political systems) that are founded on, and perpetuate, complex hierarchies of power and violence (such as White supremacy, patriarchy and heteronormativity).”[21] As Chandan Reddy points out, the passage of the Matthew Sheppard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 demonstrates the ways in which hate-crime legislation has been predicated on legitimating state violence. Reddy argues that this conjuncture is not merely a pragmatic accident but rather that the hate-crime law functions as the amendment which justifies the violent powers of the state, thereby tying emancipation to the maintenance of the nation-state form.[22]

As a result of the ways mainstream antiviolence movements have interacted with the state, protecting some women and LGBT individuals has become a new face of the prison-industrial complex. These movements justify prison expansion by constituting a new set of innocent victims that need protecting and casting the criminal-justice system as an ally to feminist and LGBT interests. In making these alliances with the state, mainstream feminist and LGBT movements further expand the hegemony of carceral logics by depicting the prison as a solution to rather than a source of violence. Importantly, the reframing of violence against women and LGBT people as a crime rather than a structural problem has been central to the construction of these issues as worthy of national attention. These political strategies have produced an increased visibility of women and LGBT people as vulnerable populations. However, that vulnerability is embedded in a construction of identity grounded in the logics of the prison-industrial complex, particularly a binary understanding of innocence and guilt and the translation of pain into state-sanctioned vengeance. Significantly, as Emily Thuma has observed, the ascendancy of criminal-justice frameworks for understanding violence was not an inevitable outcome of organizing in this time period. Rather, more radical feminist and queer organizing actively made connections between state violence and interpersonal violence, even conceptualizing incarceration as violence against women.[23] However, because these grassroots efforts did not seek and/or were not compatible with institutionalization, they remain marginalized within feminist and LGBT historiographies. This marginalization is at least in part an effect of how academic women’s studies chooses to construct feminist history, a process that is also shaped by the mandates of incorporation into the university.

The emergence of political claims and analysis grounded in victimized identities relies heavily on constituting women and LGBT people as innocent and deserving state protection. As Wendy Brown argues, political strategies that derive from identities rooted in shared injury are dangerous when they elicit claims to protection from the state rather than claims to power.[24] In this context, the particular framing of injury in the language of crime is especially significant in that it fundamentally ties these identities to the logics of the prison-industrial complex. As a result, one way that these logics are internalized and prisons are naturalized is on the very terrain of identification. If to assert rights and belonging as a woman or LGBT person is to assert one’s innocence and deservingness, it is always in contrast to other populations who must be guilty and undeserving. These claims to innocence and deservingness reinforce binary understandings of innocence and guilt and deserving and undeserving rather than challenging the processes by which these dichotomies are constructed. The assumption that one’s innocence warrants rights and protection not only excludes anyone who cannot meet the requirements of innocence but also fails to recognize that innocence is contingent not on one’s behavior or character but rather on state determination.

The politics of identity that mainstream antiviolence movements engage in frequently seeks recognition and representation of particular identity categories within the nation rather than a transformation of the structures that constrain ways of being in the world. Agathangelou, Bassichis, and Spira use the term “affective economies” to describe “the circulation and mobilization of feelings of desire, pleasure, fear, and repulsion utilized to seduce all of us into the fold of the state—the various ways in which we become invested emotionally, libidinally, and erotically in global capitalism’s mirages of safety and inclusion.”[25] Looking specifically at the homonormative turn in LGBT politics, they show how inclusion in the nation is produced through a process of seduction in which investment in state violence is linked to a false promise to end oppression and pain. These affective economies are clearly at work in mainstream antiviolence activism that invests in the prison-industrial complex in exchange for the false promise to end violence against women and LGBT people. By funneling activist desires to end violence into state recognition and protection of particularly conceived identities such as women and LGBT, these affective economies forcibly erase alternatives to prisons, forms of identification not grounded in state categories, and feminist and queer visions of radical change.

Together, the reliance on innocence and the emphasis on inclusion work to construct identity in privatizing and demobilizing ways. Rather than constitute identities such as women, queers, or transgender people as a collective basis for solidarity, these movements ground identity in a shared vulnerability to crime rather than a shared structural location or a common vision for the future. To be clear, this is not a critique of identity-based politics in general but rather a critique of a particular modality of identity politics that is central to neoliberalism.[26] Identity itself is a historical practice, not just in the sense that identity categories change over time, but also in that what it means to identify with and fashion oneself through particular categories and how subjects do that are contingent on geographical and historical context. For knowledge formations organized around identity such as WGSS, this means that we must be attentive not just to an array of particular identities but also to how identity itself is structured in different contexts.

Not coincidentally, the mainstreaming of feminist and LGBT antiviolence movements has coincided with the proliferation and expansion of WGSS programs. In heightening the visibility of particular feminist and LGBT identities while putting forward a model of identity politics that aligns with state interests, these mainstream movements increase the legitimacy of WGSS in that they provide an accessible lens through which administrators and students might define what we do. In the context of widespread budget cuts, appealing to these mainstream understandings can seem like an effective and necessary means of justifying WGSS programs’ continued existence. However, this increased visibility can shape expectations of our work in highly problematic ways. This is particularly evident in how WGSS is situated in relation to the rubric of diversity, the way the affective economies of the prison-industrial complex play out in the classroom, and how activism becomes institutionalized within WGSS programs.

Increasingly, WGSS programs are conceptualized as part of university diversity missions. As antiviolence movements have elevated neoliberal feminist and LGBT politics to the national agenda, they have solidified the mandate that the concerns of women and LGBT people should be incorporated into university curricula and student services. Many student-service programs are closely modeled after or emerge directly from mainstream antiviolence organizing, and while it has been important for universities to look critically at the environments they create for women and LGBT students, these programs often mirror the limitations of activism at the national level by employing analyses of violence and hate that focus on individual behaviors rather than structural conditions. Frequently, WGSS programs are conflated with student services, the presumption being that our courses will help students navigate, explore, and find pride in their own identities or relate more comfortably to those who are different from them rather than engage in critical social and historical analysis. Within women’s studies especially, feminist practices such as consciousness-raising, invocation of the personal as political, and emphasis on finding one’s own voice can be easily coopted toward the diversity mission of the university. When divorced from a larger critique of power, these tropes can confine identity to the terrain of the personal—effectively depoliticizing it. In this context, WGSS often gets positioned as having a service function within the university in ways that parallel the emergence of antiviolence service organizations. In both cases, spaces in which institutions might be critiqued are understood as spaces that provide a valuable corrective service to those institutions, thereby confining the possibilities of change to the terrain of reform. Within the university context, being seen as a service is a double-edged sword. While services are necessary, they are not seen as part of the core mission of the university, and therefore, in times of austerity, they are easily dispensed with. In this way, the positioning as a service reiterates WGSS’s contingency within the university.

WGSS is also interestingly positioned in relation to discourses about racial diversity within the university. Efforts to remedy WGSS’s history of racism have often focused on diversifying the curriculum by including and often requiring more courses about women of color and to a lesser extent queer people of color and women and queer people in the Global South. Within WGSS, this approach has been problematic in that it often fails to decenter whiteness in the field as a whole by simply adding “special” courses to diversify the curriculum rather than transforming the central questions that define the field. This often contributes to what Chandra Mohanty describes as a “feminist as tourist” experience for students in which they get to consume difference without necessarily examining the material connections between their own lives and the lives of other people.[27] What is most dangerous about these moves toward diversity is the way in which they sever representations of difference from material struggle. As Jodi Melamed argues, antiracist projects that have been institutionalized within universities have tended to frame racism as an individualized, interpersonal, and identity-related concern rather than as rooted in material structures of domination.[28] Despite decreasing enrollment of Black and Brown students, poor support systems for students of color, and racially hostile campus climates, representations of diversity allow universities to claim antiracism. In addition, the growing pressures of tuition hikes, high unemployment, and student debt (all of which disproportionately impact women; transgender students; and students of color, who as a result of racial and gender disparities in employment and wages have lower lifetime earning potential) often drive students away from fields like WGSS and toward professionalizing degrees.

At many colleges and universities, these dynamics translate into faculty teaching courses about the experiences of women of color and queer people of color to a largely white student population. As faculty members, it is incumbent on us to recognize how the larger context in which we teach shapes what happens in our classrooms and that transforming that context is fundamental to building education that is truly linked to social justice.

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Footnotes
  1. Christopher Newfield, Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011). [Return to text]
  2. Newfield 2011. [Return to text]
  3. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley: U of California P, 2007) 5. [Return to text]
  4. Gilmore 2007: 5. [Return to text]
  5. California Budget Project, “Where Do California’s Tax Dollars Go” (2011). Available at http://cbp.org/publications/publications.html. [Return to text]
  6. Julia C. Oparah, “Challenging Complicity: The Neoliberal University and the Prison-Industrial Complex,” The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent, eds. Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2014) 99-121. [Return to text]
  7. As Amanda Armstrong argues, “Debt carries a gravitational force, which draws students on into futures subordinated to its imperatives.” See Amanda Armstrong, “Debt and the Student Strike: Antagonisms in the Sphere of Social Reproduction,” Reclamations Blog, 4 Jun 2012. Available at http://www.reclamationsjournal.org/blog/?p=581. [Return to text]
  8. While there have been extensive debates about naming within the field and individual departments have chosen a broad range of names, throughout this essay, I use women’s, gender and sexuality studies broadly to signify departments that were founded under the rubric of women’s studies and have since expanded their scope. In the context of the analysis presented here, the move toward WGSS is significant in that it responds to critiques that problematize the category of women, although it does not always decentralize that category. WGSS also denotes the growing tendency to link women’s studies and queer studies in a single formation. [Return to text]
  9. Chandra Mohanty, “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses,” Feminist Review 30 (1988): 61–88; Martin Manalansan IV, “In the Shadows of Stonewall: Examining Gay Transnational Politics and the Diasporic Dilemma,” The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, eds. Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd (Durham: Duke UP, 1997) 485–505. [Return to text]
  10. Mohanty 1998. [Return to text]
  11. Cathy J. Cohen, “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 3.4 (1997): 437–465. [Return to text]
  12. The invocation of the category women of color within women’s studies exemplifies this phenomenon. Historically, women of color as an identity category emerged to signify a coalitional commitment to opposing multiple structures of oppression that was grounded in particular lived experiences, but not reducible to those experiences. The category did not just engage in identity politics but politicized identity in the way it challenged and transformed dominant structures of identity by grounding it in difference, multiplicity, and a shared vision of the future. However, as women of color became institutionalized as a category within women’s studies, it frequently was used as a descriptive and ahistorical category of diversity that could easily be detached from specific political struggles and solidarities. [Return to text]
  13. Kristin Bumiller, In an Abusive State: How Neoliberalism Appropriated the Feminist Movement Against Sexual Violence (Durham: Duke UP, 2008); Priya Kandaswamy, “Innocent Victims and Brave New Laws: State Protection and the Battered Women’s Movement,” Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, ed. Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore (Emeryville: Seal Press, 2006) 83-94. [Return to text]
  14. Bumiller 2008: 15. [Return to text]
  15. Elizabeth Schneider, Battered Women and Feminist Lawmaking (Yale UP, 2002) 23. [Return to text]
  16. Anannya Bhattacharjee, “A Slippery Path: Organizing Resistance to Violence Against Women,” Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire, ed. Sonia Shah (Cambridge: South End, 1997) 33. [Return to text]
  17. Beth Richie, Compelled to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Battered, Black Women (New York: Routledge, 1995) 12-13. [Return to text]
  18. Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology (Cambridge: South End Press, 2006). [Return to text]
  19. Christina Hanhardt, Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence (Durham: Duke UP, 2013). [Return to text]
  20. S. Lamble, “Retelling Racialized Violence, Remaking White Innocence: The Politics of Interlocking Oppressions in Transgender Day of Remembrance,” Sexuality Research and Social Policy 5.1 (2008): 24–42. [Return to text]
  21. Lamble 2008: 28. [Return to text]
  22. Chandan Reddy, Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality, and the U.S. State (Durham: Duke UP, 2011). [Return to text]
  23. Emily Thuma, “‘Against the Prison/Psychiatric State’: Anti-Violence, Feminisms, and the Politics of Confinement in the 1970s,” Feminist Formations 26.2 (2014) 26-51. [Return to text]
  24. Wendy Brown, States of Injury (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1995). [Return to text]
  25. Anna M. Agathangelou, M. Daniel Bassichis, and Tamara L. Spira, “Intimate Investments: Homonormativity, Global Lockdown, and the Seductions of Empire,” Radical History Review 100 (2008): 122. [Return to text]
  26. Perhaps the most significant limitation of Brown’s argument is the way it tends to flatten the differences between different kinds of identities. While some identity-based political claims do seek protection from injury from an oppressive state, others have situated shared identities as the basis for dismantling state-sanctioned structural oppression. For example, the Combahee River Collective’s “A Black Feminist Statement” articulates a different modality of identity politics that seeks power rather than protection and employs identity as the basis for producing different knowledges that challenge dominant epistemologies of violence and safety. See The Combahee River Collective, “A Black Feminist Statement,” This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color, eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa (New York: Kitchen Table, 1981) 210-8; Hanhardt 2013: 125-8. [Return to text]
  27. C. T. Mohanty, “‘Under Western Eyes’ Revisited: Feminist Solidarity Through Anticapitalist Struggles,” Signs 28.2 (2003): 499–535. [Return to text]
  28. Jodi Melamed, Represent and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011). [Return to text]