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.

A second way that the visibility of criminal-justice oriented antiviolence movements has affected WGSS is the increased circulation of the affective economies of the prison-industrial complex within the classroom. The success of mainstream antiviolence activism (and other neoliberal movements such as the pro-choice movement and the gay marriage movement) has meant that undergraduate students arrive in the WGSS classroom with a particular understanding of what feminist and LGBT activism looks like. Not only does this mean that students tend to see a very narrow range of issues as falling within the terrain of feminist and queer politics, it also means that they link social justice to the language of tolerance, belief in equal opportunity, the resolution of conflict through authoritarian structures, and the desire to punish offenders. For example, students often voice the expectation that the WGSS classroom should be a safe space. Derived from antiviolence activism, the safe-space model seeks to build secured areas that are free of violence, whether a neighborhood, a community space, a shelter, or a classroom. However, the invocation of safe space often operates on a presumption that safety means the same thing for everyone and that violence derives from a clear, singular source that can easily be excluded. For example, the rubric of safety was often used to construct women-only spaces on the grounds that excluding men would eliminate patriarchy. Among other problems, this approach failed to acknowledge the ways that racism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, transphobia, and even patriarchy persisted in those spaces, making them unsafe for many women.

When invoked in the classroom, safe space can mean anything from a space devoid of oppressive language and behaviors to a space in which what one says will not be challenged. While many students experience university classrooms as violent places, safe-space discourse can level what are in fact very different experiences of danger and, in doing so, cater to the needs of more privileged students. For example, in my experience, white students often say that they are made to feel unsafe by conversations about racism that decenter their own experiences. In addition, students of color and gender-nonconforming students are often accused of being too aggressive when they speak, mirroring the ways that criminality is racialized and gendered. In general, the language of safe space prioritizes a specific experience of feeling safe over other objectives without a consideration of the ways that discomfort, risk, and vulnerability can be fundamental to the learning process. In making this point, I want to be clear that I am not saying that students should simply get over the difficult emotions that class material can elicit or that concern with feelings detracts from the intellectual rigor in the classroom, as some critiques of safe-space discourse seem to imply. My concern, rather, is with the way the language of safety becomes tied to ideas of policing, particularly when safety is understood as a stable and predefined state that can be guaranteed by institutions.

These invocations of safe space reproduce the affective economies of the prison-industrial complex in at least three ways. First, they define feminist and queer classroom spaces as spaces where individual security is valued over collaborative engagement. What it means to be safe is often not given much consideration, and the language of safety is frequently invoked to shut down rather than open up dialogue. The belief that safety is not only a right, but is the most paramount right mirrors the emphasis placed on security within dominant culture and reinforces the idea that safety is the property of an individual rather than something that is collectively made. Second, safe-space discourse reproduces a reliance on authoritarian figures (such as the professor) to resolve conflict. Just as we increasingly turn to the criminal-justice system to deal with violence, students increasingly turn to the professor to police other students’ behavior. This channels the pain or harm they might experience into a desire for protection and the reprimand of their peers. Third, in doing these things, the safe-space discourse forecloses the possibility of honest and meaningful dialogue about the complexity of power dynamics in the classroom and the emotions those power dynamics might elicit. Rather than explore the relationship between structural inequality and difficult emotions like fear, guilt, shame, and anger, the invocation of safe space stifles those emotions, preventing us from reflecting on where they come from and how we might be more accountable to each other.[29]

A third problem emerges in relation to these mainstream movements on the terrain of activism. While there is broad consensus that activism ought to be central to WGSS curriculum and scholarship, there is little agreement on what that actually means. Although interdisciplinary social-justice oriented fields have strong commitments to the communities they strive to represent, within WGSS the communities to which we are accountable are often difficult to define. As the case of antiviolence activism demonstrates, political movements organized around the interests of relatively privileged women and LGBT groups work to the detriment of the majority of women, queers, and trans people. Given these complexities, what does it actually mean to engage in activism on behalf of very diverse and complex groups of people? In some ways, a misreading of the framework of intersectionality has allowed us to sidestep this crucial question, particularly with regard to how we engage social movements. Often misunderstood as the need to include women and queer people of color, the language of intersectionality frequently enables pluralism. In the context of activism, this often translates into the idea that we should include and support the struggles of marginalized groups, but not necessarily that we should hold privileged forms of activism accountable for the harms they do. As a result, any activism is generally regarded positively, and the question of which social movements WGSS should align with is disregarded.

One of the most common ways activism is incorporated into the curriculum is through service-learning requirements. While in some contexts service learning can be a powerful experience, service-learning requirements frequently end up tying a component of education that is supposed to be about activism to nonprofit organizations. Often, the way the service-learning requirements are structured leads students to work in nonprofit organizations. For example, in order to receive credit, students often need a supervisor who guides them, evaluates their performance, and verifies the hours they have worked. This requirement is most easily met within an organization with paid staff, so, for example, it is very easy to get credit for a service-learning project within a battered-women’s shelter but very difficult to do so for decentralized movement work. Similarly, service-learning projects frequently must be completed within a quarter or a semester. This makes it easier for students to find placements within nonprofits than to engage in organizing work that might require a more long-term investment.

Service learning is frequently framed either in the language of voluntarism or job training, a conceptual slippage that signifies how neoliberal values have come to coopt activist components of the curriculum. For example, at the public urban university where I used to work, service learning was a strong component of both the general education curriculum and the WGSS curriculum. Many students completed their WGSS service-learning requirement by volunteering for battered-women’s shelters or rape crisis lines. These students went through the organizations’ volunteer-training programs and played the same roles within the organizations as other volunteers. Some students astutely observed that they were forced to pay to earn credit for volunteering, thereby increasing the financial burden on them. Meanwhile, large organizations with volunteer programs benefited from the free student labor we provided. In addition, because these larger organizations were the most visible, students tended to gravitate toward them. In contrast, smaller organizations that did not have an apparatus for volunteers tended to struggle to find things for students to do and often found students to be a burden in that they took up valuable staff time and resources. As a result, the majority of our placements ended up being within larger, more mainstream antiviolence organizations, as the structure we had worked best with them. Many students went on to pursue work in these organizations or related social-service professions, leading me to wonder if our program did not, in some ways, track students into working for the nonprofit-industrial complex. Notably, a number of students had strong critiques of organizations’ failures to address the root causes of violence. However, we, as a faculty, were largely ineffective at channeling these critiques into something productive, often leaving students feeling disillusioned with “activism” because the opportunities available to them were inadequate.

This is not to say that service learning does not in some contexts provide valuable educational experiences. My point, rather, is that service learning does not constitute activism per se and that the structures we create around service-learning requirements can reproduce many of the problematic dynamics within mainstream nonprofits. Even the very premise of giving credit for activism reproduces the logic of nonprofits, where activism is conceived of as paid work. This does not mean that we should simply confine education to the classroom or give up on having activist components to our curriculum. It does, however, mean that we need to create different structures, ask different questions, and expand how we think about integrating activism into our curriculum.

Part of the problem has been that activism is often defined by a stale dichotomy between theory and practice in which activism is reduced to doing something and theory is seen as thinking devoid of doing. In this context, critiques of mainstream social movements are often dismissed as too theoretical, and therefore impractical, or are met with defensive justifications that go something like: “But at least we are doing something.” These responses reflect the extent to which neoliberalism curtails our political imagination. After all, practicality is a social construction that ties us to the existing order of social relations and centers particular subject positions. For whom is criminalization a practical strategy and for whom is it a deadly one? Radical political thought pushes the boundaries of the possible, encouraging us not to do what seems practical today, but to build a world in which alternate possibilities become practical realities. In the context of WGSS programs, how do we teach our students not to just do something in response to violence against women, queers, and trans people, but rather to imagine and build a world in which that violence would be impossible? How do we start acting in ways that are practical in relation to the world we want rather than the world we have? And how do we do this in the context of universities that are shaped by neoliberal economic policy and values?

Toward an Abolition Pedagogy

Centering abolitionist analysis within WGSS offers an important avenue for re-envisioning our work. A growing movement to build a world without prisons, abolition rejects reformist approaches to mass incarceration in favor of dismantling the prison-industrial complex in its entirety. In “The University and the Undercommons,” Fred Moten and Stefano Harney conclude by describing abolition as, “Not so much the abolition of prisons but the abolition of a society that could have prisons, that could have slavery, that could have the wage, and therefore not the elimination of anything but abolition as the founding of a new society.”[30] Moten and Harney’s provocation to not just abolish prisons but to build a society that renders prisons and the social inequalities they are embedded in inconceivable presents an important challenge for radical political projects located within university contexts. They point out how it is necessary for abolitionist projects to not just engage the prison itself, but to make visible and challenge the material conditions that make prisons imaginable. Rendering prisons unthinkable requires both denaturalizing the epistemological structures that underwrite incarceration and drawing attention to alternative epistemologies.

There is a growing body of scholarship that explores the experiences of women and queer and transgender people with the prison-industrial complex. A number of significant themes emerge in this literature. First, the prison-industrial complex specifically affects these groups in devastating ways. Women of color and queer and transgender people have a long history of being targeted by the criminal-justice system. The criminal-justice system disproportionately punishes gender-nonconforming people,[31] and new measures such as the war on drugs and quality-of-life policing have had particularly severe impacts on women and queer and transgender people. In addition, mass incarceration breaks up kinship and other social support systems, and it is frequently women who must do extra work to care for family members in prison and to compensate for economic hardships that the incarceration of a loved one produces.[32] Second, this scholarship shows the ways that the prison-industrial complex is itself gendered and sexualized. For example, the prison-industrial complex is an apparatus that polices gender, and criminalizing discourses frequently employ tropes of gender deviance.[33] Sex segregation within the prison system naturalizes the gender binary and subjects gender-nonconforming people to tremendous violence while incarcerated.[34] In addition, the economic conditions that give rise to the prison-industrial complex are deeply rooted in gender and sexual inequality. Third, women and queer and transgender people have specific visions of abolition that are grounded in their experiences with the criminal-justice system. These visions link abolition, gender self-determination, and an end to violence in a larger struggle for freedom, thereby expanding the sites where abolitionist struggle might be waged.[35] They also emphasize the importance of developing community-based strategies for addressing violence that do not rely on the criminal-justice system.[36]

This scholarship raises important questions for WGSS on the terrain of identity, pedagogy, institutionalization, and political vision. First, abolitionist movements offer insights into how WGSS programs might employ concepts of identity that defy neoliberalism’s depoliticizing effects and that instead rearticulate identity-based knowledge projects to radical movements for social change. Abolitionist perspectives require us to center identities that have been criminalized. From the vantage point of people who have historically been perceived as guilty, innocence is not a viable ground on which to build political claims. These experiences highlight the often deadly consequences of making rights contingent on innocence and expose the fact that innocence and guilt are socially constructed categories that hinge upon one’s relationship to the state, not on one’s own character or actions. Claims to innocence always rest on the presumption that someone else is guilty and, therefore, are inherently atomizing. In that abolitionist frameworks decouple innocence and claims to freedom, they make space for more collectivizing constructions of identity.

Feminist and queer abolitionist work has also centered the experiences of people who live at the intersections of multiple forms of oppression. Drawing attention to this multiplicity requires an exploration of the interconnectedness of social movements that are often thought of as separate. For example, centering the experiences of women and queer people of color highlights the ways in which struggles for racial justice cannot be separated from feminism or sexual freedom. In this sense, the histories of women and queer people cannot be divorced from the histories of colonized peoples, formerly enslaved peoples, immigrants, workers, and disabled people—all of whom also experience oppression on the basis of gender and sexuality. Highlighting these connections moves us away from static, compartmentalized ideas of identity and toward thinking about identity in terms of processes of identification. As Stuart Hall argues, “Cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made, within the discourses of history and culture. Not an essence but a positioning.”[37] Given the problems identified with categories like women and LGBT, Hall’s understanding of identity as a positioning suggests that we not abandon identity (as the critique of identity politics so often seems to imply), but rather that we consciously think about how we position the identities that organize our thinking. If within a particular historical context, feminist and LGBT politics have become sutured to a neoliberal political agenda that promotes prison expansion, how might we sever those connections and rearticulate those identities to more radical political projects? How do we build knowledge projects organized through the rubric of identity that do not reproduce the logics of neoliberalism or rely on categories produced by the state?

Abolitionist frameworks offer at least three key insights into these questions. First, following Hall’s analysis, it is crucial to recognize that identity-based knowledge projects do not simply produce and convey knowledge about particular identities. Rather, they are actively engaged in the process of situating identity categories in particular ways within a political and historical terrain. This is evident, for example, in the ways that we make choices about what constitutes a feminist or queer issue, what political options are viable, who the communities we are responsible to really are, and what gets defined as “our” history. Embracing abolitionist struggles brings into focus the fact that Black radical history and the history of anti-capitalist movements are fundamental to feminist and queer history. It also facilitates reclaiming histories of radical feminist and queer organizing that mainstream movements often efface.[38] Not only do these histories offer alternative models of activism, actively identifying with them consciously roots WGSS within a radical historical tradition.

Second, in our engagements with identity, it is necessary to foreground struggles for self-determination rather than simply attempting to make a series of static identity categories visible. One concrete way we might do this is by moving away from representational approaches to diversity. Within the neoliberal university, one of the pressures of institutionalization is the framing of identity-based work in a language that celebrates difference without interrogating power. In this context, the call for WGSS to engage the experiences of marginalized groups such as women of color, queer people of color, transgender people, and disabled people often gets reduced to representing those experiences within the curriculum. While engaging a diversity of experiences is important, representational approaches tend to fix identities, rendering them singular and static, while failing to question the social forces that shape our ability to see and read the world. For example, critiques of the prison-industrial complex from feminist and transgender abolitionist activists make visible the limits of representation. These activists insist that the goal is not better representation of the needs of women and transgender people within criminal-justice policies through gender-responsive prisons or special prisons for transgender inmates, but rather the dismantling of a heteropatriarchal system that curtails gender self-determination.[39] By shifting the frame from representation to gender self-determination, these activists struggle not for visibility and tolerance within the confines of an oppressive structure, but rather for the most expansive possibilities of who we could become if structural constraints were transformed.[40]

Finally, abolition leads us to recognize identities not as discrete but as relational. Emphasizing the relationality of differences makes visible how different experiences are in fact interconnected. As historian Elsa Barkley Brown argues in relation to women’s history, “[m]iddle-class white women’s lives are not just different from working-class white, Black, and Latina women’s lives. It is important to recognize that middle-class women live the lives they do precisely because working-class women live the lives they do. White women and women of color not only live different lives but white women live the lives they do in large part because women of color live the ones they do.”[41] In the context of thinking about the relationships between the university and the prison-industrial complex, Erica Meiners has noted that Brown’s analysis is particularly relevant as “people in prison live the lives they do in large part because people outside of prisons live the ones they do.”[42] The acknowledgement that identities are always constituted in relation to other identities brings into focus a politics of solidarity that is not grounded in sameness, but rather in being conscious of and responsible to our own positionalities.[43] This is important because it potentially reshapes what it means to identify as queer and/or feminist by moving us away from static ideas of who we are to more dynamic questions about what we do and how we choose to do it. Because I think that we cannot underestimate the role that WGSS classes play in shaping students understandings of what it means to be queer or feminist, these approaches offer students a different way of identifying with these terms than the ones put forward by mainstream movements.

In addition to changing the ways we conceptualize identity, engaging abolition requires us to reevaluate fundamental assumptions about the issues that have been central to the field. For example, in relation to violence, abolitionist perspectives lead us to rigorously ask how we might address heteropatriarchal violence without the use of prisons, a question that the naturalization of incarceration usually forecloses. Asking this question can lead us to rethink the very ways in which violence against women and queer and transgender people has been theorized by moving us away from individual perpetrators and victims and toward more systemic analyses of what enables the pervasiveness of violence. This shift can help us link interpersonal violence to the forms of state violence it is embedded in.

Violence is a central issue that WGSS classes engage, and many students who take our classes do so as one way of understanding and coming to terms with the violence they have experienced in their own lives. In this sense, talking about violence in the classroom is not simply an intellectual exercise; rather, it is to enter a minefield of complicated feelings and traumas. These feelings often present a significant challenge to talking about abolition. On the one hand, university classrooms are frequently hostile to feelings. Understood as the antithesis of intellectual activity, feelings are generally devalued within universities. On the other hand, particularly within women’s studies, a dominant response to this hostility has been to take feelings as the uncontestable truths of women’s experiences, again rendering them outside of the realm of critical thought. Often, it is feelings of rage, fear, insecurity, etc., that shut down conversation about abolition. These feelings are important and must be engaged in ways that open up rather than close down conversation. One way to do this is to highlight the role of hegemonic narratives in giving expression to feelings. While we tend to think of our feelings as the most honest expressions of ourselves, they are, indeed, shaped by narratives that connect fear to a story about state protection, anger to a need for state-sanctioned vengeance.

Hegemonic narratives make it impossible for certain kinds of violence to be recognized as violence at all, while drawing out particular emotions in ways that legitimize state violence. WGSS classes must make alternative narratives available that can connect feelings of disempowerment to transformative social movements in healing ways. Texts such as Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ film No![44] do exactly this, and are useful tools in creating a different dialogue. While Simmons’ film honestly engages the trauma of violence, it does so in ways that build historical connections and spark community dialogue. As opposed to criminalizing perpetrators, the film offers avenues for thinking about how violent behaviors emerge from particular structural conditions without absolving perpetrators of violence of responsibility for their actions. Simmons locates violence against Black women in relation to the history of slavery and shows how heteropatriarchy is inextricable from racism. In doing so, the film offers a different understanding of violence, one that connects interpersonal violence to the same structures that shore up prisons. Making these connections paves the way for conversations that explore what safety actually looks like and that mobilize disempowering emotions toward creating a vision of something new.

In reconsidering the relationship between WGSS and feminist and queer social movements, we need to think critically about which movements we engage and how. When we talk about maintaining community connections, it is important to remember that there is no singular community that we are inherently connected to. Rather, part of what we do in our teaching and scholarship is to define the communities that we see ourselves as responsible to. Too often, within WGSS, activism gets reduced to working with established nonprofit organizations that represent the interests of the most privileged women and lesbian and gay populations. Often we find that we are no longer concretely connected to radical social movements or, as in the case of antiviolence movements discussed above, the movements WGSS has historically been connected to have themselves become institutionalized, depoliticized, and invested in neoliberal forms of governance. In the United States, activism is increasingly conflated with working with nonprofits.[45] How do we challenge this tendency in our own work? How can we use our work to build connections to and between different movements, to redirect feminist and queer energies against the prison-industrial complex?

In her critique of the nonprofit-industrial complex, Paula X. Rojas argues for seeing activism not as a job, but as part of everyday life. Rojas draws on examples from Latin America that employ principles of autonomy and horizontalism to build nonhierarchical movements that struggle for self-determination rather than state recognition and institutionalization. These movements emphasize making activism a part of day-to-day living for everyone, rather than an occupation for a few, by collectivizing survival, creating structures that enable everyone to participate, emphasizing that process is as important as outcomes, and investing in long-term base building over just achieving short term goals.[46] Rojas’s analysis raises an important question for thinking about the relationship between the university and social movements. What would fostering this model of activism look like in our work?

First, Rojas’s critique challenges us to situate activism differently within the WGSS curriculum. As noted earlier, within WGSS curricula, activism is frequently conflated with service-learning projects that can easily reduce activist engagements for college students to a kind of job training and reproduce the idea that activism necessarily means working in a nonprofit organization. We should develop structures that encourage and support students in taking on a larger range of projects that are not necessarily housed within nonprofit organizations as part of the activist components of the curriculum. This might include encouraging students to take on projects with decentralized movements, to do organizing work on campus or in other communities they belong to, or to devote time to developing ways of addressing problems that affect their lives with others who share those problems. These kinds of projects might teach students to work in ways that foster horizontalism rather than the hierarchical structures of most nonprofits. When students do take on activist projects within nonprofit organizations, it is important that we create space for students to contextualize and reflect upon the work that they are doing. For example, service-learning projects that are linked to a class about a particular issue—as opposed to the general service-learning requirement that is a component of many WGSS majors—situate work within a nonprofit organization as one dimension of learning about a multifaceted issue. This way, students can pair their experiential learning with reading that provides historical context and engages various social movement perspectives and have conversations about what can be productive in nonprofit work and what is limiting. As Rojas suggests, the point is not necessarily to abandon nonprofits entirely, but rather to move from viewing them as an end in themselves to seeing them as one among many strategies that can be useful to movements. Providing this kind of context can help students develop the skills needed to think about organizations in creative ways. In addition, rather than quarantining activism within a service-learning experience, we might try to think about ways to foster the values of autonomy and horizontalism across the curriculum. Ideally, the feminist and queer classroom should be a space that encourages self-direction rather than reliance on authority figures; encourages productive communication across difference; and challenges students, not just to become empowered in an individualized and often abstract sense, but also to actually make power by working together.[47] In conceptualizing learning goals, we need to think about process as well as content. Creating classroom environments that foster horizontalism and autonomy subverts the individualizing mission of the university and gives students skills to be activists in many dimensions of their lives.

There are many parallels between social-justice oriented knowledge projects within universities and the nonprofit organizations that Rojas critiques. Both depend on state and foundation funding in ways that make them beholden to the very forces they are trying to challenge, employ hierarchical models of organization, cultivate professionalization and careerism, and are inaccessible to large groups of people. Given these parallels, it might be helpful to resituate the university similarly to how Rojas resituates nonprofit organizations. For example, what if we started thinking about institutionalization of programs like WGSS not as an end in itself, but rather in relation to how these programs might be useful to movements for social justice. In this sense, the goal is not necessarily to have our own programs or a permanent place in the university (or even an investment in the university’s permanence), but rather to leverage the university toward a vision of a different society. Even in this austere climate, universities have resources that can be useful to movements, ranging from public space to academics with particular skills to creating an environment in which there is time and space to do sustained analysis. How do we use these resources, not just to build our own departments, but also to foster more broad-reaching social movements?

One way we can do this is by challenging dichotomous constructions of theory and practice that locate the work of making theory in the academy and the practice of making social change outside of it. These dichotomous constructions wrongly assume that the university is the privileged site of knowledge production, and that social movements emerge from outside of it. Rather, it might be more productive to look to knowledge production that occurs outside of the university and to recognize the university as itself an important site of contemporary social struggle. In many ways, this approach returns us to the original vision of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) in their efforts to create the first ethnic studies programs—efforts that created an opening for the institutionalization of WGSS as well. The TWLF did not just fight for inclusion within the university. Rather, they sought to transform what counts as knowledge, how knowledge is produced, and the structural exclusion of communities of color from the benefits provided by institutions like the university. Following this model, we must challenge the idea that all knowledge emanates from the university and instead insist on viewing the university as a site of social struggle. Ultimately, this requires us to connect struggles over the neoliberal university to struggles against the prison-industrial complex, both in our teaching and scholarship and in our efforts to transform the conditions under which we labor. Abolitionist frameworks challenge us to let go of our investments in the world the way it is, making space to instead imagine what a world without violence might look like. These frameworks remind us that the end we desire is not a stable, permanent, institutionalized space from which to teach and produce feminist and queer knowledge in a heteropatriarchal, racist, and capitalist university and society. Rather, it is to be a part of making a world without heteropatriarchy, racism, and capitalism. It is crucial that we define our work in relation to this desire rather than the mandates of institutionalization.

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  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 [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 [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]
  29. For an excellent example of an alternate approach to dealing with questions of safety and violence in the classroom, see Ana Clarissa Rojas Durazo, “In Our Hands: Community Accountability as Pedagogical Strategy,” Social Justice 37 (2011/2012): 76–100. [Return to text]
  30. Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, “The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses,” Social Text 22. 2 (2004): 114. [Return to text]
  31. Andrea Ritchie, “Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color,” The Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology, ed. Incite! Women of Color Against Violence (Boston: South End Press, 2006) 138–156. [Return to text]
  32. Beth E. Richie, “The Social Impact of Mass Incarceration on Women,” Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment, eds. Meda Chesney-Lind and Marc Mauer, (New York: New Press, 2003) 15-36; Ruth Wilson Gilmore, “You Have Dislodged a Boulder: Mothers and Prisoners in the Post Keynesian California Landscape,” Transforming Anthropology 8.1‐2 (1999): 12–38. [Return to text]
  33. Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock, Queer Injustice (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011). [Return to text]
  34. Sylvia Rivera Law Project, “It’s War in Here”: A Report on the Treatment of Transgender and Intersex People in New York State Men’s Prisons (New York: Sylvia Rivera Law Project, 2007); Dean Spade, “Compliance is Gendered: Struggling for Gender Self-Determination in a Hostile Economy,” Transgender Rights, eds. Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2006). [Return to text]
  35. Morgan Bassichis, Alexander Lee, and Dean Spade, “Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement with Everything We’ve Got,” Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, eds. Nat Smith and Eric A. Stanley, (Oakland: AK Press, 2011) 15-40; Julia Oparah, “Maroon Abolitionists: Black Gender-oppressed Activists in the Anti-Prison Movement in the U.S. and Canada,” Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, eds. Nat Smith and Eric A. Stanley (Oakland: AK Press, 2011) 293-322. [Return to text]
  36. Incite! 2006; Ana Clarissa Rojas Durazo, Alisa Bierria, and Mimi Kim, eds., “Community Accountability: Emerging Movements to Transform Violence,” Social Justice 37.4 (2011/2012). [Return to text]
  37. Stuart Hall, “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory, eds. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, (New York: Columbia UP, 1994) 395. [Return to text]
  38. Bassichis et al. 2011. [Return to text]
  39. Californians United for a Responsible Budget, How ‘Gender Responsive Prisons’ Harm Women, Children, and Families (2007); Rose Braz, “Kinder, Gentler, Gender Responsive Cages: Prison Expansion Is Not Prison Reform,” Women, Girls and Criminal Justice (2006): 87–91; Sylvia Rivera Law Project 2007; Bassichis et al. 2011. [Return to text]
  40. Spade 2006. [Return to text]
  41. Elsa Barkley Brown, “’What Has Happened Here’: The Politics of Difference in Women’s History and Feminist Politics,” Feminist Studies 18 (1992): 298. [Return to text]
  42. Erica Meiners, keynote lecture, symposium on “Abolition Pedagogy: Critical Prison Studies and the Neoliberal University,” University of California, Berkeley, California, 14 Oct. 2011). [Return to text]
  43. Mohanty 2003. [Return to text]
  44. No!: The Rape Documentary, dir. Aishah Shahidah Simmons, DVD, California Newsreel, 2006. [Return to text]
  45. Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, ed., The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (Cambridge: South End Press, 2009). [Return to text]
  46. Paula X. Rojas, “Are the Cops in our Heads and Hearts?” The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, ed. Incite! Women of Color Against Violence (Cambridge: South End Press, 2009) 197-214. Reprinted in this issue. [Return to text]
  47. Rojas 2009: 199-200. [Return to text]