Introduction: Borders, prisons, and abolitionist visions

Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, Andrew Burridge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript/introductionpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Borders and prisons - walls and cages - are global crises. Walls and cages are fundamental to managing the wealth, social inequalities, and opposition to the harms created by capitalism and the present round of neocolonial dispossession. The work of making and remaking state institutions of citizenship, punishment, and war shapes the human condition at this moment. But what is this moment, and what kind of crisis is this? Global apartheid is one part of the story. It is a condition in which the wealthiest regions of the world erect physical and bureaucratic barriers against the movement of people from poorer regions of the world. Mobility is a fact of the human condition, yet nation-state sovereignty continues to be invoked to deny this freedom and to rationalize the fatalities that these sovereign practices create.1 Policing and prison regimes tell another part of the story, a condition in which the state is built and society is governed through crime legislation. The social sanction afforded to an unchallenged "rule of law" obscures the oppression that is produced through the enforcement of criminal legislation.2 Prison and border regimes are the culmination of many histories of struggle over colonialism, the nation-state, and what it means to be human. These histories connect 1492 - a date symbolic of Native genocide, dispossession, and slavery in Africa and the Americas - To 1992, a time when history was said to have stopped because capitalism had won. Yet there is another aspect of this time to be remembered in the Rodney King (1992) and Zapatista (1994) uprisings, which mark a rejection of the celebratory terms of postracial and postcolonial progress. These informed international countercurrents of steady, worldwide opposition to violent occupations, free trade, privatization, and deregulation imposed from above. Today, people continue to make connections among these struggles across vast distances. In 2009 they were apparent in challenges against military and police violence in Gaza, in Greece, and in Oakland. By 2011 they had accumulated to produce the Arab Spring and the American Fall of occupy/decolonize movements sweeping across cities in the United States and around the world. These are not the only places or times that matter, but connecting the dots between 1492, 1992, and the present draws the boundaries of freedom and humanity that historically have been imposed, inherited, and challenged in world-shattering ways. This book starts at the prisons, border walls, and detention facilities where brave people are challenging forcible confinement and exclusion in many ways, such as hunger strikes, writing, and building organizations and communication networks to undo the confines of prison walls. This book also starts in the streets, in meeting halls, at kitchen tables, in long-distance phone calls, and in letters exchanged. Were it not for the efforts of loved ones and friends, prisons and detention facilities could become a void where people are forgotten and where collective denial masks the bodily and social harms of systemic dehumanization. And so this book starts in the places where people keep each other together across distances that all too often are widened by economic dislocation and fortified by national boundaries and prison cells. This book was inspired by a lot of hard work to prevent voids in memory and political accountability. It was driven by desires for freedom.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond walls and cages
Subtitle of host publicationprisons, borders, and global crisis
EditorsJenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, Andrew Burridge
Place of PublicationAthens ; London
PublisherUniversity of Georgia Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780820344928
ISBN (Print)0820344125, 9780820344119, 9780820344126
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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