PERSPECTIVES: ‘Abolitionist’ Scholarship/Practice Applied to Higher Education

Abigail Boggs, Eli Meyerhoff, Nick Mitchell, and Zach Schwartz-Weinstein: “Abolitionist thought teaches us that when an institution—whether slavery, the prison, or the university—has become attached to so many real and meaningful anxieties about politics and purpose, life and living, it has come to wield the force of necessity. Indeed, universities resist knowledge of themselves…. Leftist abolitionisms have always been both destructive—dismantling
racial capitalism—and constructive, building alternatives, from the “abolition democracy” of Reconstruction to today’s projects seeking to divert people’s attachments to prisons and police into alternative practices of community accountability, safety, and transformative justice. Our left abolitionist approach to universities also negotiates these two paths at once: reckoning with universities’ complicity with a carceral, racial-capitalist society while creating an alternative, abolition university. We ask, Are prisons and universities two sides of the same coin? When we raise this question, does it make you anxious? We feel this anxiety, too, and we want to sit with it, to grapple with the impasse such questions open up.” Read the full essay here.

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