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Abolition Worlds

An ink drawing of a tree growing its limbs out of a prison cell with a banner across the top and bottom that reads: Abandon punishment

About their research

This working group seeks to explore the internationalist histories and global possibilities of abolitionist intellectual and social movements. We frame our questions from Angela Davis’ findings that the prison industrial complex was historically rooted in colonial and imperial forms of a global order, Ruth Gilmore and Katherine McKittrick’s insight that carcerality remains crucial to present-day racial capitalist accumulation, and Harsha Walia’s notion that imperial displacement and migrant mass detention remains the true origins of the so-called “border crisis.”

We draw particularly from interdisciplinary studies of various historical modes of unfreedom and punishment, especially histories of anti-Black slavery and its afterlives, as well as the establishment of property regimes by way of colonial conquest and dispossession of Indigenous lands, to better approach international connections to abolitionist thinking from within the global South. From penal farms in Southeast Asia, to migrant detention in North Africa or Latin America, to the disproportionate criminalization and jailing of BIPOC women, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQ people, to the mass institutionalization of people with disabilities: abolitionist critiques of carcerality’s profound effects on society invites deeply interdisciplinary and collaborative scholarly approaches across disciplines and geographical terrains.

At the same time, the group takes seriously Ruth Gilmore’s assertion that abolition is a presence or the creation of life-affirming institutions, or as Mariame Kaba puts it, the making of another, more just and less harmful, world. We will thus examine practical, theoretical, and creative sorts of abolitionist worldmaking, that seeks to build new relations of mutual care, create democratic institutions to achieve transformative justice, and strengthen practices of reducing harm. This examination entails engaging beyond academic scholarship with community-based organizations and also creative artists and writers. 


  • Roxanne Cornellier, Art History

If you would like to join this working group, please contact Roxanne at


  • Allan Lumba, History
  • Balbir Singh, Art History
  • Theresa Ventura, History

Key questions

  1. How can abolitionist frameworks aid in comprehending historical and present forms of unfreedom, criminalization, and punishment across the Global South, and how do movements against carceral violence in these regions contribute to understanding abolitionist histories?
  2. By envisioning abolitionism as an international movement, how might it offer novel solutions to address inequalities stemming from settler colonialism, racial capitalism, imperialism, and heteropatriarchy, and how does it encourage interdisciplinary collaboration to explore these concepts? 

Group members

  • Ali Beyers, Art History
  • May Chew, Art History
  • Roxanne Cornellier, Art History
  • Bradley Craig, History
  • Joana Joachim, Art History
  • Allan Lumba, History
  • Balbir Singh, Art History
  • Theresa Ventura, History
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