Abolitionist Intimacies

By El Jones  

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In Abolitionist Intimacies, El Jones examines the movement to abolish prisons through the Black feminist principles of care and collectivity. Understanding the history of prisons in Canada in their relationship to settler colonialism and anti-Black racism, Jones observes how practices of intimacy become imbued with state violence at carceral sites including prisons, policing and borders, as well as through purported care institutions such as hospitals and social work. The state also polices intimacy through mechanisms such as prison visits, strip searches and managing community contact with incarcerated people. Despite this, Jones argues, intimacy is integral to the ongoing struggles of prisoners for justice and liberation through the care work of building relationships and organizing with the people inside. Through characteristically fierce and personal prose and poetry, and motivated by a decade of prison justice work, Jones observes that abolition is not only a political movement to end prisons; it is also an intimate one deeply motivated by commitment and love.

Abolitionist Intimacies is an urgently needed text. Drawing from years of organizing experience, Jones’ work as a Black feminist theorist, activist and scholar skillfully draws attention to the banal violence of carcerality in Canada and the ongoing work of freedom-oriented struggle. With rigour, theoretical agility and a grounded sense of integrity, Jones forwards a poetic vision of intimacy, care, and human liberation, sketching out abolitionist futures beyond policing, prisons, and cages.”

— Robyn Maynard, author of Policing Black Lives, co-author of Rehearsals for Living 

“El Jones has gifted us all with a political beacon for liberation and an ethical compass for how to be. This stunning book is a powerful narration of how abolitionist futures are built in the present - through Black feminist abolitionist intimacies of witnessing, relationality, organizing, communing, and co-resistance. Abolitionist Intimacies is a searingly lyrical, poignant and revolutionary must-read; an absolute tour de force that I cannot recommend highly enough.”

— Harsha Walia, author Undoing Border Imperialism and Border and Rule

“A powerful collection of poetry, political analysis, and personal reflection from an inspiring scholar-activist who connects mind, heart, body, and soul to express the meaning of abolition in so-called Canada. El Jones takes her reader from the kitchen table to the prison waiting room, from Angela Davis to Idle No More, from grief to rage to ‘joyous loudness.’ Refusing to gloss over the complexity of building solidarity against racism, colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism, El Jones takes time to linger in those moments of intimacy and care that sustain movements for collective liberation. A must-read for anyone who wants to remember what it means to be human in the face of systemic violence.”

— Lisa Guenther, Queen’s National Scholar of Political Philosophy and Critical Prison Studies, Queen’s University, and author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives

“Through poetry, song, memos, journalism, and academic essays informed by the Black feminist tradition and years of work with criminalized and illegalized people, Abolitionist Intimacies makes visible the many injustices of the present while articulating a vision for a caring future free from state, corporate, and interpersonal violence. From cover to cover, El Jones shares a creative approach to abolitionist critique and praxis that, intervention by intervention, works to dismantle and build alternatives to carcerality in the lives of human beings that are targets of structural and interpersonal violence fuelled by white supremacy and racism, sexism, heterosexism, capitalism, and ableism. This book is a must-read for those seeking a clear picture of how the Canadian carceral state operates, the devastating impacts of its laws, institutions, policies, and practices on people and communities pushed to the margins, and what is possible when we come together to collectively resist and build alternative ways of relating to each other to produce real safety and liberation.”

— Justin Piché, Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa and Editor of the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons.

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Contents

  • Introduction Toward a Practice of “Collectivity”
  • Chapter 1 Re-collection as Memory
  • Chapter 2 Personal Responsibility and Prison Abolition
  • Chapter 3 Erasure and the Slow Work of Liberation
  • Chapter 4 Abolitionist Intimacies
  • Chapter 5 No Justice on Stolen Land: Abolition and Black/Indigenous Solidarity
  • Chapter 6 Black Feminist Teachers
  • Chapter 7 What is Desire to the Abolitionist?
  • Chapter 8 Still Not Freedom
  • References

Authors

  • El Jones

    Mount Saint Vincent University

    El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor and activist living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University, where she was named the 15th Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies in 2017. She was Halifax’s Poet Laureate from 2013 to 2015. She is the author of Live from the Afrikan Resistance!, a collection of poems about resisting white colonialism. Her work focuses on social justice issues, such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism and decolonization. Since 2016, she has co-hosted a radio show called Black Power Hour, on CKDU-FM where listeners from prisons call in to rap and read their poetry, providing a voice to people who rarely get a wide audience.

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