The Women and Gender Studies Speaker Series – Global Studies in Gender and Sexuality – presents
Feminist Complicity with Mass Incarceration
Wed., Nov. 13; 4:30 pm Hazel Gates Woodruff Cottage
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Philosophy,
University of Colorado Denver
Sarah Tyson is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Denver. Her research has focused on questions of authority, history, and exclusion with a particular interest in the historical exclusion of women from philosophy. Since taking a class with inmates on Death Row, her research has focused on the relationship between feminist theory and activism and mass incarceration with a particular emphasis on feminist resources for prison abolition.
In the US, feminism and prisons have had a long and complicated relationship. Perhaps most troubling in that history are policy changes meant to address important feminist issues, including sexual assault and domestic abuse, that have been directly involved in the unprecedented growth of prison populations since the 1970s. There have always been feminist voices resisting reliance on prisons in the struggle to end violence against women, but their marginalization has meant that much feminist anti-violence theory and activism has been complicit with mass incarceration. The issue of mass incarceration may seem beside the point in the long history of legal neglect or even sanctioning of violence against women, but this essay argues that concerns about mass incarceration ought to be central to feminist anti-violence thinking. In this paper, Tyson argues, drawing on the work of Ruth Gilmore, Assata Shakur, Prince Imari A. Obadele, INCITE!, and others, that prisons reinforce and are reinforced by violence against women – as well as men. Tyson concludes by briefly exploring alternatives to prisons developed at the margins of feminist anti-violence theory and activism.