Fugitive Life: The Queer Politics of the Prison State

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    Stephen Dillon

    Publisher: Duke University Press

    Year: 2018

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 200 pages

    ISBN: 9780822370826

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During the 1970s in the United States, hundreds of feminist, queer, and antiracist activists were imprisoned or became fugitives as they fought the changing contours of U.S. imperialism, global capitalism, and a repressive racial state. In Fugitive Life Stephen Dillon examines these activists' communiqués, films, memoirs, prison writing, and poetry to highlight the centrality of gender and sexuality to a mode of racialized power called the neoliberal-carceral state. Drawing on writings by Angela Davis, the George Jackson Brigade, Assata Shakur, the Weather Underground, and others, Dillon shows how these activists were among the first to theorize and make visible the links between conservative "law and order" rhetoric, free market ideology, incarceration, sexism, and the continued legacies of slavery. Dillon theorizes these prisoners and fugitives as queer figures who occupied a unique position from which to highlight how neoliberalism depended upon racialized mass incarceration. In so doing, he articulates a vision of fugitive freedom in which the work of these activists becomes foundational to undoing the reign of the neoliberal-carceral state.

What People Are Saying

"Dillon’s overall project returns a genealogy of antiprison politics to con-temporary queer theoretical debates on temporality, fugitivity, and desire. ... [His] text is thus not only a valuable contribution to Black feminist thought and queer studies but also a model for abolition itself." Cameron Clark, GLQ

"This is an excellent book for our times, an era provoking fresh outrage over children in cages and the brutal treatment of bodies fleeing violence by states that claim to honor human rights. It is a time to bathe in the spirit of many of the authors Dillon presents. Fugitive Life is a compelling reminder of the logics of the carceral state as they have been unfolding over centuries, and the inevitable — if frequently intangible —logics of resistance that also result." Keally McBride, Politics and Gender

“One of Dillon’s significant interventions in this punctilious study of the communiqués, memoirs, poetry, prison writing, and films that documented the fugitive practices of the 1970s consists in de-idealizing queerness.” Jean-Thomas Tremblay, American Literature

“In Fugitive Life, Stephen Dillon uses the writings of fugitive activists to analyze how gender, race, and sexuality were deployed in the development of a new system of power in 1970: the neoliberal-carceral state. The book is beautifully written and a significant intervention that is sure to become a foundational text in a number of academic fields.” Erin Mayo-Adam, Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics

“Beautifully written, Fugitive Life is a key text for readers in American studies, criminology, queer studies, Black studies, and—keenly—for those of us who count ourselves as ongoing scholars of, and participants in, radical social and political movements.” Melanie Brazzell and Erica R. Meiners, QED

“In 2021, Stephen Dillon’s work is even more timely than its publication in 2018. His rich archive affords the reader a queer temporal dialectic to this moment, offering us a glimpse of the abolitionist horizon.” Mary Jo Klinker, Feminist Encounters

“In this beautifully written work, Stephen Dillon brings together a variety of threads from the literatures on prisons, feminisms, and queer studies to make novel arguments about fugitivity, neoliberalism, and carcerality. His engagement with poetry, accounts of underground activists, and the other highly charismatic materials he works with will be gripping for students as they read through this compelling entry point into the book's topics. Fugitive Life is a wonderful contribution.” Dean Spade, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law

“In Fugitive Life, fugitive women of color emerge as feminist thinkers who expose the inherent carcerality of neoliberalism. This groundbreaking intervention in carceral studies, gender studies, American studies, and literary studies offers deep interrogations of queerness and temporality and an extraordinary model for analyzing the dialectics of freedom and repression. Stephen Dillon provides a dramatic contribution that will reshape urgent debates regarding carceral crisis, influencing future scholarship and activism.” Sarah Haley, author of No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity

About the Author

Stephen Dillon is Assistant Professor of Critical Race and Queer Studies in the School of Critical Social Inquiry at Hampshire College.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction. "Escape-Bound Captives": Race, Neoliberalism, and the Force of Queerness 1
1. "We're Not Hiding but We're Invisible": Law and Order, the Temporality of Violence, and the Queer Fugitive 27
2. Life Escapes: Neoliberal Economics, the Underground, and Fugitive Freedom 54
3. Possessed by Death: Black Feminism, Queer Temporality, and the Afterlife of Slavery 84
4. "Only the Sun Will Bleach His Bones Quicker": Desire, Police Terror, and the Affect of Queer Feminist Futures 119
Conclusion. "Being Captured Is Beside the Point": A World beyond the World 143
Notes 155
Bibliography 171
Index 185

Tags: Duke University Press ....... feminism ....... New Left ....... Prisoners & Prisons ....... queer liberation ....... racism ....... Stephen Dillon .......