35-3 / Editorial

ABOLITION

EDITORIAL

To strive for abolition is to cast off the ghastly everyday violence that imprisons, enslaves and kills us, our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, neighbours, comrades, friends, lovers. [1] It is to acknowledge that under the current regime, social justice can’t be accomplished by simply extending privileges, one niche market at a time, until we are all equally free to choose between one bleak life sentence or another. To call for abolition is to summon the complete overturning of society; it means placing all bets on a future that can scarcely be imagined. As a rhetorical act alone, calling for the abolition of social lynchpins such as criminal justice, colonialism or the gender division demands that their utter corruption is recognized, and bares the immensity of the task of organizing to live otherwise. In practice, it links seemingly disparate struggles because they use a similar logic to structure their attacks on different parts of a giant beast. In this issue of FUSE, the thematic of abolition is fleshed out through an eclectic collection of case studies and histories, all of which are characterized by their insistence on addressing exploitation holistically.

An enlivening tendency of contemporary feminism focuses on the abolition of patriarchy (or gender, the relation that structures exploitation within it). Recent calls to abolish gender first emerged from the French ultra-left, in particular the group Théorie Communiste, and are justified by the claim that the gender contradiction plays a structural role within capitalism. Gender abolition is thus positioned as essential to the dismantling of capitalism. A loosely structured group of US feminists has been crucial in extending the call to abolish gender, incorporating commitments to anti-racist, queer and Trans* positive feminist politics. The text “On the Abolition of Gender,” [2] penned by the collective author Folie à Deux, provides the contours of a contemporary revolutionary position that sees gender, along with race, as an inherent element of the capitalist mode of production. [3] Taken as a theoretical tonic for the projects, practices and issues described elsewhere in the magazine, this essay suggests a connective tissue linking seemingly disparate instances of oppression and resistance.

For a case study of legislative genocide targeting Indigenous women in Canada, we can turn to “Forcing Our Hearts,” [4] by Pamela Palmater, who is currently running for National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Beginning with the knowledge that the underlying objective of colonial laws and policies is to eliminate Indigenous people over time, Palmater demonstrates how amendments to colonial legislation tend to simply re-organize oppression rather than alleviate it. Rather, it is the colonial agenda itself that must be abolished through an honouring of Indigenous sovereignty. Offering another case study in the Canadian context, Robyn Maynard’s “Carceral Feminism” [5] exposes the false feminism of sex work prohibitionists, showing how their work has failed to abolish violence against sex workers in Canada, instead harming them and putting them behind bars.

Perhaps the most prominent among contemporary abolitionisms is the prison abolition movement, a continuation of popular initiatives to abolish slavery. Prison abolitionists advance a devastating critique of the criminal justice system incorporating a sophisticated analysis of racialized oppression, arguing that structural racism and the prison industrial complex are both central to the operation of capitalism. This issue features two artists who labour with and for prisoners, Jackie Sumell and Mabel Negrete. “Living In a Place with No Prisons,” [6] by researcher, film curator and prison abolitionist Nasrin Himada, reflects on the long-term collaborative work of Sumell and Herman Wallace. Sumell has dedicated the last decade of her artistic career to the production of an enormous campaign to support Wallace, one of the Angola 3, and get him out of prison. In the photographs of the Counter Narrative Society’s performance in the fields facing the Corcoran State Prison in California, [7] the twisting of Mabel Negrete’s body inside an industrial grey fabric replica of a prison cell creates a ghostly agonized figure, evoking the twinned imprisonment of inmates and their loved ones on the outside.

The various abolitionisms featured in this issue are united by an incisive understanding of exploitation borne by the force of lived experience, but it is their obstinacy and fervor that makes them truly compelling, and that gives them a unique contour in the landscape of political positions.

Stay posted for our next issue’s spotlight on Lithuania, the continuation in our States of Postcoloniality series. Interviews with Ange Bagdziunaite of the Zeimiai Manor House and artist team Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas will introduce readers to the ways that a post-Soviet leftist politic is being taken up by contemporary Lithuanian cultural producers. Marc James Léger’s dialogue with Barbara Clausen and Michael Blum regarding Alexandre Kluge’s News From Ideological Antiquity. MarxEisensteinDas Kapital will lend theoretical context. This August, we’ll be kicking off a series of art-critical podcasts by Reena Katz, the first of which reflects on 9 Pieces from a Nation at War (2007) by Andrea Geyer, Sharon Hayes, Ashley Hunt, Katya Sander, and David Thorne, on view at the MoMA until 6 August 2012. In the meantime, check out our new resources on fusemagazine.org, including full bibliographies for articles in the Abolition issue, as well as blog posts by intern Julia Borowicz on FUSE’s feminist legacy.

— Gina Badger, with the FUSE Editorial Committee

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NOTES:

[1] A disproportionate number of whom are racialized, Indigenous, Trans*, queer differently abled and/or poor.

[2] Page 12, print edition.

[3] Further aspects of this materialist feminist tendency are currently being developed for the forthcoming journal LIES, whose inaugural issue is due out in late summer 2012. FUSE editors are immensely grateful for their exchanges with LIES editors during the production of this issue.

[4] Page 4, print edition.

[5] Page 28, print edition.

[6] Page 18, print edition.

[7] Pages 24–25 and 34–35, print edition.

Image Credit: Counter-Narrative Society/Mabel Negrete. Sensible Housing Unit (2008–present). Image Courtesy of the artist.

Errata: Note that the print version and a previous online version of this editorial included an error in Marc James Léger’s name.

 

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