Academic journal article Social Justice

A World without Prisons: Resisting Militarism, Globalized Punishment, and Empire (1)

Academic journal article Social Justice

A World without Prisons: Resisting Militarism, Globalized Punishment, and Empire (1)

Article excerpt

THE PAST FIVE YEARS HAS WITNESSED A RADICAL TRANSFORMATION IN the landscape of social movements. We have emerged from two decades of vibrant identity-based formations and a shrinking and beleaguered labor movement and into a moment of radical coalition building around broadly defined social and economic agendas. Three social movements have best captured the "freedom visions" of the young, the indigenous, the black, the poor, the landless, homeless, and disenfranchised. The first is the anti-globalization movement, a campaign against free trade, corporate greed, and environmental devastation that rose to visibility on January 1, 1994, when the Zapatistas declared war on the North American Free Trade Agreement. The second is the popular movement against the prison-industrial complex, a grass-roots movement that has appealed in particular to youth of color in advanced industrialized nations who feel, justly, that they are being prepped in under-resourced schools and over-policed neighborhoods as fuel for the "perpetual prisoner machine" (Dyer, 2000). The third is the antiwar movement that swept the globe after September 11, 2001, culminating on February 15, 2003, when an estimated 10 million people took the streets on five continents to protest the U.S.-led war on terror.

Anti-globalization and peace activists (with perhaps the exception of liberal and religions pacifists in the global North) have identified the connections between U.S. militarism and neoliberal globalization. In the context of the current war on terror, they have pointed to the use of U.S. military might to carve out a space for Western corporate interests. This relationship, activists remind us, is not limited to the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. From the U.S.-funded military units that quash indigenous resistance to free trade in Latin America to the policing of workers in the free-trade zones throughout Southeast Asia, the repression of popular movements by state militaries has been critical to the introduction of sweeping neoliberal reforms across the globe. However, connections remain to be made between these practices and the swelling prison population in the U.S. and internationally. At the same rime, the embrace of issue-based, rather than identity-based politics has in some instances led to a return to a myopia concerning issues of race, gender, and sexuality. This article theorizes the connections between neoliberal globalization, U.S. empire building, and the rise of the prison-industrial complex. By placing women of color and "Third World" women at the center, I aim to reveal the racialized, gendered, and sexual economies that are integral to processes of social control and exploitation, yet somehow fall out of many of our activist responses. The article aims to create a space for reflection and generate new directions for activism.

Toward a Transnational Feminist Analysis

As we seek to lay out a theoretical map of the complex political, economic, and social landscape of post-national capitalism, our challenge is to be vigilant about the silences and erasures that have generated struggle and division within progressive scholarship and activism. We need to challenge the tendency for discussions about the global economy and state violence to lose site of the intimate ways in which gender and sexuality are inscribed in macro-level processes of exploitation and violence; we need to be wary of the limitations of single-issue politics that seek to separate racist repression at home from militarism abroad. or gender violence in the family from state violence against whole communities; and we need to actively counter the nationalism that creeps into even the most progressive movements and prevents activists, particularly those in the U.S., from seeing beyond national borders. One way to do this is by building on the radical internationalist tradition in Africana political thought. I am personally inspired by Claudia Jones, a diasporic intellectual with roots in Trinidad, who was active in anti-racist, feminist, communist, anti-imperialist, and antiwar organizing in the U. …

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