In this special episode, Huma Gupta and China Sajadian discuss abolition geographies and environmental movements with renowned geographer and activist Ruth Wilson Gilmore. She is the author of the award-winning Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California and several forthcoming books, including Change Everything, Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation, and Stuart Hall: Selected Writings on Race and Difference, co-edited with Paul Gilroy. In this interview, Gilmore explains her research on carcerality through a global, comparative lens, from the long traditions of emancipation within Black Marxism, to popular struggles against TIAA-CREF land grabs in Brazil, to the contemporary challenges of giant monopsonies like Amazon. If abolition must be green, Gilmore insists, it must also be anti-capitalist and internationalist. Such an approach to abolition not only underscores how different parts of the world are, in Gilmore’s words, partitioned and re-partitioned by capitalism—but also the ways that dispossessed, criminalized, and vulnerable people across seemingly disparate contexts come to recognize their fundamental connections to each other.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore
Ruth Wilson Gilmore teaches in Earth and Environmental Sciences, and directs the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Author of the award-winning Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (UC Press), her forthcoming books include Change Everything (Haymarket); Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation (Verso); and (co-edited with Paul Gilroy) Stuart Hall: Selected Writings on Race and Difference (Duke). The documentary Racial Capitalism with Ruth Wilson Gilmore features her internationalist political work. She has co-founded many grassroots organizations including California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network. Gilmore has lectured in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Honors include co-recipient (with Angela Y. Davis and Mike Davis) of the 2020 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize.
Huma Gupta is a full-time Lecturer in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. Gupta holds a PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture and a Master's in City Planning from MIT. Currently, she is writing her first book The Architecture of Dispossession, which is based on her doctoral thesis on state-building and the architectural and environmental transformation of migrant reed-mat and mudbrick settlements in mid-century Iraq. Previously, Gupta was the Neubauer Junior Research Fellow at Brandeis University, Humanities Research Fellow at New York University-Abu Dhabi, and International Dissertation Research Fellow at the Social Science Research Council. Her work has been published in the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Journal of Contemporary Iraq and the Arab World, and Thresholds. As a practitioner, she has worked on infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, municipal planning in Syria, eviction prevention and homelessness in the greater Boston area, and humanitarian response to housing needs for persons displaced due to climate, conflict, and development projects around the world. Gupta is the host of the Environment in Context podcast.
China Sajadian is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her dissertation is an ethnography of agricultural labor, circuits of debt, and gendered relations of hierarchy and interdependency among Syrian refugee-farmworkers in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. She situates her contemporary analysis within histories of migration from Northeastern Syria and the historical political economy of agrarian transformation in the region. Sajadian holds a BA in Government from Smith College and an MA in Anthropology from Columbia University. Her research has been awarded grants by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Orient-Institut Beirut, the Committee on Globalization and Social Change, and the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. She has taught courses on the anthropology of religion, Middle East studies, and introductory anthropology at Brooklyn College.
1. Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind, New York Times
2. Bobby M. Wilson, America’s Johannesburg
3. Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski, The People’s Republic of Walmart
4. James O’Connor, The Fiscal Crisis of the State
5. Petter Nore and Terisa Turner, Oil and Class Struggle
6. Mariame Kaba, We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice
7. Anne Carson, Plainwater
8. Sónia Vaz Borges, Militant Education, Liberation Struggle, Consciousness: The PAIGC education in Guinea Bissau 1963-1978
9. “Geographies of Racial Capitalism with Ruth Wilson Gilmore”
10. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, And Opposition in Globalizing California.
11. Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition