5B Abolitionism and Ethical Research

Parallel Session 5B (Day 2 13.50-14.50)


Abolitionism and Ethical Research

*Deirdre Conlon (University of Leeds); Nancy Hiemstra (Stony Brook University, US) : Reading between the (heavily redacted) lines: Immigration detention, contracting, and accountability

This paper considers methodological challenges associated with research about carceral spaces. Specifically, we ask what can be learned from data intentionally concealed from researchers of policing and incarceration. As part of an ongoing research project on the internal, intimate economies of immigration detention in greater NYC, we submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We eventually received hundreds of pages of documents, but with significant portions heavily redacted.  While frustrating to our initial research endeavor, scrutiny of exactly what was removed, and reasons given for the redactions made, illustrates how the permeation of ideological beliefs associated with privatization throughout detention’s infrastructure has affected accountability, systems of checks/balances, and detainee experience. In this paper, we focus on two categories of redactions: those related to finance, and specific agents and agencies involved in administration and oversight of detention operations. We argue that through its aggressive use of exemptions, ICE sticks to the letter of the law, but simultaneously shields all entities involved in the provision of detention—including itself—from public scrutiny. This has consequences related to apprehending the financial stakes, depth of private sector influence, operational procedures, and chain of command in detention. We close by considering recent moves by the Trump administration in the U.S. to further obscure data related to immigration enforcement, and strategies for circumventing these moves.

Carly Guest (Middlesex University); Rachel Seoighe (Middlesex University) : Reflecting on reflexivity: anti-carceral feminists doing research

This paper focuses on the role of reflexivity in ensuring that carceral research is ethical and responsible. It tracks reflexive practices employed on a project on the closure of HMP Holloway and its impact on women imprisoned there. These practices include diary writing, critical conversations, emotion mapping and collective analysis. Three ethical concerns motivated the use of such reflexive practices. Firstly, acknowledging the risk of placing pressure and expectations on interview participants as ‘native informers’ (hooks, 1994). Secondly, taking seriously the power imbalance written into the research design: two women who have not experienced incarceration, writing about the experiences of women who have. Finally, reflecting on the possibilities for academic research to contribute to a wider abolitionist project. These reflexive practices do not eradicate these dilemmas, and cannot be the only way of addressing them, but here we call for the centrality of reflexivity to academic research as part of a commitment to ethical research. We also advocate for the explicit centring of a ‘feminist ethics of care’ (Mountz at al., 2015) in academic research, both in relation to the subjects of research and our joint research practice.

Michael Miller (University of Sheffield) and Lindsay Miller (University of Sheffield) : Carceral Educations: Schools, Prisons, Police and the Obligations of an Abolitionist

In a recent video series by Critical Resistance titled Breaking Down the Prison Industrial Complex, Dylan Rodriguez considers “an ethical and historical obligation to be an abolitionist.” Rodriguez observes the traction that has been gained for languages of prison abolition, but points out that this has not been the case for police abolition, articulating that the “rise of a reformist and even allegedly abolitionist practice, discourse, and analysis around criminal justice, prisons, jails, and so forth, is actually being accompanied by a buttressing and amplification and a strengthening of policing.” With this paper I intend to take up Rodriguez’s call for discussion of both “radical opposition to policing” and “of police abolition”. Along with this, themes of my PhD encompassing violence in education and education as violence will be emphasized in an attempt to contribute to an already nuanced, expansive and ongoing conversation. If we are obligated to be abolitionists, where does our carceral understanding end? Where does what we seek to abolish in the context of the world end, when what I (and others) are ultimately arguing is the abolition of the world as we know it? With that ultimate commitment in mind, the primary carceral site of this paper will be the institution of education and more specifically, schools. Here I consider schooling as having a carceral function not just for those ‘caught’ in the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’, but enacting and instilling a violence and carcerality that exceeds standardized conceptions of discipline also for the educatable, the reformable; for all students. The carceral logic in education might be more recognizable when thinking with Augusto Boal’s “cop in the head”, and Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s “call to order”. Furthermore, this paper will work to stay with the tensions and not neglect schools being geographies of resistances and refusals.