Abolition Democracy and Global Politics

Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Since well before the publication of the feminist classic, Women, Race, and Class in 1981, this year’s Helen Pond McIntyre ’48 lecturer Angela Y. Davis has been concerned about the interconnections among issues, as well as about connections among peoples around the world. In “Abolition Democracy and Global Politics,” Davis will present a new and wide-ranging vision for making connections among both issues and peoples. She develops the term “Abolition Democracy” from W.E.B. DuBois’s influential text, Black Reconstruction in America, connecting the abolition of slavery, of the death penalty and of prisons themselves to the possibility of substantive democracy in the United States and globally. As Davis stated in a recent interview, “DuBois … argues that a host of democratic institutions are needed to fully achieve abolition—thus abolition democracy…. In thinking specifically about the abolition of prisons, [for example], using the approach of abolition democracy, we would propose the creation of an array of social institutions that would begin to solve the problems that set people on the track to prison, thereby helping to render the prison obsolete.” In her lecture, Davis will link this concept of abolition democracy to questions of global politics. What does it mean that the prison-industrial-complex, often led by U.S. corporations, is expanding globally? What are the connections between the rapid expansion of prison industries and the military-industrial-complex? What global forces contribute to the exploitation of peoples in different parts of the world? How can feminists and other advocates for democracy connect their movements around the world? On October 30, we will learn what visions of another possible world—one of freedom, justice and democracy—are offered by these movements and by Davis’s long experience as both an activist and a scholar.

Professor Davis’s teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley. She has also taught at UCLA, Vassar, the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University. She has spent the last fifteen years at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is Professor of History of Consciousness, an interdisciplinary Ph.D program, and Professor of Feminist Studies. Angela Davis is the author of eight books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. In recent years a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” She has also conducted extensive research on numerous issues related to race, gender and imprisonment. Her most recent books are Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons and Torture and Are Prisons Obsolete? She is now completing a book on prisons and American history.

Co-sponsored by The Cooper Union, The Center for the Humanities at CUNY, The College and Community Fellowship Program at CUNY, and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at NYU.