"Intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another."
This month we read a chapter from the book The Slave Ship A Human History by Marcus Rediker. The chapter was chapter 10, "The Long Voyage of the Slave Ship Brooks." It focuses on the role of imagery and working class, sailor narratives in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. A poster depicting horrific conditions of enslaved people was displayed before British Parliament and spread throughout newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Much like prisons today, slave ships were advertised by merchants and profiteers as safe, hygienic, and technologically forward enterprises. Under similar guises, local architecture firm, Astorino, has been spotlighted by Decarcerate PA Pittsburgh for their work in expanding maximum security housing and solitary confinement cells across state prisons. (See criminal justice portfolio and language) The idea that prisons can be made better and safer and that reform movements are enough, and that figuring out ways to make prisons more cost and energy efficient is challenged by the work of prison abolitionists.
Here is a preview of the chapter contents, within the questions we used to have a conversation:
The image of the slave ship Brooks is a visual tool used to show horrible conditions and move people to respond. What images have moved you in this way? What images have worked for the prison abolitionist movement? Feel free to bring images you have seen to share. What images can we use and how?
Do you think working for prison abolition is the telling of a narration of miseries? What sources do you tune into to find out about or spread this narration of miseries? If our group is participating in the creation of the narration of miseries, how are we doing it and is there room to change or improve?
How does this translate to the Prison industrial complex? How do corrections officers fit into the struggle for prison abolition? How has our group related to the correctional officer class in the past and how should we moving forward?
e.g. Both abolitionists highlighted individual and collective acts of rebellion by slaves against conditions
e.g. like prisons, slaveships were presented to government officials as safe, modern, hygenic advances in science and technology