Episode 8: Refuse Powers' Grasp

21–23 Oct 2016
Tramway & The Art School, Glasgow

Is there a link between how people are divided into populations that can be caged and exiled by the prison-industrial complex, and the ways bodies are violently categorised and segregated by race, class, gender or ability?

Over 3 days Episode 8 celebrates all the unruly ways we refuse to be defined by such violence, escape attempts to constrain us, tear down the walls of normative culture and build joy in flight.


Featuring: performances, discussions, screenings, workshop and a club with gender non-conforming rebels, students of blackness, lawyers, archivists, anarco-feminist street artists and witches, party hosts, filmmakers, prison abolitionists, poets, DJ’s, ex-prisoners and multi-media artists including:

Joshua Allen | boychild | Kai Lumumba Barrow | English Collective of Prostitutes | Elysia Crampton | Glasgow Open Dance School | Che Gossett | Reina Gossett | Juliana Huxtable | CeCe McDonald | Miss Major | Mujeres Creando | Sondra Perry | Scot-Pep | Dean Spade | Eric A Stanley | Umbrella Lane | We Will Rise


Refuse Powers' Grasp

We don’t even want to gain rights for women, we are fighting to change society, which is something different… Mujeres Creando

This episode explores the messy, unruly and ungovernable ways queer, trans and women's anti-racist, decolonial, anti-deportation and prison abolitionist struggles imagine themselves. By looking to these movements, the episode explores  our social entanglements with each other, the worlds we want to live in and the ways we bring those worlds about, now and in the future.

If we understand the Prison Industrial Complex as the set of relations in capitalist society enforcing the idea that policing, courts and imprisonment can “solve” the social problems it creates, how do communities most affected by it organise themselves socially, without resorting to the logic of punishment and exile? How can we work to dismantle rather than reform prisons and borders, eroding rather than reproducing the structural violence inflicted on communities? How can we think, organise and bring about entirely different societies?  And do those societies exist already, even if only in part and under duress, in everyday practices of abolition, entanglement and care?

  • What does the dominant culture have that we want?
  • What does the dominant culture have that we don’t want?
  • What do we have that we want to keep?

The perceptive, simple, generative questions above are taken from the curriculum of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools, a huge social educational movement that through direct action and pedagogy sought to recognise and support self-knowledge within black communities so that they could become agents of social change.

The first question recognises that the dominant culture claims to ‘own’ some things we need; the second that it has much that we should refuse. But the third question recognises that we are not totally captured by power; that we already have much of what we need. It recognises that our ways of being and organising - of socialising, thriving and understanding ourselves - don’t have to be shaped by the terms used to gain control over us by regimes of power, and that we can celebrate, defend and nourish the spaces in which we practice them. 

…if the state is ready to kill to defend itself from the black, sexual, trans body brought before it, do we want to be somebody before the state, or no-body against it?

Denise Ferreira da Silva, speaking at Episode 6

The legal idea of Habeas Corpus ensures the right of a citizen to seek protection from false imprisonment1. It literally means ‘you shall have the body’. Populations not granted the status of owning a ‘body’ don’t get that protection; they can ‘legally’ be subjected to various techniques - colonialisation, enslavement, confinement, punishment, violation, death - for the benefit of those included in power. 

Both Black Feminist and Queer thinking proposes that one thing the dominant culture has that we might not want is an idea of the segregated, categorised ‘body’: a fixed and ownable, private organic space. While survival means trying to protect ourselves, the quote from Denise above suggests that to understand ourselves as owning a ‘body’ comes at a price. It’s a self-understanding via the laws that power uses to subjugate and bring us to heel, causing us to forget our entanglement with each other and how we cannot be segregated into private spaces. It means forgetting all the ways we care for and with each other; practices of care that remind us that their laws will never make us safer.

I am not going to claim that I’m like you, your equal, or ask you to allow me to participate in your laws or to admit me as a part of your social normality.  My ambition is to convince you that you are like me. Testo Junkie - Paul B Preciado

Which is to say: struggles against the Prison Industrial Complex and against the imposition and policing of bodies, genders, races, sexes or sexualities are intimately linked.  They are entangled in their insistence that their sociality is not defined by or against power’s attempts to grasp, fix or regulate it.2 Together they refuse to let the carceral logic of an inside and an outside determine how we can understand ourselves, and insist that the way to bring about an entirely different world is to practice that here and now.

This kind of sociality is not asking to be assimilated within power’s law, or asking for recognition as subjects, bodies or individuals brought under the yoke of regimes of violence and separation. It is not the noise of dissensus that can’t yet be heard by systems of oppression.  Instead, sociality vibrates on a completely different frequency, paradoxically out-with powers’ hearing, but audible to us all.


Episode 8 was reviewed in the The Wire by Claire Sawers; in Art Monthly by Naomi Pearce; in Disability Arts Online by Sandra Alland and in Resident Advisor by Ray Philp.



  • 1. Which maybe means being ante-anti-essentialist, or under-anti-normative…
  • 2. It doesn’t prohibit imprisonment, it simple asserts the States authority to decide matters of punishment and exile.


Presented by Arika & Tramway. Supported by Creative Scotland, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life, Cafe Oto, The Lorne Hotel and The Skinny.

Thank you - Ainslee Roddick, Amalle Dublon, Andie Brown, boychild, Buzzcut, Cassandra Shaylor & Angela Davis, CeCe McDonald, Che Gossett, Chris Vargas, Constantina Zavitsanos, Darren Mitchell at The Lorne Hotel, Dawn Martin Lundy, Dean Spade, Deepa Shastri, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Digital Desperados, Elysia Crampton, Emily Roff, Eric A Stanley, Fielding Hope, Fred Moten, Hope Dector and the Barnard Centre for Research on Women, Jazz Franklin, Joe Heffernan & Ahya Simone, Joel & Josh at The Art School, John Stevens & Qu Junktions, Jonathan Anderson, Joshua Allen, Jude McGill and everyone at Tramway, Juliana Huxtable, Jo Ross, Hortense Spillers, Kai Lumumba Barrow, Karl Taylor, Leo at Awesome Agency, María Galindo & Arleti Tordoya Vega of Mujeres Creando, Martin Vincent & Aye Aye Books, Michael Roberson, Miss Major, Nadia Lucchesi, Niki Adams & Sarah Walker and everyone from The English Collective of Prostitutes, Park McArthur, Paul Beatriz Preciado,  Rachel at Kinning Park Complex, Rebecca Clemens at EAI, Reina Gossett, Robert Sember, SCOT-PEP, Sex Workers Open University, Simon Eilbeck, Sondra Perry, Stoffel Debuysere, StormMiguel Florez & Annalise Ophelian, Studio Julia (Erwan Lhuissier, Hugo Timm, Valerio Di Lucente), Soul Food Sisters, Teresa Maria Díaz Nerio, Tim Nunn, Jude McGill, Paul Sorley and everyone at Tramway, Tutlear Ltd, Toshio Meronek, Twiggy Pucci Garcon, Umbrella Lane, UNITY Collective, UNITY Language Exchange, UNITY LGBT Group, UNITY Sisters, West Glasgow Against Poverty (WGAP), Wu Tsang, everyone who came and contributed to Episode 7 and all of our friends and allies.

On Episode 8, Arika has involved: 

Neil Davidson, Barry Esson, Agnieszka Habraschka, Avalon Hernandez, Jim Hutchison, Ben Kamps, Emma Macleod, Kenny MacLeod, Bryony McIntyre, Emilia Muller-Ginorio, Anna Pearce, Ash Reid, Jo Shaw and Alex Woodward