Refuse Powers’ Grasp
Life in flight from every prison
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.Read
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 imprisonment 1 . 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.
Dean Spade Hope Dector Tourmaline
A crash-course in pre-figurative, radical, queer, anti-racist, anti-police, anti-prison, anti-deportation abolitionist politics and trans-resistance.
Dean Spade Joshua Allen Tourmaline We Will Rise
Is there a link between the ways we’re caged and exiled by the prison-industrial complex and the ways people’s bodies are violently categorised and segregated by race, class, gender or ability?
Chris Vargas Eric A Stanley
Criminal Queers visualises a radical trans/queer struggle against the prison industrial complex, working to abolish the multiple ways our hearts, genders, and desires are confined.
boychild Elysia Crampton Juliana Huxtable Joe Heffernan
All ticket income goes directly to We Will Rise – a group of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and their allies who have come together to End Immigration Detention in the UK.
CeCe McDonald Joshua Allen
A collaborative social justice project that uses art, activism and awareness to combat the systemic oppression facing young, trans, queer & gender nonconforming people of colour.
Che Gossett English Collective of Prostitutes Eric A Stanley Scot-Pep/ Umbrella Lane Tourmaline
What is happening when systems of repression try to grasp communities’ ways of being, living or surviving, applying laws of sexuality, gender or race to cast them as criminal?
Gallery of the Streets Glasgow Open Dance School Kai Lumumba Barrow
The ongoing development of [b]reach, an abolitionist black queer retelling of Marge Piercy’s incredible feminist utopian novel Woman on the Edge of Time.
A sort of prayer and conference, a sort of scream and dialogue – a monologue and declaration at the time, addressing how we can build complicity with one another.
Jumping off from Sun Ra’s thoughts on evil, and the Alien films, this performance will explore how the sociality Sondra wants to visualise and participate in has no interest in respectability.
Eric A Stanley Miss Major
A conversation of intergenerational trans-resistance and anti-racist fierceness between two of the most inspiring public speakers we know.
How black radical practices of abolition imagine a way out of the caging and mass killing of life.
Dean Spade Eric A Stanley Mujeres Creando
What does it mean to resist seeking assimilation or inclusion within, or let our demands be co-opted by the very systems we seek to dismantle?
A celebration of our overabundant social entanglement and complicity, that remind us of how we can see ourselves, stripped of powers’ attempts to grasp us.
Che Gossett Kai Lumumba Barrow Miss Major Tourmaline
How do communities practice being one another’s means, addressing their material problems facing them replicating the state’s violent logic of who is disposable.
Ahya Simone Joe Heffernan Juliana Huxtable
Juliana’s performances chart the dissonant space and discrepancy between the presumed fixed norms of social life and the fluid lived experience those norms don’t allow for.