Ruth Wilson Gilmore to speak at UC Santa Cruz on police and prisons

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“America locks up too many people for too many offenses, jamming prisons, ruining families and running up steep taxpayer bills. That’s the party line on mass incarceration heard from social critics for years, but now it’s coming from a new chorus: police chiefs by the score.”   

--San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 2015

On November 9, the UC Presidential Chair in Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz will examine the issue of police and prisons with a free public lecture by Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

The title of her talk is “Organized Abandonment & Organized Violence: Devolution & the Police.”

Feminist studies professor Bettina Aptheker, co–chair of the UC Presidential Chair with literature professor Karen Yamashita, explained why they decided to bring Gilmore to campus

“Several years ago, Ruth Wilson Gilmore wrote a timely and significant book, 'Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California,' published by the University of California Press,” said Aptheker.

“Gilmore, a well-known public intellectual, documents in this book the ways in which California embarked upon the largest prison-building project in its and the nation’s history. Her work critically examines the political and economic forces that combined to propel such an ominous course.”

Aptheker added that despite a crime rate that has been steadily declining for decades, California continues to incarcerate, even in the face of federal court orders to reduce its overcrowded and repressive system.

“Most affected by these rates of incarceration are men and women of color,” Aptheker noted.  “One of the most inspiring chapters in Gilmore’s book is called ‘Mothers Reclaiming our Children,’ also known as ROC, that has worked to help mothers engage in a collective and eminently practical movement to save their children from a profoundly racist criminal justice system.”

Gilmore is professor of earth and environmental sciences, and American studies, and director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She is co-founder of several grassroots social justice groups, including Critical Resistance and California Prison Moratorium Project, and is a past president of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, and of the American Studies Association.

Aptheker said that in her appearance at UC Santa Cruz, Gilmore will expand upon and update the material in her book, and “allow us to understand more deeply how prisons, police, and economic powers in the state propel unconscionable attacks on communities of color in particular, and young people more generally.”

The UC Presidential Chair in Feminist Critical Race & Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz, which began in Fall 2012, is committed to increasing understanding of the ways in which gender, race, sexuality and class form interlocking systems of domination.

“The prison-industrial complex is one of the most egregious forms of injustice and understanding its workings and its connections to larger economic and political forces is part of our educational mission,” said Aptheker.

“In addition we seek to give students and faculty working in Feminist Studies and in Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, and many other departments and programs on campus, an opportunity to meet in smaller groups with our visitors for more in-depth discussions, as they will in the case of Professor Gilmore.”


Ruth Wilson Gilmore will present a free public lecture on November 9, at 5 p.m. in the Music Center Recital Hall on the UC Santa Cruz campus. This event is sponsored by the UC Presidential Chair in Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, the Institute for Humanities Research, UC Presidential Chair in Criminal Justice Reform, and the Arts Division. For more information, visit the IHR web site.