Ruth Wilson Gilmore, "Abolition Geography: Essays Towards Liberation" (Verso, 2022)

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Gathering together Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s work from over three decades, Abolition Geography: Essays Toward Liberation (Verso, 2022) presents her singular contribution to the politics of abolition as theorist, researcher, and organizer, offering scholars and activists ways of seeing and doing to help navigate our turbulent present.

Edited and introduced by Brenna Bhandar and Alberto Toscano, Abolition Geography moves us away from explanations of mass incarceration and racist violence focused on uninterrupted histories of prejudice or the dull compulsion of neoliberal economics. Instead, Gilmore offers a geographical grasp of how contemporary racial capitalism operates through an “anti-state state” that answers crises with the organized abandonment of people and environments deemed surplus to requirement. Gilmore escapes one-dimensional conceptions of what liberation demands, who demands liberation, or what indeed is to be abolished. Drawing on the lessons of grassroots organizing and internationalist imaginaries, Abolition Geography undoes the identification of abolition with mere decarceration, and reminds us that freedom is not a mere principle but a place.

In this interview, we spent time unpacking how the book came to be, its focus, and its central concept: abolition geography. Among other things, we discussed the meaning and merits of taking a specifically geographical approach to abolition, Ruthie’s activist and intellectual influences, and the role of scholars in bringing about a more just world.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore is Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and American Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she is also Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. She is also the author of Golden Gulag and Opposition in Globalizing California.

Catriona Gold is a PhD candidate in Geography at University College London. She is currently researching the US Passport Office's role in governing Cold War travel, and broadly interested in questions of security, surveillance and mobility.

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