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YES.

Feminist methodologies can assist us all in major ways; as researchers, academcs, and as activists and organizers. When we discover what appears to be one relatively small and marginal aspect of the category, of what is struggling to enter the category so that it can basically bust up the category, this process can illuminate so much more than simply looking at the normative dimensions of the category. Academics are trained to fear the unexpected. But also activists always want to have a very clear idea of our trajectories and our goals. And in both instances we want control. We want control so that, often times, our scholarly and activist projects are formulated just so that they reconfirm what we already know. And that is not interesting. That is boring. That is boring. And so how to allow for surprises. And how do we allow these surprises to be productive?

[…]

The personal is political. Everybody remembers that, right? … Thinking about the dangerous ways in which the institutional violence of the prison complements and extends the intimate violence of the family, of the relationship, the individual violence of battery and sexual assault. We also question whether incarcerating individual perpetrators does anything more than reproduce the violence that the perpetrators have allegedly committed. There is criminalization, but the problem persists. And it seems to me that people who are working on the frontline of the struggle against violence against women, they should also be on the front line of abolitionist struggles. And people opposed to police crime should be opposed to domestic, what is constructed as domestic violence…There is a feminist philosophical dimension of both abolitionists theories and practices. The personal is political. There is a deep relationality that links struggles against institutions and struggles to reinvent our personal lives and re-craft ourselves. We know, for example, that we replicate the structures of retributive justice in our emotional responses: someone attacks us verbally or otherwise, our response is what? A counter attack. The retributive impulses of the state are inscribed in our very emotional responses. The political reproduces itself through the personal. This is a feminist insight. A marxist inflected feminist insight that perhaps reveals some influence of Foucault. This is a feminist insight regarding the reproduction of the relations that enable something like the prison industrial complex.

“At this point I think it is important to make one thing very clear: I have advocated and I still advocate revolutionary changes in the structure and in the principles that govern the United States. I advocate self-determination for my people and for all oppressed people inside the United States. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism and the elimination of political oppression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty.”

In her own words, Assata Shakur.

The letter in full [PDF]: An Open Letter form Assata Shakur

I recently discovered 19 letters which my mother sent me from prison.  The letters were written between 1997 and 1999, during which time my mother was imprisoned for drug related crimes.  She now lives in Cleveland, Ohio.  She is my dearest friend, a profoundly astute radical thinker and activist, an avid reader, and a woman who has a greater sense of redemptive care than anyone I have ever encountered.

On the advice of a dear friend, I am putting a call out for responses to these letters as a way of engaging with them nearly 15 years after I initially received them.  They are emotionally complex objects for me and it is difficult for me to imagine digesting them all these years later without the help of friends, lovers, and family members, queer and otherwise.  My memory of this time and its impact on my life are directly related to my understanding of radical queerness; being marked; having lost and having again regained a belief in my ability to be loved and to love.

Therefore, I am asking 18 people (I will respond to one letter myself) to volunteer to respond to one letter each in any format which they find appropriate.  The only limitation I will impose on the form of this response is that it should lend itself to being compiled in book form.  Nevertheless, this is a very broad limit.  For example, if you are a sculptor, you might make something three dimensional which can be photographed for inclusion in the final aggregation.  If you are a dancer, you might undertake a piece which could be photographed or recorded.  Of course, written responses are also welcome.

If you are interested in responding to a letter, please contact me at thisisdarren@gmail.com.  From there, I will dispatch one letter to you at an address of your choosing.  All I ask is that you return the letter along with your response (or instructions on how to access your response) within one month.  When I have received all of the responses, I will begin the process of compiling them into a book, likely to be framed by an essay.  The future life of this final compendium is to be determined.

Should you have any further questions, wish for further context, or if you have any particular ideas about the life of this project beyond the response phase, please feel free to contact me.

With love,

dp

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