Fugitive Life

The Queer Politics of the Prison State

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: Published: June 2018

Author: Stephen Dillon

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

During the 1970s in the United States, hundreds of feminist, queer, and antiracist activists were imprisoned or became fugitives as they fought the changing contours of U.S. imperialism, global capitalism, and a repressive racial state. In Fugitive Life Stephen Dillon examines these activists' communiqués, films, memoirs, prison writing, and poetry to highlight the centrality of gender and sexuality to a mode of racialized power called the neoliberal-carceral state. Drawing on writings by Angela Davis, the George Jackson Brigade, Assata Shakur, the Weather Underground, and others, Dillon shows how these activists were among the first to theorize and make visible the links between conservative "law and order" rhetoric, free market ideology, incarceration, sexism, and the continued legacies of slavery. Dillon theorizes these prisoners and fugitives as queer figures who occupied a unique position from which to highlight how neoliberalism depended upon racialized mass incarceration. In so doing, he articulates a vision of fugitive freedom in which the work of these activists becomes foundational to undoing the reign of the neoliberal-carceral state.


"Dillon’s overall project returns a genealogy of antiprison politics to con-temporary queer theoretical debates on temporality, fugitivity, and desire. ... [His] text is thus not only a valuable contribution to Black feminist thought and queer studies but also a model for abolition itself." — Cameron Clark, GLQ

"This is an excellent book for our times, an era provoking fresh outrage over children in cages and the brutal treatment of bodies fleeing violence by states that claim to honor human rights. It is a time to bathe in the spirit of many of the authors Dillon presents. Fugitive Life is a compelling reminder of the logics of the carceral state as they have been unfolding over centuries, and the inevitable — if frequently intangible —logics of resistance that also result." — Keally McBride, Politics and Gender

“In this beautifully written work, Stephen Dillon brings together a variety of threads from the literatures on prisons, feminisms, and queer studies to make novel arguments about fugitivity, neoliberalism, and carcerality. His engagement with poetry, accounts of underground activists, and the other highly charismatic materials he works with will be gripping for students as they read through this compelling entry point into the book's topics. Fugitive Life is a wonderful contribution.” — Dean Spade, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law

“In Fugitive Life, fugitive women of color emerge as feminist thinkers who expose the inherent carcerality of neoliberalism. This groundbreaking intervention in carceral studies, gender studies, American studies, and literary studies offers deep interrogations of queerness and temporality and an extraordinary model for analyzing the dialectics of freedom and repression. Stephen Dillon provides a dramatic contribution that will reshape urgent debates regarding carceral crisis, influencing future scholarship and activism.” — Sarah Haley, author of No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Stephen Dillon is Assistant Professor of Critical Race and Queer Studies in the School of Critical Social Inquiry at Hampshire College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. "Escape-Bound Captives": Race, Neoliberalism, and the Force of Queerness  1
1. "We're Not Hiding but We're Invisible": Law and Order, the Temporality of Violence, and the Queer Fugitive  27
2. Life Escapes: Neoliberal Economics, the Underground, and Fugitive Freedom  54
3. Possessed by Death: Black Feminism, Queer Temporality, and the Afterlife of Slavery  84
4. "Only the Sun Will Bleach His Bones Quicker": Desire, Police Terror, and the Affect of Queer Feminist Futures  119
Conclusion. "Being Captured Is Beside the Point": A World beyond the World  143
Notes  155
Bibliography  171
Index  185
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7082-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7067-3
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