Beyond racial capitalism’s spacetime

Unleashing the Utopian imagination for youth justice

Authored by: Kaitlyn J. Selman , Cori J. Farrow

The Routledge International Handbook of Penal Abolition

Print publication date:  March  2021
Online publication date:  March  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138354098
eBook ISBN: 9780429425035
Adobe ISBN:


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In Octavia’s Brood, Walidah Imarisha declares that, “Once the imagination is unshackled, liberation is limitless” (p. 4). If we unshackle our imaginations, what could our world look like? Could it be a world built on notions of safety, community accountability, social health, and justice, rather than one engulfed by racial capitalism and all of the oppressive experiences it brings with it? Put simply, when we use our imaginations, does an abolition democracy become possible? This chapter explores these questions through a specific focus on youth justice organizing efforts in the US in order to destabilize dominant narratives around the (im)possibility of abolition. Drawing on the goals, strategies, and actions of fifteen abolitionist-oriented, youth-focused organizations, we trace and chart the relationship among the utopian imagination, abolition, and young people. Through this speculative exploration, we argue that these organizations locate and reveal the caesura in the racial capitalist structure, building upon those breaks to construct spaces of freedom within conditions of un-freedom. Through destabilizing hegemonic constructions of time, resisting enclosure/reclaiming space, and transforming ways of being in/of the world, these organizations and others like them use the utopian imagination to enable abolitionist consciousness to overtake the racial capitalist regime, like flora consuming a concrete structure.

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