Research Seminar - Professor Andrew Dilts, Loyola Marymount University
Beyond and Against Prison Pinkwashing
Abstract: 'Following on widely adopted models of “gender responsive” incarceration across the United States, increasing elite and popular support has developed for similar “transgender” responsive models of incarceration. Such models operate through segregation (as deployed in the K-6G unit with Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles for “confirmed” gay, transgender, and gender-non-conforming persons) and specific “responsive” programming to inmates (focused on providing “security” from sexual violence and a tacit acceptance of otherwise forbidden sexual activity between incarcerated persons). Such models (in addition to resting on and reproducing violently essentialist notions of sexuality gender, and race) nevertheless insist that the racialized and gendered violence of prison is both “normal” and yet that the prison can be made “safe” and free from violence. In this paper, I first diagnose these developments as techniques of power under a biopolitical regime of neoliberal penality. Such techniques specifically capitalize on the “risk” of sexual violence against femme, feminine, and feminized black and brown bodies in order to expand carceral forms under claims of state fiscal austerity. Second, I identify that at the heart of this push to “save” the prison by making it “safe” for queer, trans, and gender-non-conforming persons is a particular public display and spectacular representation of GNC and trans prisoners as a form of "prison pinkwashing,” which figures such persons at the boundary of humanity in order to simultaneously justify both their “protection” and their continued segregation. Drawing on a constellation of 19th century abolitionist thought, 20th century radical black liberation political thought, contemporary radical feminist anti-sexual violence activism, and queer and trans prison abolitionist thought, I argue that a critical redescription of terms such as “safety” and “liberation” have already been available for generations, and must be central to rejecting the logic of prison pinkwashing'