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Bringing Abolition in: Addressing Carceral Logics in Social Science Research

Elizabeth Jordie Davies, Jenn M. Jackson, Shea Streeter

Social Science Quarterly, August 2021

Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson


In this essay, we review and offer theoretical groundings and empirical approaches to the study of abolition.


We begin by demonstrating the ways police and prisons have been used to exploit and dominate marginalized people and argue that abolition offers a path to finding solutions to public safety and racial justice. We draw from black feminist and abolitionist political thought to show how abolition makes space to upend systems of power and domination and develop systems that address the root causes of violence.


We assert that abolitionist research will not only focus on activists’ calls for dismantling the police but will also recognize and engage with activists’ proposals for reimagining public safety. We suggest that social scientists who study abolition, American uprisings, and policing must understand the differences between transformative changes based in abolitionist frameworks versus those that center mass incarceration as a societal given and, ultimately, further reproduce the status quo.


We conclude by suggesting that social scientists must question how researcher practices and universities uphold carceral logics and entrenched hierarchies, determining that abolitionist study will meaningfully engage with the distribution of power.