Assata’s escape as disincarceral practice

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Often carceral studies tends to focus on the prison as a mode of stationary confinement, sometimes forgetting that its rationales and practices are based crucially in movement. This is especially true for black populations disproportionately affected by mass incarceration and intentionally disoriented to the causes and manifestations of the oscillation to which they are reduced. This article is concerned with the carceral landscape that emerges in the criminalization of black people and politics through the legal concept of vagrancy, and how, in turn, black surreptitious movement is used to contest incarceration. To do so, it argues that vagrancy paraphrases a suppression of black political practice, focusing on political prisoner Assata Shakur’s transnational escape to Cuba and its discursive omission in her autobiography. In tracing the transience of Shakur, the article forwards vagrancy as an elaboration of how anti-blackness materializes via carceral geographies by way of displacement, disorientation, and forced movement. It presents a reformulation of Shakur’s escape as disincarceration, which takes seriously the flight toward black liberation as one that is still meaningfully incomplete, elaborating the significance of a continual absconding from the field of representation that has been controlled and constituted by discursive and material hegemonies of race.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-81
Number of pages17
JournalCultural Dynamics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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