book review: captive genders: trans embodiment and the prison industrial complex03 Oct 2022
Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex by Eric A. Stanley, Nat Smith
What are the main ideas?
- prisons are a fundamental element of the (constructed and false) gender binary.
- prisons cannot meaningfully be made more inclusive for trans and non-binary people because the institution of prison is a key purveyor of the violence of Western concepts of gender.
- in order to advance prison abolition, collaboration between people inside (especially BIPOC trans people) and people outside of prions is necessary.
- it is possible to advocate for reforms that aim for inclusion of trans people in dominant power systems. this is short-sighted and ultimately helps to strengthen the prison industrial complex (PIC).
If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?
watch out for pitfalls in doing abolitionist work that have the unintended consequence of strengthening or expanding the PIC. for example: advocating for trans-inclusive prison facilities might lead to the building of a new facility rather than keeping people safe while the existing prisons are made obsolete.
How would I describe the book to a friend?
you know, honestly, this book was deeply overwhelming. and not just because the content is intense. i haven’t read an academic anthology like this since college/grad school and now i very much know why. as my friend nadav said “i don’t even remember half of it.” the mixture of personal essays felt forced between the academic pieces. i was really confused about the ratio of theory to lived experience. i also felt yanked around by the pace at which personal experiences were pulled into high-level conceptual theory (too fast). some of the pieces felt really powerful and i learned a lot from them (like the maroon abolitionists chapter). grateful for those. i probably could have learned as much if this were 1/3 of the length. it sort of felt at times like it was a “we gotta include everyone here” and that weakened the overall structure. i wonder what the first, non-extended edition read like… maybe it was tighter.
reminder: book review structure
words / writing / post-processing
327w / ?min / ?min