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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/hr3s-6r82


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

All Eyez on Me: Abolitionist Anthropology and Refusing the White Gaze with Incarcerated Youth



collaborative research

criminal justice

On November 9, 2006, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (2010) notified the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors that an investigation would be commenced to determine whether the “conditions of confinement” at the Los Angeles County Probation Camps violated the constitutional and federal statutory rights of incarcerated youth. At the time, Los Angeles County operated the largest juvenile justice system in the nation, including 19 camps charged with educating approximately 2,200 youth. The investigation was largely initiated as a result of public pressure from community organizing that advocated for actions from reform to abolition (Gilmore, 2007). As a result of the investigation, Los Angeles County committed to addressing abusive practices (e.g. “practices such as ‘slamming’ for punitive purposes") and additional uses of force, while agreeing to provide suicide prevention and monitoring of the quality of educational programming and services provided to youth. In order to specifically address educational injustices, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors formed a multiagency “Comprehensive Education Reform Committee.” The call was to pilot a “charter school ‘look-alike’” at Camp Scott-Scudder to meet the needs of girls; the conditions facing the predominantly Black and Latinx girls at Camp Scott-Scudder were noted as particularly needing attention. The committee went on to review and research curricular and schooling models at public, private, and charter schools. The “Road to Success Academies” (RTSA) instructional model was developed. Following the implementation of RTSA across Los Angeles County’s camps and juvenile halls, an interdisciplinary team of researchers was asked to conduct ethnographic research to explore the experiences of incarcerated youth through the narratives of students themselves. Responding to deepening concerns that their research would be co-opted by authorities of the state to further strengthen youth incarceration by substantiating the possibility for “high-quality” education during imprisonment, the four Black, Latinx, and Asian researchers on this roundtable take up the 2020 theme of Truth and Responsibility. They approach this roundtable bearing the truth from each of their own respective engagements with carceral education, as researchers, teachers and family members, and as men and women who grew up in poor and working-class communities facing systemic injustices. On this roundtable the researchers argue that it is now ethically imperative to conduct research with incarcerated youth which advances prison abolition. They will critically discuss how to strategically and responsibly conduct ethnographic research (i.e. "abolitionist anthropology") which is accountable to the aim of abolition. Scholars like Davis (2003), Hereth and Bouris (2019) invoke “abolition” as not only an action to abolish prisons, but in order to “draw attention to the ways in which mass incarceration emerged as a strategy for perpetuating white supremacy after slavery was abolished” (p.3). Crucial to subverting the pathologizing White academic gaze, the researchers will engage in conversation with two formerly incarcerated youth as discussants, and two currently incarcerated youth as presenters. Due to the constraints and logistical difficulties of working with the juvenile justice system, the youth presenters and discussants will not be contacted for inclusion unless this roundtable moves forward.


Transcript English (automatic)

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