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Research project The Prison Abolition Movement in the U.S. and the Nordic Countries

The aim of this project is to analyze transregional networks among two generations of women activists released from prison in three diverse geographical and political regions; New York State, Louisiana and California.

Crime and punishment are high on the political agenda in many countries and politicians of all persuasions discuss harsher sentences. The focus of this study, however, is a movement that is currently challenging this view and that is gaining momentum across the U.S.: the prison abolition movement. The aim of this project is to analyze transregional networks among two generations of women activists released from prison in three diverse geographical and political regions; New York State, Louisiana and California. The study follows the activists to gain insights into their views on society, the state and the market. It also looks into their practical work and writings to understand how their everyday experiences have impacted their activism and how activism is expressed in their everyday life. The activists put their own individual history in the broader historical context of structural racism in contemporary society, and relate it to mass incarceration as a continuation of slavery.

In the light of the contemporary movement in the U.S., similar activism in the Nordic countries are taken up to discussion. The prison abolition movement in the Nordic countries (mainly Sweden and Norway) experienced a dynamic period in the 1960s to the 1980s. This was a time when journalists in mainstream media, authors, scholars and others supported and collaborated with the activists. These activities in the Nordic countries, at the time, are put in a broader international context and further discussed in relation to the vital prison abolition movement in the U.S. today. The project is mainly based on ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation, but also includes interviews, archive material, autobiographies and other written material. The study is positioned at the intersection of social movement research, prison studies and gender studies.

 

Project members

Project managers

Eva Maria Hardtmann

Associate Professor, Director of studies advanced level and doctoral program

Department of Social Anthropology