Deborah Cowen | Abolition Infrastructures, Alimentary Infrastructures


28/04/2021 12:00 am

3:30 -5 pm

Zoom registration required

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It has been widely asserted that abolition is not simply the dismantling of police, but the building of spaces and futures organized by its alternatives. There is arguably no better way to see this, and to hold Ruthie Gilmore’s call to ‘change everything’, than through engagement with infrastructure. Roads, railways, pipelines, and prisons are the socio-technical systems built to reproduce life itself and particular ways of living. Yet, insofar as they are oriented towards expanded reproduction, infrastructures dispossess, extract and accumulate; they produce premature death. Infrastructures do not simply collaborate in racial capitalist and colonial violence; they are its primary material form. In this talk, I look to historical entanglements of circulatory and security infrastructures on Turtle Island in order to track how police force constitutes colonial infrastructure. I draw attention to the ways that policing systems are socio-technical in themselves, but also to how they have been assembled to secure circulatory and extractive systems. In doing so, I foreground what Winona LaDuke and I have termed ‘alimentary infrastructures’, built in the wake of formal socio-technical systems or in struggle against them. These infrastructures of abolition, rooted in care and survival, can inspire visions of life worth living and open up paths to ecological justice and collective flourishing.


Deborah Cowen teaches in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. Deb’s work is concerned with the intimate life of war in ostensibly civilian spaces, the logistics of supply chain and racial capitalism, and the contested geographies of settler colonial infrastructure. The author of The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade and Military Workfare: The Soldier and Social Citizenship in Canada, Deb also co-edited War, Citizenship, Territory and Digital Life in the Global City: Contesting Infrastructures, and with Katherine McKittrick and Simone Browne co-edits the Duke University Press book series Errantries.


This talk is co-sponsored by the Department of Geography.

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