Against the Carceral Archive is a meditation upon what author Damien M. Sojoyner calls the “carceral archival project,” offering a distillation of critical, theoretical, and activist work of prison abolitionists over the past three decades. Working from collections at the Southern California Library (Black Panthers, LA Chapter; the Coalition Against Police Abuse; Urban Policy Research Institute; Mothers Reclaiming Our Children; and the collection of geographer Clyde Woods), it builds upon theories of the archive to examine carcerality as the dominant mode of state governance over Black populations in the United States since the 1960s.
Each chapter takes up an element of the carceral archive and its destabilization, destruction, and containment of Black life: its notion of the human and the production of “pejorative blackness,” the intimate connection between police and military in the protection of racial capitalism and its fossil fuel–based economy, the role of technology in counterintelligence, and counterinsurgency logics. Importantly, each chapter also emphasizes the carceral archive’s fundamental failure to destroy “Black communal logics” and radical Black forms of knowledge production, both of which contest the carceral archive and create other forms of life in its midst.
Concluding with a statement on the reckoning with the radical traditions of thought and being which liberation requires, Sojoyner offers a compelling argument for how the centering of Blackness enables a structuring of the mind that refuses the violent exploitative tendencies of Western epistemological traditions as viable life-affirming practices.