Policing, Justice, and the Radical Imagination
Issue number 137 (May 2020)
Abstract Deadline: September 1, 2018
Co-Edited by Amy Chazkel, Monica Kim, and Naomi Paik

Radical History Review seeks proposals for contributions to a forthcoming issue that will bring together historically oriented scholarship and politically engaged writing that examine places and times without police. Social movements like the Brazilian campaign Reaja ou será mort@ (React or Be Killed) and Black Lives Matter in the U.S. seek not only to redress and prevent the harms inflicted by police and prisons, but also to reenvision forms of social organization that do not rely on such institutions of state violence at all. Indeed, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) centrally calls for their abolition, meaning not just dismantling these institutions of public discipline but also redistributing their capacities into institutions of real community safety, like schools, hospitals, and public spaces. While the idea of a world without police may appear utopian, this issue of RHR challenges us to take this proposition seriously. What would a world without police look like, and how might it function? How might radical histories of policing allow us to imagine such a world?

We welcome contributions that challenge the necessity of violence and authoritarian oversight in structuring social order, or that use historical study to disrupt the assumption that police are necessary. This issue aims to present a critically broadened set of political stakes, practices, and visions in the imagining of radical alternatives, through investigations of social peace and public discipline that existed before or against the institutionalization of the police–those that actually existed as well as those projected but never realized. We are interested in how people and societies have challenged the institutionalization of policing as a natural extension of the modern state, as well as in how different forms of policing arose in eras before or spaces beyond the modern state.

Submissions may focus on all parts of the world during any time period, and those that examine places outside the US and premodern histories are especially encouraged.

Possible topics include:

  • New forms of policing and public order that have arisen during “transitional” moments, such as foreign occupation, decolonization or emancipation, or during crises like blackouts or natural disasters
  • Pre-police practices of community safety
  • What might histories of societies without police reveal about the relationship between policing and capitalism? What did public safety mean before capitalist property relations and modern state formations?
  • A world beyond police as represented in popular culture
  • Considerations of the types of social control workers who preceded, replaced, or acted against or alongside police, like bounty hunters, slave catchers, night watchmen, paramilitary actors, subcontractors, security guards, Minutemen, vigilantes, self-defense committees, teachers
  • Police as workers, and understanding the labor of policing in the context of abolitionism
  • Language and radical etymologies: What vocabularies for describing/imagining worlds without police have been available?

Procedures for submission of articles:

The RHR publishes material in a variety of forms. We welcome submissions that use images as well as text. In addition to monographic articles based on archival research, we encourage submissions to our various departments, including: Historians at WorkTeaching Radical HistoryPublic HistoryInterviews; and (Re)Views.

By September 1, 2018, please submit a 1-2 page abstract summarizing the article you wish as an attachment to contactrhr@gmail.com with “Issue 137 Abstract Submission” in the subject line. By November 1, 2018, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version of their article for peer review. Completed articles will be due on February 15, 2019.

Those articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in issue 137 of the Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in May 2020.

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