cover image Practicing New Worlds: Abolition and Emergent Strategies

Practicing New Worlds: Abolition and Emergent Strategies

Andrea J. Ritchie. AK, $22 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-849-35511-7

In this probing volume, lawyer and prison abolition activist Ritchie (Invisible No More) moves away from the top-down, policy and litigation-centered organizing strategies that previously characterized her activism and turns her attention to the decentralized, community-centered frameworks elucidated in adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy. Though still committed to the importance of policy work to address immediate harms to individuals, Ritchie shows how an “emergent strategy” approach (which entails following the unplanned initiatives that emerge organically from within a group) is more likely to yield real cultural change, pointing to the uprisings in 2020 following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as examples. She describes abolition activism as fractal, like a fern, and synchronized without centralized leadership, like a flock of starlings. Emphasizing the importance of fiction in imagining a radically better future, she analyzes among other works two stories from the science fiction anthology Black Freedom Beyond Borders that envision a world without prisons and police, and spotlights creative work being done by various projects and cooperatives, such as Harm Free Zone experiments in Brooklyn, N.Y.; New Orleans; and Durham, N.C. Ritchie convinces the reader as she convinces herself that leaning into emergent principles is the key to shaping a more equitable future. Old-school organizers and newly inspired activists would do well to consider what Ritchie has learned. (Oct.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review had the wrong titles for adrienne maree brown’s book and the science fiction anthology from which the author selected two stories to analyze.