Tapestries: Interwoven voices of local and global identities


Inspired in part by my experiences at that internship, and a newfound appreciation for the impact of stories, this paper explores the role of narratives in the way we talk and think about prisons. Narratives, or storytelling, are not neutral accounts of the way the world works but are rather informed by social structures of power and control, necessitating subjecting them to critique and analysis. When used for social movements, this becomes especially true. In this paper, I will analyze how narratives are written/spoken and disseminated as part of the abolition or criminal justice reform movement. In organizations and movements that are reformist, I demonstrate that narratives follow neoliberal logic, and are individualizing, rely on free market ideology, and depend upon short-term organizing. As a result, these narratives not only reflect the carceral state, but continuously uphold it. In opposition, narratives used by organizations that are expressly abolitionist resist individualization, short-term organizing, and recognize the carceral state’s operations as rooted in white supremacy, effectively pushing for abolition and improving the lives of incarcerated people. Overall, I argue that narratives are incredibly important tools for exposing the harsh conditions of incarceration and the truths of the carceral state; but when fighting for abolition, narratives must be subject to critique and analysis.

Author Biography

Nora de Rege (they/them) is a senior at Macalester College, expecting to graduate in May 2023, majoring in American Studies, and minoring in English and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Their areas of academic interest lies in prison abolition, oral histories, archival research and analysis, and queer ecology, but the list goes on. Nora is from Little Neck, New York, and enjoys spending their time playing ultimate frisbee, doing the crossword with friends, and working on small organic farms.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License