Colonial Lives of the Carceral Archipelago: Rethinking the Neoliberal Security State


Mass incarceration, police brutality, and border controls are part and parcel of the everyday experiences of marginalized and racialized communities across the world. Recent scholarship in international relations, sociology, and geography has examined the prevalence of these coercive practices through the prism of ‘disciplinary’, ‘penal’, or ‘authoritarian’ neoliberalism. In this collective discussion, we argue that although this literature has brought to the fore neoliberalism’s reliance on state violence, it has yet to interrogate how these carceral measures are linked to previous forms of global racial ordering. To rectify this moment of ‘colonial unknowing’, the collective discussion draws on decolonial approaches, Indigenous studies, and theories of racial capitalism. It demonstrates that ‘new’ and ‘neoliberal’ forms of domestic control must be situated within the global longue durée of racialized and colonial accumulation by dispossession. By mapping contemporary modes of policing, incarceration, migration control, and surveillance onto earlier forms of racial–colonial subjugation, we argue that countering the violence of neoliberalism requires more than nostalgic appeals for a return to Keynesianism. What is needed is abolition—not just of the carceral archipelago, but of the very system of racial capitalism that produces and depends on these global vectors of organized violence and abandonment.

International Political Sociology