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DemPrac2024 — The Carceral City and Its Abolition

The 5th Democratic Practices PhD Seminar on “The Carceral City and Its Abolition” is scheduled to take place 25-28 June 2024 in Stockholm, Sweden. You will meet Andrés Henao Castro, Ashley Bohrer and Henrik Ernstson as teachers and organisers in collaboration with KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

PhD students, interested Master students, and junior scholars are encouraged to apply (see details below). Early deadline 21 February 2024 with first acceptance notice sent out by 28 February 2024. Second deadline 13 March 2024 with final acceptance notice by 18 March 2024.


A 4-day PhD Intensive Reading Seminar

Democratic Practices: 


25-28 June 2024

at KTH in Stockholm, Sweden




Henrik Ernstson, Ashley Bohrer and Andrés Fabián Henao Castro

Produced by

The Situated Ecologies Platform

in collaboration with

KTH Royal Institute of Technology

KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory & Environmental Science Department at KTH (aka SEED)



What is the historical relationship of confinement to capitalism? How does modern colonization both invent and modify technologies of confinement in ways that useful to capitalist logics of accumulation? What forms confinement takes with the development of the modern city, and how are technologies of confinement contested by the subjects it targets? What exactly is abolition, and how do we imagine a city and society free of prisons, police, and borders? How can we represent confinement, its violence, the plurality of its logics, but also the form that resistance to it takes? These, and many other questions are the main objective of this seminar to explore. “The Carceral City and its Abolition” is our fifth international seminar and part of our long-standing effort to put political philosophy, critical geography, urban studies, critical theory, and film in interdisciplinary conversation with each other, for us to address structural problems that shape democratic practices in the present and with a focus on the global south.

Venue: KTH in Stockholm, Sweden. Main seminar room will be located in the Environmental Science Department building (aka SEED), Teknikringen 10B.

Schedule: Seminars 9-13 with a first seminar session at 09:00-11:00 and a second session 11:30-13:00. Film forum 16-19, screening films at KTH but hopefully in a cinema theatre. One night, we will organise a simple collective dinner.

Application Process

PhD students, Master students, and junior scholars are encouraged to apply through sending a 1-page motivation letter and CV to

Maximum number of participants: 20

Early deadline 21 February 2024 with first acceptance notice sent out by 28 February 2024.

Second deadline 13 March 2024 with final acceptance notice by 18 March 2024.

To read more about the Democratic Seminar PhD seminars, its teachers, and previous years seminars and reading lists, please go here.

Detailed schedule with readings and films

[NB! Smaller changes and adaptions to the readings will be made. /15 Jan 2024]

Day 1: Confinement and Capitalism [Tuesday]

Through a discussion of Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s work, we will investigate the relationship of confinement to capitalism, understood historically and intersectionally. The idea of this session is to: first, introduce the seminar and give us its history; and second, start to sketch the idea of the carceral city as a feature of capitalism. 

During the first session of the seminar, we will introduce the seminar series and its history, and we will explain why we turn to the carceral city today. We will also do introductions of all the organizers and participants and hopefully have an opportunity to explain what are we all currently working on and how it relates to a critique of confinement. The evening film will bring the historical analysis to our contemporary moment by situating it in a concrete location, but the idea is precisely to watch the film with the readings in mind in order to have a film forum afterwards.


  • Karl Marx. [1867] 1993. Capital. New York: Penguin. Chapter 27. [AB]
  • Michel Foucault. [1975]. 1995. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage. Part 1, Chapter 1, Part 3, Chapter 1 and 3, and Part 4, Chapter 3. [AFHC]
  • Ruth Wilson Gilmore. 2007. Golden Gulag: Prison, Surplus, Crisis and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley: University of California Press. [HE]

Evening Film:

Ava DuVerney’s 13th (2016)

Discussion will follow the film.

Day 2: Confinement and Colonialism [Wednesday]

Our discussion of the carceral city will continue through an analysis of the relationship of confinement to colonialism. We will explore the different forms that confinement takes, from congregation to segregation, inclusive of redlining and gentrification, as they differentially affect the city and generate both displacement and concentration. 

During the first session of the seminar, we will introduce the first two readings, while making connections between them and the readings that we discussed during our first day. Then, we will have a discussion before the break. During the second session we will discuss the other two readings and follow the same methodology. With this film, we expect not only to start shifting our discussion from historical representation to aesthetic considerations, but also to political strategy, as part of the forum.


  • Daniel Nemser. 2017. Infrastructures of Race: Concentration and Biopolitics in Colonial Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press. Introduction (pp. 1-24) and Chapter 1 (pp. 25-64). [AFHC]
  • Premesh Lalu. 2022. Undoing Apartheid. Cambridge: Polity. Introduction (1-32) and Chapter 6 (162-191). [HE]
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. 2019. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Ownership. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. Introduction (1-24) and Chapter 6 (211-252). [AB]
  • Jones, Peris S., Wangui Kimari, and Kavita Ramakrishnan. 2017. ‘“Only the People Can Defend This Struggle’: The Politics of the Everyday, Extrajudicial Executions and Civil Society in Mathare, Kenya.” Review of African Political Economy 44 (154): 559–76. [HE]

Evening Film:

Sergio Cabrera’s “The Strategy of the Snail.” (1993)

Discussion will follow the film.

We will also organise a collective seminar dinner.

Day 3: Extreme Confinement [Thursday]

This day will have a double focus. On the one hand, we will analyze the most extreme forms that confinement takes, by studying the case of solitary confinement and that of Gaza as an open-air prison. On the other hand, we will focus on the relation of captivity to gender policing. 

During the first session we will introduce the readings and open-up the space for discussion. The second session will have two parts. During the first half of the second session, we will finish discussing the readings that we were not able to cover during the first session. During the second half, participants will have a chance to present their research to their peers. The film session will continue both with our analysis of aesthetic form and political resistance, this time in relation to forms of counter-acting and re-narrating the most radical forms of confinement.   


  • Lisa Guenther. 2013. Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Introduction (), Chapter 6 and 7. [AFHC]
  • Joy James (editor). 2005. The New Abolitionists: (Neo)Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings. New York: SUNY Press. Chapter 8 Assata Shakur (77-90), Chapter 9 Susan Rosenberg (91-98) and Chapter 10 Angela Davis (99-112). [HE]
  • Jasbir Puar. 2017. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham: Duke University Press. Chapter 2 (79-113). [AFHC]
  • Gary Fields. 2020. “Lockdown: Gaza through a Camera Lens and Historical Mirror.” Journal of Palestine Studies 49 (3): 41-69. [AB]

Evening Film:

Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” (2019) and/or Cho Min Ho’s “A Resistance” (2019). 

Discussion of the film will follow.

Day 4: The Politics of Abolition [Friday]

On the last day we turn our attention to the politics of abolition and the ways in which it allows us to rethink anti-capitalist and anti-colonial forms of emancipation in international and intersectional ways. On this day, we would like to collectively imagine what would it look like to live in a world free of prisons, police institutions, borders, states, and other technologies seeking to confine life. 

During the first session we expect to introduce all the readings and open-up their discussion. During the second session we will engage in a collective imagining of an abolitionist city. Before the end of the second session, participants will have an opportunity to evaluate the seminar and give anonymous feedback to the organizers for the possible improvement of the seminar in a future iteration. The last film will be entirely devoted to political strategy. 

  • Angela Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners and Beth Richie. 2022. Abolition. Feminism. Now. Chicago: Haymarket. [AB]
  • Grace Mae Bradley and Luke de Noronha. 2022. Against Borders: The Case for Abolition. Verso: London. Introduction (1-14) and Chapter 8 (147-162). [AFHC]
  • Ruth Wilson Gilmore. 2022. Abolition Geography. London: Verso. Chapter 1 (25-50), Chapter 16 (355-409) and Chapter 17 (410-448). [HE]
  • Nik Heynen. 2018. “Uneven Racial Development and the Abolition Ecology of the City.” In Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-Obscene, edited by Henrik Ernstson and Erik Swyngedouw, 1st ed., 111–28. Routledge. [HE]

Evening Film:

Alex Rivera’s “The Infiltrators.” (2019)

Discussion of the film will follow.

We will also suggest a place to go and have a drink together.

Accommodation and getting around 

To find accommodation in Stockholm, there are some good hostels around. You will find a list of hostels here with prices from €20 to €50 per night depending on shared or single/double rooms. We recommend Långholmen hostel, a building that ones hosted a prison, Zinkensdamm hostel, Den röda båten (where you will live on a boat); or Skanstull hostel. The closest to KTH would be City Backpackers. All of these hostels lies centrally in Stockholm and you will easily access KTH and other seminar venues (we hope to screen a film in a movie theatre) lies within 15-25 minutes using public transport. Public transport costs €4 for single tickets, but it would probably be best to by a 7-day card that costs €40. All public transport tickets are valid on buses, trains, and trams. You buy tickets in the subway stations and for single tickets you can also “blip” your credit card at the turnstile. (For emergencies, call 112.).

The KTH seminar room: Environmental Science Department (aka SEED) building is on Teknikringen 10B.

Short on the organizers

Andrés Fabián Henao Castro is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He has been Post-Doctoral Fellow of the Academy of Global Humanities and Critical Theory at the University of Bologna/Duke University (2018-2020), and a Karl Lowenstein Fellow at Amherst College (2014). His research seeks to rethink the relationship between politics and aesthetics in relation to gender-differentiated colonial logics of capitalist accumulation. He has published two monographs, Antigone in the Americas: Democracy, Sexuality, and Death in the Settler Colonial Present (SUNY Press, 2021) and The Militant Intellect: Critical Theory’s Conceptual Personae (Rowman, 2022). To the seminar he brings his keen and long experience of Marxism, ancient and contemporary political theory, and the literary and performative arts as radical democratic practice.

Ashley J. Bohrer is Assistant Professor of Gender and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and cohosts the Pedagogies for Peace Podcast. She is the author Marxism and Intersectionality: Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality under Contemporary Capitalism (2021, Transcript) and devotes much of her time to social movements for intersectional and anti-capitalist liberation. To the seminar she brings core insights into intersectional feminism, Marxism and decolonial thinking. She joined Henrik and Andrés in 2017 to further develop the seminar’s teaching and curriculum.

Henrik Ernstson is Professor and Docent in Political Ecology at KTH R!oyal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Honorary Senior Researcher in Human Geography at The University of Manchester and Honorary Associate Professor at the African Centre for Cities at University of Cape Town. He has previously held lectureship positions at the universities of Manchester and Cape Town and was Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. He has co-edited the two books Grounding Urban Natures: Histories and Futures of Urban Ecologies (2019, MIT Press) and Urban Political Ecology in the Anthropo-obscene (Routledge, 2019) and with Jacob von Heland, premiered two cinematic ethnographic films on the politics of knowing and owning in postcolonial cities, One Table Two Elephants (CPH:DOX Copenhagen, 2018, 84 minutes) and The Lindeka: When a City Ate a Book (SVA AAA Toronto, 2023, 66 minutes). He co-directs The Situated Ecologies Platform and the Situated Urban Political Ecology Collective and the PhD Seminar on Democratic Practices was developed based on funds from his various research projects. To the seminar, he brings his long interdisciplinary experience of intersecting political ecology, postcolonial urbanism, radical democratic theory and ethnographic practices.