Who would go to prison on purpose?
Incarcerated Resistance tells the stories of 43 activists from the School of the America’s Watch and Plowshares movements who have chosen to commit illegal nonviolent actions against the state and endure the court trials and lengthy prison sentences that follow. Employing this high-risk tactic is one of the most extreme methods in the nonviolent toolkit and typically entails intentionally breaking the law, most often through crimes of trespass onto federal property or the destruction of federal property. Though they have knowingly broken the law and generally expect to be incarcerated, their goal is to raise awareness and to resist, not necessarily to go to jail. The majority of “justice action prisoners” seek not-guilty verdicts, and use the space of the courtroom and subsequent media attention as opportunities to share information about their issues of concern.
Rooted in individual stories and told through a feminist framework that is attentive to relations of power, Incarcerated Resistance is as much about nuclear weapons and solidarity activism as it is about the U.S. prison system and patriarchal culture. Almost all war-resisting “justice action prisoners” are white, well-educated, Christian, and over the age of 60. Privilege, gender, and religious identity especially shape what happens to this committed group of nonviolent activists, as their identities may also be strategically deployed to bolster their acts of resistance, in important but fraught attempts to “use” privilege “for good.”
From the decision to act through their release from prison, nonviolent resistance illuminates the interconnected struggles required to upend systemic violence, and the ways that we are all profoundly affected by America’s deep-seated structures of inequality.
Anya Stanger currently teaches women’s and gender studies and sociology at Sierra College, and conflict studies at Syracuse University.
Chapter 1. Justice Action Prisoners in the School of the Americas Watch and Plowshares
Chapter 2. Resistance in an Imperial State: Prison Witness
Chapter 3. Like a Chiropractic Adjustment: Aligning Actions and Beliefs Through Identity-Work
Chapter 4. Embodiment, Privilege Power, and the Experience of Action
Chapter 5. Prison Communities
Chapter 6. A Visitor in Someone Else’s House: The Standpoint of Justice Action Prisoners
Chapter 7. Journey through Prison Witness: The Significance of Privilege and Gender
Incarcerated Resistance offers a moving portrait of prison witness, a kind of activism that, while rare, is important for what it can teach us about the nexus of U.S. imperialism, identity and power. Stanger’s research exemplifies the best of feminist-activist scholarship, presenting with the utmost care what it is that justice action prisoners know and do while deftly theorizing the fraught enterprise of contesting state violence from a position of privilege.
In Incarcerated Resistance, Anya Stanger thoughtfully examines the complexities of identity-based privilege, showing how well-meaning activists may inadvertently reinforce existing power dynamics. Stanger offers a vivid depiction of prison witness activism while simultaneously revealing how it yields differential consequences based on activists’ identities. Written in clear and accessible prose, this book is a compelling read!
Incarcerated Resistance is a beautifully written feminist exploration of the embodied resistance of justice action prisoners in Plowshares and the School of Americas Watch. It serves as an eloquent primer for how race, gender, class, and citizenship privilege can be mobilized to hold the US accountable for its global imperial adventures. Stanger offers a compelling account of the radical and nuanced ways that justice action prisoners courageously deploy their identities to confront the violences of militarization and empire in the service of the good, creating an inspiring ethnography of a uniquely North American social justice movement.