Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Ruth Wilson Gilmore is an abolitionist, prison scholar and geographer, and is widely respected for her decades of contribution to the social sciences and humanities, for public geographical scholarship, and for mentorship and support of a vast number of scholars at all levels.

Professor Gilmore earned a Bachelor’s in Drama from Yale College, an MFA in Dramatic Literature and Criticism from the Yale School of Drama, and a PhD in Geography from Rutgers University, and is Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and American Studies, and Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has taught at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Southern California, and was President of the American Studies Association in 2010-2011.

Professor Gilmore’s landmark work, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (University of California Press, 2007), is a model of direct, clear and critical geography. Golden Gulag takes what is understood to be a problem in public and scholarly discourse – the prison building boom in California – and shows how it ought to be understood as an attempt at resolving a set of crises, and how people organizing against the “prison fix” imagine other possible futures. This book and a set of essays and talks have effectively rewritten Marxist Geography entirely (see the 2018 interview in Historical Materialism; the 2011 presidential address to the ASA entitled “What Is to Be Done?”; and the 2019 feature-length profile in The New York Times Magazine entitled “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind”).

Professor Gilmore is routinely recognized for scholarship applied and used for the public good; for dedication to and excellence in mentoring; for commitment to activism; for relentless exploration of intersectional dynamics and complex formations; and for political hope in dire times. These awards include the 2012 Angela Y. Davis Prize and the 2017 Richard A. Yarborough Award from the ASA, as well as the 2014 Harold M. Rose Award for Anti-Racism Research and Practice and the 2020 AAG Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Geographers.

Professor Gilmore co-founded the California Prison Moratorium Project and, with Angela Davis and others in 1997, Critical Resistance, which strives for the abolition of the prison industrial complex (see the 2011 documentary Visions of Abolition: From Critical Resistance to a New Way of Life). Gilmore is on the board of Californians United for a Responsible Budget.

The Antipode Foundation, Antipode’s Editorial Collective, and our wider community recognize her unending work in pushing the boundaries of geographical thought inside and outside the discipline, and for making geographical questions matter in public life and for a different future.

Sharad Chari, University of California Berkeley, May 2020