GSWS Graduate Conference on Abolition with Elias Rodriques

Saturday, April 15, 2023 - 9:00am to 3:30pm

Penn LGBT Center

3907 Spruce St

This location is ADA accessible

What is abolition?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore states “Abolition is about abolishing the conditions under which prison became the solution to problems, rather than abolishing the buildings we call prisons.” Abolition exists within the context of racialized, gendered, and ableist constructs of relating to one another as well. Angela Davis asks, “How can we produce a sense of belonging to communities that is not evaporated by the onslaught of our everyday routines?” Furthermore, Mia Mingus argues, “Any disability justice work should be in alignment and solidarity with abolition. And any abolition work should be in alignment and solidarity with disability justice. Disability justice is abolition work and abolition work is disability justice work.” The context of abolition is not just a question of prisons or the prison industrial complex, but the very intricate ties people have to one another, the environment, labor, capital, and the uneven delineations of surveillance and control that stretch across the mundane and spectacular aspects of everyday life.

Queer, trans, and feminist imaginations across literature, art, geography, Indigenous studies, critical race theory, disability studies, queer of color critique, trans studies, and Black feminist theory have argued for abolition across the embodied, social, cultural, dystopian, and futurist realities of the networks that we move through daily. An abolitionist reality requires not only a re-orientation away from institutions and borders, but also requires a revaluation of labor, dependency, interdependency, as they relate to capital and exchange. What does an abolitionist future look like beyond utopian simplicity that considers the material realities of race, gender, sexuality, nationality, disability, and mobility?


The hybrid conference will take place April 15th, 2023 and will feature undergraduate and graduate research by students across the University of Pennsylvania and surrounding institutions as well as a morning workshop and a keynote speaker. Participants will be asked to state their preference on in person or remote presentations. Remote presentations can be pre-recorded but must be captioned.


Accessibility: All presentations, except for the workshop, will be available in hybrid form, with captioned text on Zoom for the duration of the day. Please register ahead of time even if you are attending on Zoom so that we can ensure adequate accessibility for you including but not limited to ASL and live captioning. We ask participants to refrain from wearing scent based products on the day of the conference to support scent sensitive individuals in attendance. The LGBT Center is ADA accessible. If you have any additional access needs, please email

Working Schedule

9:00-9:45 Breakfast

9:50-10:50 Workshop

11:00-12:15 Presentations pt 1

12:15-1:15 Lunch

1:15-2:15 Presentations pt 2

2:30-3:30 Keynote from Elias Rodriques


This event is made possible by the generosity of the Center of Experimental Ethnography, Penn LGBT Center, The University of Pennsylvania Spanish Department, and The University of Pennsylvania Comparative Literature and Literary Theory Program.


Related Programming

GSWS/FQT is happy to partner with Colorful Stories to host a Radical Playdate for children in the Penn community during the GSWS Graduate Student Conference taking place on April 15th, 2023. There are two sessions scheduled. Families can register for one session or both. Children of families attending the conference will be given priority, but the playdate is open to the wider Penn community. It is free!!

What is a Radical Playdate?

Young children need caring grown ups in their communities to support them in constructing a positive sense of self and a respectful understanding of others to thrive and succeed in a complex and diverse world. Radical play dates for young children (5-9 years old) and their families are directly connected to a children's book. A teaching artist guides us in an interactive model of storytelling through art and writing and of course, we play! Born out of Colorful Stories approach of using books as tools to support young children in having explicit and developmentally appropriate conversations around social justice topics.

This is a family-inclusive program which means that families/ caregivers are invited to stay and engage in programming.

Link for registration

Note: Parents/ caregivers of children under 5 years old, please contact the Family Center directly: 215-746-2701; They will be open on April 15th for a special "Saturday Play Day" in support of families attending the conference, and including Radical Play dates. The Family Center is a comfortable, indoor space for families to be on campus and for young children to play. The open play areas are most supportive of play and learning development for children under 5. The Family Center is also stroller/wheel accessible and includes a lactation room and family-friendly bathrooms. This is their address:Family Resource Center 3615 Locust Walk, Lower LevelSide Entrance: touch screen doorbell, select Family Center, come in and use elevator to select B - the Family Center. 


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