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Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  456 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A Lambda Literary Award finalist, Captive Genders is a powerful tool against the prison industrial complex and for queer liberation. This expanded edition contains four new essays, including a foreword by CeCe McDonald and a new essay by Chelsea Manning.

Eric Stanley is a postdoctoral fellow at UCSD. His writings appear in Social Text, American Quarterly, and Women and Perf
Paperback, Second Edition, 425 pages
Published February 4th 2016 by AK Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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4.38  · 
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 ·  456 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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I find the way queer abolitionists like Dean Spade continually minimize and denigrate progress that has been made wrt LGBT rights really irritating tbh and maybe a bit moreso given that I started reading this a day after Edie Windsor died. Gay marriage and hate crime legislation are not the enemy, are not distractions and you will not be able to convince me that they are, particularly when the contributor doesn't understand what hate crime legislation means and does. (Hate crime legislation is l ...more
Nat Smith
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
yeah, this is my and Eric's book. So, I can't/shouldn't write a review....
Shannon Wyss
I really, really want to give this book 4 or 5 stars. It has some amazing contributions that really push the anti-prison field and the LGBTQ movement to think further and more deeply.

But this is one of those situations where i think accessibility is key. The articles in this book are so important that i want everyone to be able to read them, including people in prison*, who are disproportionately likely to have had very poor educational opportunities. Unfortunately, a good half of the pieces in
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Foregrounding the history of gay bar raids, gendered clothing requirements, sodomy laws, and other carceral histories of policing gender and sexuality, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex challenges the assumption that we can and should reform the prison system to work for us.

Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex is the newest title that deals with issues of gender and sexuality released by the US-based anarchist publishing collective
Sara Salem
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this in a day because it was so good. Radical perspectives on the prison industrial complex and trans* pocs in the U.S.
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prisons-police
LOVE the Introduction by Eric Stanley and its analysis of gender self-determination; the chapter 'Building an Abolitionist Trans & Queer Movement with Everything We've Got' by Bassichis, Alexander Lee and Dean Spade has amazing tables outlining the "big problems"-"official approaches"-"transformative solutions"; the chapter 'Transforming Carceral Logics: 10 reasons to dismantle the PIC using a queer/trans analysis' by S. Lambel outlines ten really clear and concise arguments that tease out t ...more
Kelly Bennett
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome and insightful, a necessary text. But the language was often so academic that it made it inaccessible.
Brittany Kubes
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great great great compilation of essays. Though there was quite a bit of issue/people repetition, I learned more in depth about some issues I had superficially heard but never examined. For instance, the reason why LGBTQ’s are anti advocacy for same-sex marriage, DADT removal, and hate crime legislation. The answer is intertwined in the prison industrial complex (which suggests monetary gain is more important than individual gain/rehab) and neoliberalism (the detrimental blend of liberal social ...more
Victoria Law
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: prison-reading
A much-needed book on a very invisible topic. Some of the pieces were more academic/less accessible, making me wonder *who* the book is directed towards (I mean, academics can still read regular ol' prose, right?), but still very much a must-read for those involved in prison or transformative justice work.
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book is a flagrant example of how easy it is to write criticizing 'essays'. A few good texts barely justifying my 2 star rating, the rest of the collection being pamphlets full of poor analyses. I would not be surprised to find a paper by one of these authors that proposes total abolition of food as a cure to obesity.
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was wonderful--I learned so much. Highly recommend.
Amy Layton
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a light beach read, this isn't it.  This is filled with essays and entries on the prison industrial complex through an abolitionist and pro-trans rights lens.  Some entries are by professors, others by those who remain incarcerated or who have been previously incarcerated.  They detail their time there, what goes on, the statistics of such a huge system, and what we can do to both change and subvert the system.  

And yet for such an wonderful, thick, and informative book, I
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A collection of essays about trans/queer liberation and the connections that has with the prison industrial complex. They argue for abolition as a necessary component in liberation, not as a monolith but a plethora of voices, viewpoints, experiences, etc. Not everything is in agreement, yet there are strands of thought, of ideas, that unite the essays. It's thought provoking and intersectional, in fact probably the most intersectional book I have read. Its authors work hard to keep in mind the i ...more
Aaron Thomas
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I see some complaints about this book on GoodReads, and I have to say that I don't really understand those complaints. I have no disagreements with the politics advocated in this collection, and the book is rich with cogent analysis of the Prison Industrial Complex and the way that gender analysis can help us rethink the Prison Industrial Complex. This is clearly the thrust of this book, and it accomplishes its goals admirably.

There are some excellent essays in this collection that are perfect f
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book. Not for newbies to the topic of mass incarceration; people who do decarceration work day-in-day-out will appreciate every chapter of this book, particularly it's drumbeat of abolitionist praxis and not just theory. Very useful, timely, well-done.
Jun 18, 2019 marked it as blog-recs  ·  review of another edition
Included in a blog post and resource list at
Keira Edwards-Huolohan
This was a really good and important book. It covered a lot of different angles on the prison industrial complex (PIC). I like how it talked about outside prison as well as inside prison. I liked a lot of the focus on PoC. I think I would have appreciated a bit more information about disability, however it was this book that actually sparked my interest in that (and I'll be reading Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada later because of it). I don't ...more
I hesitantly gave this book 5 stars because about 2/3+ of the contributions are heavily academic and not accessible to the vast majority of people including most people in prisons. That said, if you look at it more as a book for folks who need to understand prisons and prison abolition better, it's a great book for that. There were a few more accessible essays in it from people currently or formerly in prison that most folks could get into. There are some great tidbits of queer history that folk ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this with Normal Life by Dean Spade, which set a high bar for articulation of these types of theories. Many interesting essays though. Appreciated the teaching resources in the back of the book.

Probably most recommended for those already comfortable discussing the prison industrial complex.
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-school
Incredibly powerful collection of both personal and academic essays that critique and analyze the Prison Industrial Complex and the absence of activism and support for trans and non-gender-conforming inmates. This is a painful, but important read that I would highly recommend.
Nov 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is really good. The first part is stories about LGBT people and their experiences with the law/prison/jail/police. The second part is an activist handbook on what can be done to break the PIC (prison industrial complex) and focuses on a LGBT outlook.
Cara G
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. A great combination of academic and experiential chapters.
Mills College Library
306.76809 C254 2015
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute MUST read for anyone interested in social justice or activism. Absolutely magnificent book, extremely educational and eye-opening.
Mar 19, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I posted a review of the book to Here is the link.
Edie Kestenbaum
Probably more like 3.5. There were some really good essays and pieces, like the one about sex offender registration and the interview with Miss Major. Overall a worthwhile read.
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A wonderfully well rounded and unflinching look at the oppression and violence of the prison industrial complex on queer folks. Pairs well with The New Jim Crow.
Feb 21, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
A very well compiled anthology.
Eimer Hannon
The book bounced around a lot with different authors. There were common themes, but I would have liked to see more ties from chapter to chapter from the editors
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Eric A. Stanley works at the intersections of radical trans/queer politics, theories of state violence, and visual culture. Eric is currently finishing a PhD in the History of Consciousness department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and continues to organize with Gay Shame. Along with Chris Vargas, Eric is also a co-director of Homotopia (2006) and Criminal Queers (2011).Eric's other w ...more
“Abolition is not some disstant future but something we create in every moment when we say no to the traps of empire and yes to the nourishing possibilities dreamed of and practiced by our ancestors and friends. Every time we insist on accessible and affirming health care, safe and quality education, meaningful and secure employment, loving and healing relationships, and being our full and whole selves, we are doing abolition. Abolition is about breaking down things that oppress and building up things that nourish. Abolition is the practice of transformation in the here and now and the ever after.” 10 likes
“Taking an abolitionist stance does not mean refusing to engage in incremental change, nor does it mean abandoning efforts to improve conditions inside prisons. Rather, abolitionists engage in 'abolitionist reforms' or 'non-reformist reforms.' These are reforms that either directly undermine the prison industrial complex or provide support to prisoners through strategies that weaken, rather than strengthen, the prison system itself. For example, rather than lobbying for bigger prison health budgets to care for elderly prisoners, an abolitionist reform strategy would aim to get elderly prisoners out on compassionate release to obtain healthcare in the community. --S. Lamble” 2 likes
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