Andrew Ross and Julie Livingston present "Cars and Jails: Freedom Dreams, Debt, and Carcerality" in conversation w/Stuart Schrader

Andrew Ross and Julie Livingston present "Cars and Jails: Freedom Dreams, Debt, and Carcerality" in conversation w/Stuart Schrader

Sunday, January 29th 2023
12:00 am
Red Emma's
“Racism is like a Cadillac, they bring out a new model every year.” —Malcolm X (a former auto worker) Written in a lively, accessible fashion and drawing extensively on interviews with people who were formerly incarcerated, Cars and Jails examines how the costs of car ownership and use are deeply enmeshed with the U.S. prison system.

“As cornerstones of life under racial capitalism, the automobile and the prison exemplify the ease with which the quotidian can become deadly. Livingston and Ross, with the support of formerly incarcerated peer researchers, have produced an extraordinary example of how critical carceral studies can enlighten, complicate and inspire.” —Angela Y. Davis, author of Are Prisons Obsolete?

“I’ve dreamed for years that somebody would write this book. It’s not only a brilliant intervention but a necessary one. Livingston and Ross explore the profound antisociality of automotive life in a society configured by racial hierarchy. They have thoughtfully illuminated the mutual articulation of automotivity and carcerality in provocative ways that have enormous practical value.” —Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic

American consumer lore has long held the automobile to be a “freedom machine,” consecrating the mobility of a free people. Yet, paradoxically, the car also functions at the cross-roads of two great systems of entrapment and immobility– the American debt economy and the carceral state.

Cars and Jails investigates this paradox, showing how auto debt, traffic fines, over-policing, and automated surveillance systems work in tandem to entrap and criminalize poor people. The authors describe how racialization and poverty take their toll on populations with no alternative, in a country poorly served by public transport, to taking out loans for cars and exposing themselves to predatory and often racist policing.

Looking skeptically at the frothy promises of the “mobility revolution,” Livingston and Ross close with provocative ideas for overhauling transportation justice, traffic policing, and auto-financing.

Andrew Ross is a social activist and professor at NYU, where he teaches in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the Prison Education Program. A contributor to the Guardian, the New York TimesThe Nation, and Al Jazeera, he is the author or editor of twenty-five books, including, most recently, Sunbelt Blues: The Failure of American Housing.

Julie Livingston is Silver Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University. Her previous books include Self-devouring Growth: a Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa; Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic; and Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana. The recipient of numerous awards and prizes, in 2013 Livingston was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Stuart Schrader is an Associate Research Professor of Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and the Associate Director of the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship. He is the author of Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing.

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