Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Assistant Professor.
Ph.D., Rutgers University, 1998

Interests: Race and gender, labor and social movements, uneven development, politics and culture, California, North America, the African Diaspora.

I became a geographer to engage with questions of how we make the world and ourselves, and to study how everyday people do so with the dream of justice, equality, and beauty for all. Long before turning to geography I earned two degrees in Dramatic Literature and Criticism. Studying drama made common sense out of Marx's lovely observation that by mixing our labor with the earth we change the external world and our own natures. For several years prior to enrolling in the Rutgers Ph.D. program, I taught interdisciplinary courses on culture and power for the African American Studies departments at UCLA and the Claremont Colleges. The curiosity that compelled that work was shaped by, and shapes, a lifetime of political activism.

As a result, I study the dire and the hopeful, the macro, meso, and micro, focusing particularly on twentieth and twenty-first century North America. How have great movements of labor and capital reconfigured landscapes of production and consumption? How do rounds of investment and disinvestment connect with and deepen prior relations of inequality and dependence? What is the role of the state, at various scales, and how and why do bourgeois liberal state institutions rebuild (rather than simply collapse) in times of crisis, shifting territorial boundaries as well as social capacities? How does difference constitute the basis for how places change, and how do people use differential power such that they enhance life-chances rather than guarantee premature death? How do grassroots organizations dedicated to anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-poverty work amplify their characteristics, interests, and purposes across time and against the frictions of distance?

I am currently completing a book on the political economy of California's phenomenal prison expansion since 1982, and urban and rural grassroots opposition to that expansion—paying particular attention to gender and racial contradictions and surprisingly complex class-fraction formations. New projects include research on the possibilities for rural-redevelopment in places where the historical concentration of goods and services in small cities has been eclipsed by the development of regional malls, centralization of banking services, and telecommunications. I am also working on a book about how working class women, who are long-distance migrants, have reinvigorated disparately-formed but extraordinary political vision and will in new places. My methods are as diverse as my subjects: while ethnography, interviews, and community studies constitute the heart of my labors, I use archives and statistics for armature.

Recent publications include:
Golden Gulag: Labor, Land, State, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Forthcoming, University of California Press.

"‘You have dislodged a boulder’: Mothers and Prisoners in the Post Keynesian California Landscape." Transforming Anthropology, 8(1/2): 12-38, 1999.

"Globalisierung und US-Gefängnisindustrie." springerin IV(4): 41-43, 1998.

"Globalisation and U.S. Prison Growth." Race and Class 40(2/3): 171-188, 1998.

"Public Enemies and Private Intellectuals." Race and Class 35(1): 69-78, 1993.

"Terror Austerity Race Gender Excess Theater" in Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising, ed. Robert Gooding-Williams. New York and London: Routledge: 23-37, 1993.

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