BY ISABEL RODRIGUEZ ‘21
Stephen Dillon, an assistant professor of critical race and queer studies at Hampshire College, spoke to a packed crowd at Amherst Books last Friday night. His new book, “Fugitive Life: The Queer Politics of the Prison State,” focuses primarily on the work of underground women activists in the United States during the 1970s.
Dillon critiques the prison system by analyzing their communiques, films, memoirs, prison writing and poetry, using them to examine the imprisonment and criminalization of queer, anti-racist and feminist activists. These activists used illegal strategies such as bombing and robbery to combat the repressive state. They also believed in the cause to the extent that when imprisoned they left behind everything that composed their existence: family, jobs and friends.
For the first 20 minutes of his talk, Dillon read various passages from his novel. When he opened up the floor to questions and concerns for the remaining time, an audience member asked what young people should take away from his book about rebellion, especially in our current state of politics. Dillon answered, “I think what I hope the book does is to expand our political imagination to unexplored places.”
“The prison’s end must exceed the institution,” he said to a standing ovation. “The fugitive can lead the way. She shows that something else lives between escape and capture. Even if escape is impossible, we still have to run.”