Learning from, with, and towards Abolitionist Imaginaries
Joe Curnow

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Manitoba

Primary Discipline

Social Studies
Over the last year, a groundswell of activism has called for police and prison abolition in response to failed reforms and decades of anti-racist organizing. Abolitionism is a social movement and political ideal that not only calls for the abolition of prisons, police, child welfare, and other racialized and colonial systems of punishment, but, more affirmatively, for building a world in which community-led, life-sustaining services create alternative relations of care. Abolition is often critiqued as an unrealistic, utopian dream. Imagining a world without police and prisons requires a radical shift; such imagination is a collaborative learning accomplishment. How, then, do we shift what is considered possible? This research asks (1) how organizers learn to facilitate for expanding abolitionist imaginaries and (2) how community members become politicized around abolitionist imaginaries. Using Winnipeg, Manitoba’s abolitionist organizing community as a case study, this research builds capacity for popular education facilitation which expands abolitionist imaginaries, and asks how people learn about and create abolitionist futures. Using multi-camera video data from community-led trainings, I bring together abolitionist activism and scholarship alongside learning sciences research to understand how counter-hegemonic learning is cultivated to enable social dreaming and organize new possible futures.
About Joe Curnow
Joe Curnow is an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba. Joe’s scholarship sits at the nexus of the learning sciences, social movement studies, and equity studies. Her research examines how people come to understand social problems systemically so that they can organize collective action for transformation, and she works with community activists to study how they learn about issues of race and colonialism, gender and heteropatriarchy, and class and capitalism through their activism. Her recent work has been published in the American Educational Research Journal, the Journal of the Learning Sciences, Gender and Education, and as a comic in Sequentials. She completed her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where she was awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Joe has worked as a social movement, labour, and community organizer.

Pin It on Pinterest