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Biblioasis Winter 2021

On Property
Policing, Prisons, and the Call for Abolition
By (author): Rinaldo Walcott
Rinaldo Walcott





Product Form:


Form detail:

Paperback , Trade


General Trade
Feb 02, 2021
$14.95 CAD


7.75in x 4.5 x 0.32 in | 90 gr

Page Count:

112 pages
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Race & Ethnic Relations
Police and security services|Capitalism|Property law: general

Nominated for the Heritage Toronto Book Award • Longlisted for the Toronto Book Awards • A Globe and Mail Book of the Year • A CBC Books Best Canadian Nonfiction of 2021

From plantation rebellion to prison labour's super-exploitation, Walcott examines the relationship between policing and property.

That a man can lose his life for passing a fake $20 bill when we know our economies are flush with fake money says something damning about the way we’ve organized society. Yet the intensity of the calls to abolish the police after George Floyd’s death surprised almost everyone. What, exactly, does abolition mean? How did we get here? And what does property have to do with it? In On Property, Rinaldo Walcott explores the long shadow cast by slavery’s afterlife and shows how present-day abolitionists continue the work of their forebears in service of an imaginative, creative philosophy that ensures freedom and equality for all. Thoughtful, wide-ranging, compassionate, and profound, On Property makes an urgent plea for a new ethics of care.

  • The next installment in a new series of short nonfiction books modeled after 18th century political pamphlets—compare with Penguin's Great Idea series, but instead of reprints, these are original essays, 20,000 to 35,000 words, by contemporary writers and thinkers about contemporary issues.
  • The W21 titles respond specifically to the 2020 George Floyd protests and subsequent public discourse re: BLM
  • On Property considers the relationship between policing and private property, arguing that law enforcement is the direct outcome of privately held assets and thus inextricable from a capitalist society: as long as people hold property, they will depend on police to protect it. 
  • Walcott is the Director of Women and Gender Studies Institute and an Associate Professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education both at University of Toronto. His research is in the area of Black Diaspora Cultural Studies, gender and sexuality.

  • Series description

    Twenty-volume folios will never make a revolution. It's the little pocket pamphlets that are to be feared.—Voltaire

    Popularized during the Restoration, the tradition of pamphleteering—the publication of inexpensive booklets grappling with issues of current interest—has shaped the world in innumerable ways. From Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, to Voltaire’s Treatise on Tolerance, to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, pamphlets have functioned as vehicles for writers and thinkers to address the pressing questions of their eras. In this spirit, Biblioasis is proud to present Field Notes, a new series of nonfiction titles exploring timely issues of public interest and featuring writers and thinkers from a range of disciplines: philosophy, public policy, history, economics, cultural criticism, and more. The first three installments presented here address the COVID-19 crisis as we begin to come to terms with our rapidly changing world.

    Rinaldo Walcott is a Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. His research is in the area of Black Diaspora Cultural Studies, gender and sexuality.

    Praise for On Property

    “Masterful. A powerful tract … Rinaldo Walcott’s gift is that he makes what seems preposterous to most seem like common sense: abolish property as a completion of abolishing slavery as a means to solving the savagery of modern policing. A mad idea? Perhaps, but I found it hard to argue with his logic. As the Rastafari would say: bun Babylon!”—Globe and Mail

    “A clear-eyed assessment of the links between property, policing, and the subjugation of Black people ... Walcott’s analysis of the ways in which white supremacy is baked into the legal systems of Canada and the U.S. is stimulating. Progressives will embrace this well-conceived call for change.”—Publishers Weekly

    "[A]n eye-opening sequence of ideas in coolly passionate prose."—Mark Abley, The Walrus

    “Running a brief but far-reaching and punchy 96 pages, On Property has an absolute certainty of purpose: calling for the abolition of private property ownership ... [If] statements such as ‘the problem of property is resolved through its removal’ or calls to ‘abolish everything’ can make some people quake, when Walcott’s pamphlet argues for the human ability to reconsider and rebuild societal structures, the stances come across as sensible and, better yet, doable.”Toronto Star

    "Rinaldo Walcott locates his contribution to the Field Notes series on current issues, On Property, in the present political moment, while using historical references and events to argue for the abolition of police and property ... Walcott concludes his case by asking for a new ethics of care and economy that does not keep feeding into the incarceration system, a system rigged to continue Black suffering ... It is a question we must ask ourselves after reflecting on the ways in which we, too, are complicit."Quill & Quire

    “Urgent, far-reaching and with a profound generosity of care, the wisdom in On Property is absolute. We cannot afford to ignore or defer its teachings. Now is the time for us-collectively-to take up the challenge in this undeniable gift of a book.”—Canisia Lubrin, author of The Dyzgraphxst and Voodoo Hypothesis

    “Provocative and persuasive. Rinaldo Walcott’s insightful unmasking of the historic baggage associated with private property challenges us to face up to what might be the source of our most pressing social problems.”—Cecil Foster, author of They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada

    "Rinaldo Walcott is one of the most renowned and dynamic articulators of the Black radical tradition. His writings are essential for anyone seeking deeper engagement with the social and political movements urgently afoot today."—David Chariandy, author of Brother and I've Been Meaning to Tell You

    Praise for Rinaldo Walcott

    “Essential reading. From its first paragraphs Rinaldo Walcott's The Long Emancipation shifts the axis of thought about Black freedom. The astonishing and devastating idea at the center of this book lays out the condition of Black being in the Americas as existing, still, in a state of juridical unfreedom. Once that idea's recalibrating weight and urgency strike you, you must think again where analysis and theory begin. You must begin again.”—Dionne Brand, poet, novelist, essayist

    “In The Long Emancipation Rinaldo Walcott has opened up whole new avenues for thinking about the causes and conditions, the global logics of ‘unfreedom’ that continue to haunt and imperil Black lives. This rich collection of provocations challenges us to consider the terms and possibilities of living beyond the death zones and extractive economies of capitalism; it invites us to see and feel the audacious eruptions of a blackness exceeding these limits—moving and struggling toward freedom.”—Deborah E. McDowell, University of Virginia

    “Each chapter of BlackLife carefully weaves together analyses of history, philosophy, policy, art, and activism to create a fuller picture of Black Canadian existence.”Briarpatch Magazine

    Black Life: Post-BLM and the Struggle For Freedom is a short volume, but one of the most important intellectual interventions to emerge in Canada in recent years. It ought to be required reading in Canadian Studies and other social science and arts courses at both secondary and post-secondary levels across the country. Above all, it ought to be taken seriously by those—especially white Canadians—with the ability to apply its insights in public policy and private lives alike.”—Rhea Rollmann at PopMatters

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