Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Antiblackness, and Schooling in San Francisco


  • Diana Gamez University of California, Irvine
  • Janelle Levy University of California, Irvine


With the rise of attention to systemic Black death in the 20th century, public and private institutions have been pressured to take a stance of opposition to racial bias and violence. Written with meticulous clarity, Savannah Shange’s (2019) book, Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Antiblackness, and Schooling in San Francisco, captures how ideologies of progressive “winning” responses from educational institutions are part of the liberal state and embedded in the educational architecture, which is itself the problem. Building on Fred Moten, Katherine McKittrick, Sylvia Wynter, Saidiya Hartman, and many other scholars of antiblackness, she uses three thematic arguments: progressive dystopia, carceral progressivism, and wilful defiance, that set up an abolitionist critique. Her incisive analysis is crucial to imagine a world in which Black freedom goes beyond the realm of inclusion and creates a new one that values Black life in all shapes and forms.

Shange (2019) lays out how schools are part of a landscape of progressive dystopia that is “perpetually a colonial place that reveals both the possibilities and limits of the late liberal imaginary” (p. 11). Situating school reform practices as inherently antiblack...





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