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Abolition and decarceral frameworks: Critical psychological possibilities for transformative justice and healing SSS24

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: SSS24

Following global uprisings after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and calls for decolonising academia, Psychology has begun to contemplate reckoning with its past and present connections to and complicity with structural inequality and state violence. Klukoff, Kanani, Gaglione, and Alexander (2021, p.454) argue that a key part of moving towards anti-racist practice for psychology is to consider what it has previously resisted – to adopt ‘an explicitly abolitionist or decarceral framework’. This would move psychology towards possibilities of liberatory and transformative practice, heeding the calls from critical, liberationist and community psychology colleagues within and on the margins of the discipline and embracing the work of critical theory, praxis, and movements for social transformation. Abolition is deeply tied to decolonisation – as it challenges us to understand how ‘carceral logics’ strengthen coloniality and state violence against us all as well as the most minoritised such as black people, people of colour, queer and trans folks and sex workers (Miller and Miller, 2020; Maldonado-Torres, 2017; Downes, 2017, p.201). An abolitionist framework would then ‘transform psychology from a largely reactive profession to a proactive profession by dismantling sources of harm at their root’ (Klukoff, 2021, p.463).

This PhD studentships will draw on abolitionist movements for social transformation such as Black Lives Matter, Incite! and Healing Justice London to undertake a critical psychological exploration of abolitionist and decarceral processes of community accountability and transformative justice. It will seek to understand and inform forms of justice that resist the replication of ‘punitive and carceral logics’ and seek to transform oppressive dynamics within communities (Bonsu, 2020, p.35).

This project calls for explorations of the difficulties of being in community – of community building, organising, and managing conflict and harm separate from state apparatuses. Following Sedgwick (2003), this project questions the privileging of ‘paranoid’ readings of one another in community and ‘queer investments in punishment’ seeking the generative possibilities of conflict held within the reparative turn (Lamble, 2013, p.230; Davis, 2022).

The research aims to understand the possibilities of abolitionist and decarceral frameworks for psychology and how critical psychology and critical theory can inform the practice of these processes.

The project will use qualitative methodologies – especially methods which work with communities and organisations such as critical participatory action research. All data will be analysed using thematic analysis.

The project will include two studies:

  • The first study will be Participatory Action research and seek to work with minoritised community groups and organisations who are developing community accountability and transformative justice processes. The student will be encouraged to enter a dialogical process with co-researchers to examine the rich possibilities of bringing critical psychological and community-based knowledge and theory together to understand and transform approaches to harm.
  • The second study will be an interview study, providing critical psychological examination of interpersonal conflict within community organising and consider the potentialities of the reparative turn and the generative possibilities of conflict.

The supervisory team will encourage the PhD student to work within the communities they may already be a part of, however they will also utilise their existing networks to support the PhD student to connect and work with minoritised communities and organisations who are at the forefront of abolitionist and decarceral struggle.

The supervisory team includes Dr Stephanie Davis (Senior Lecturer in Critical Psychology and Race), Dr Geetha Reddy (Senior Lecturer in Critical Psychology and Race), Dr Blerina Kellezi (Associate Professor in Trauma and Social Psychology) and Dr S Lamble (Reader in Criminology and Queer Theory in the Department of Criminology at Birkbeck, University of London).


Bonsu, J.E. (2020). Excerpt from “Black Queer Feminism as Praxis: Building an Organization and a Movement”. In E. Dixon & L. Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Eds.) Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement (pp.35-38). US: AK Press

Davis, S. (2022). Queer and Trans People of Colour in the UK: Possibilities for Intersectional Richness. London: Routledge

Downes, J. (2017). “It’s not the abuse that kills you, it’s the silence”: The Silencing of Sexual Violence Activism in Social Justice Movements in the UK Left. Justice, Power and Resistance, 1, 200-232

Klukoff, H., Kanani, H., Gaglione, C. and Alexander, A. (2021). Toward an Abolitionist Practice of Psychology: Reimagining Psychology’s Relationship with the Criminal Justice System. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 61, 4, 451-469

Lamble, S. (2013). Queer Necropolitics and the Expanding Carceral State: Interrogating Sexual Investments in Punishment. Law Critique, 24, 229 – 253

Miller, L.L. and Miller, M.J. (2020). Praxivist imaginaries of decolonization: Can the psy be decolonized in the world as we know it? Feminism and Psychology, 30, 381-390

School strategic research priority

This project aligns with the Centre for Public and Psychosocial Health.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

Still need help?

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