A renowned activist and public scholar known for her work on prison abolition, Ruth Wilson Gilmore is professor of earth & environmental sciences and American studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she also directs the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. In addition to her work on abolition, Professor Gilmore writes and lectures extensively on a range of subjects, including racial capitalism, organized violence, changing state structure, the aesthetics and politics of seeing, and labor and social movements.
Professor Gilmore’s work has been widely anthologized, notably in the groundbreaking essay compilation The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (2007; pbk., 2009). Her 2007 book, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, which examines how political and economic forces produced California’s prison boom, received the Lora Romero First Book Award from the American Studies Association (ASA). More recent publications include “Beyond Bratton” (with Craig Gilmore, in Policing the Planet, Camp and Heatherton, eds.) and “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence” (in Futures of Black Radicalism, Lubin and Johnson, eds.).
From 2010–2011, Professor Gilmore was president of ASA, the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history. In 2012, the ASA honored Gilmore with its Angela Y. Davis Award for Public Scholarship, an award that recognizes scholars who have applied or used their scholarship for the public good. Rachel Kushner's recent feature about Gilmore in the New York Times Magazine, “Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind,” is a prescient example of her commitment to, and mastery of, public scholarship.
Other honors include the Association of American Geographers' Harold Rose Award for Anti-Racist Research and Practice (2014); the SUNY-Purchase College Eugene V. Grant Distinguished Scholar Prize for Social and Environmental Justice (2015–16); and the American Studies Association Richard A. Yarborough Mentorship Award (2017).
Gilmore works regularly with community groups and grassroots organizations and is known for the broad accessibility of her research. She is a co-founder of several grassroots organizations, including Critical Resistance, the California Prison Moratorium Project, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network.
She holds a Ph.D. in economic geography and social theory from Rutgers University.