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Book Launch

Book Talk | Cars and Jails: Freedom Dreams, Debt and Carcerality

11/16 Wednesday | 5pm

In-person registration for this event is now closed to individuals without active NYU IDs. If you would like to join the event via Zoom, please RSVP HERE. If you are a member of the NYU community, please feel free to come with your ID. 

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to a book talk on Cars and Jails: Freedom Dreams, Debt and Carcerality, featuring the authors Julie Livingston and Andrew Ross in conversation with Nicole Fleetwood, Tobi Haslett, and Chenjerai Kumanyika, moderated by Gianpaolo Baiocchi.

American consumer lore has long held the automobile to be a “freedom machine,” consecrating the mobility of a free people. Yet, paradoxically, the car also functions at the cross-roads of two great systems of entrapment and immobility– the American debt economy and the carceral state.

Cars and Jails investigates this paradox, showing how auto debt, traffic fines, over-policing, and automated surveillance systems work in tandem to entrap and criminalize poor people. The authors describe how racialization and poverty take their toll on populations with no alternative, in a country poorly served by public transport, to taking out loans for cars and exposing themselves to predatory and often racist policing.


Julie Livingston is Silver Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University. Her previous books include Self-devouring Growth: a Planetary Parable as Told from Southern Africa; Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic; and Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana. The recipient of numerous awards and prizes, in 2013 Livingston was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Andrew Ross is a social activist and professor at NYU, where he teaches in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the Prison Education Program. A contributor to the Guardian, the New York Times, The Nation, and Al Jazeera, he is the author or editor of twenty-five books, including, most recently, Sunbelt Blues: The Failure of American Housing.

Nicole R. Fleetwood is the inaugural James Weldon Johnson Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication in the Steinhardt School at New York University. A MacArthur Fellow, she is a writer, curator, and art critic whose interests are contemporary Black diasporic art and visual culture, photography studies, art and public practice, performance studies, gender and feminist studies, Black cultural history, creative nonfiction, prison abolition and carceral studies, and poverty studies.

Tobi Haslett has written about art, film, and literature for publications including n+1The New Yorker, and Artforum. He penned the introduction to Horse Crazy (1989), a novel by Gary Indiana that was reissued last September by Seven Stories Press, and also contributed an essay to the exhibition catalogue for Radical Visions: Reza Abdoh (MoMa PS1), a retrospective devoted to the art of the Iranian-American theater director. He was the screenwriter for the documentary Riotsville, U.S.A.

Chenjerai Kumanyika is an assistant professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU Arts & Science. His research and teaching focus on popular culture and social justice. In addition to a body of scholarly and journalistic writing,  Dr. Kumanyika specializes in using narrative non-fiction audio journalism to critique the ideology of American historical myths about issues such as race, the Civil War, and policing. He was the co-executive producer and co-host of Uncivil, Gimlet Media’s Peabody Award-winning podcast about the Civil War.

Gianpaolo Baiocchi is a sociologist and an ethnographer interested in questions of politics and culture, critical social theory, and cities. He has written about and continues to research instances of civic life both in his native Brazil and in the US. He is a leading social science expert on participatory democracy who has for the last decade engaged public officials, voluntary organizations, and policy makers on the practice and implementation of participatory processes. He heads Gallatin’s Urban Democracy Lab, which launched in 2014 and which provides a space for scholars and practitioners to collaborate and exchange ideas for cultivating just, sustainable, and creative urban futures.

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