“How to Lose the Hounds”: Tracing the Relevance of Marronage for Contemporary Anti-Police Struggles by Celeste Winston.
Advisor: Ruth Wilson Gilmore
This dissertation analyzes the interconnected practices of flight from slavery and flight from policing. Focusing on Black communities within Montgomery County, Maryland, I provide evidence for how local legacies of enslavement and flight from slavery have empowered later generations of residents, including people still living there today, to practice safety and security on their own terms, beyond policing. I draw on archival and ethnographic research in seven Black communities in Montgomery County to document historical and ongoing local Black life practices and organizing against and outside of policing. I center these communities’ past and present placemaking and collective strategies of valuing their own humanity as a model for police abolition—the end of policing and the building of something new.
As a guiding theory, I developed the concept “maroon geographies” to emphasize connections between slavery-era and more contemporary Black flight and placemaking beyond racial police violence. Marronage—which is the practice of flight from slavery—allowed slaves to assert their freedom and, at times, to create communities that were physically removed from the dominant slave society. Black people who escaped or were freed from slavery established several rural, urban, and suburban towns sustained as multi-generational Black communities in the present-day United States. Like maroon communities during slavery, these Black enclaves, across later generations, developed various levels of autonomy from the operations of dominant society. Together, Black communities and their slavery-era predecessors form “maroon geographies” defined by Black-led, place-based communal struggles against state and extralegal racial and economic violence.
My findings show how generations of residents in Montgomery County’s Black communities have lived and continue to live out abolitionist praxes in their daily lives—from fleeing slave catchers, some of the earliest policing efforts in this country, to not relying on police to resolve issues nor to ensure safety in their communities. I discuss the local history and folklore around marronage in Montgomery County and connect it to continued anti-police practices and organizing. I examine local acts of refusal of and flight from policing, and I outline a model of maroon restorative justice based in examples from local Black communities. Further, I highlight Black epistemologies and practices of community beyond policing, rooted in marronage and characterized by radical visions of places that fulfill human needs. These Black geographic visions, I contend, show that community safety and security are already operating outside of policing.