Family Policing as Counterinsurgency and the Gathering Abolitionist Force

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I spent the first year of the pandemic writing a book about abolishing the so-called child welfare system—what I call the family policing system. When I heard Dylan Rodríguez’s remarkable presidential address, I was already proofing the galleys of Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World.1 Every word Rodríguez spoke resonated with my thinking and activism around the need to dismantle the child welfare system and replace it with a radically reimagined way of caring for families and keeping children safe. The invitation to write a response to his address gave me the opportunity to frame my arguments in terms of his valuable conceptualization of counterinsurgency and the gathering abolitionist force. Conceptualizing family policing—US government surveillance and destruction of politically marginalized families—as state counterinsurgency usefully illustrates and illuminates his key points.


counterinsurgency, Torn Apart, government surveillance, repression

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American Quarterly