elizabeth canfield

Liz Canfield, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Commitment to African American Studies

Canfield cannot talk about prisons, policing and mass surveillance in the U.S. without engaging in a deep study of the history/ies and theory/ies of conquest, colonization, racial capitalism and white supremacy and its historical and ongoing impact on Black people in this country. As a white woman, she equally interrogates and studies the history/ies and theory/ies of whiteness, apply it inwardly, so she can know where/how she is complicit, and teach and write about whiteness to share the research and tactics for the active dismantling of white supremacy. Anything less is performative allyship.

Her commitment to African-American Studies as a discipline comes through her active engagement with Critical Prison Studies (CPS) as an intersecting field. She has taught a number of courses that fall under the rubric of CPS and most of them have been cross-listed with AFAM, and her scholarship, activism and art practice are firmly rooted in both AFAM and CPS. Her hope is to someday build a CPS track within AFAM or CSIJ that will engage students with the concept of abolition as a path to freedom from racial capitalism.

Canfield's passion for abolition is deeply personal, having experienced the brutality of the prison system on close family members her entire life. She comes to this work humbly and honestly. Her understanding of how policing, mass surveillance and prisons are in a codependent relationship with racial capitalism came more recently, when she first read Black Marxist scholar Cedric Robinson 15 years ago. Reading his work (and the economists who follow him) has changed her perspective fundamentally and deepened her view of what abolition can be.

In terms of other skills she can offer AFAM, Canfield is the Associate Chair of GSWS and an all around service hound! She loves to do promotion/tenure reports, sit on curriculum committees, search committees, etc. She has been on the ground floor of building the GSWS department and have a lot of experience and enthusiasm for helping AFAM grow and flourish.


  • Faculty page, Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies