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No 1 (2018): Abolishing Carceral Society, 55-56

Shadow Boxing: A Chicana’s Journey from Vigilante Violence to Transformative Justice

December 1, 2018


To the victims and survivors of both sexual and state violence, to the many shadowboxers whom I know and love: to those who intimately understand that boxing is war but so is life.

In this video mash-up dedicated to female shadow boxers, I chart my emotional and political journey from wanting revenge against an individual—starting when I was a little girl—to organizing collectively against interlocking forms of interpersonal, structural, and institutional violence—starting as a young woman recently released from juvenile lock-up in the mid-nineties in “Golden Gulag” California. I speak from multiple intersections as a queer Chicana from an urban, working-class background who is a survivor of sexual violence, a feminist anti-violence activist, and a penal abolitionist.

Within our current carceral landscape, transformative justice feminist praxis driven by Indigenous and race-radical girls and women of color is an essential epistemic and organizing tool to achieve such freedom from violence. For those of us who have been victimized by both intimate partner violence and state violence, there is no other choice for us but to continue building community accountability circles and anti-violence movements that guarantee our collective survival. The stakes could not get much higher.

In 2012, I received a SAW Video JumpStart grant aimed at artists producing their first videos. My first video project has been screened at the SAW Gallery (Ottawa, May 2013) for both the “Breaking the Silence—Artists for Justice” a film screening organ- ized by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project as well as for the annual film festival showcasing the works created through the JumpStart Mentorship Program.

The video is available online at:

Author Biography

Lena Palacios is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Departments of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies and Chicano and Latino Studies (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities). Her research and teaching focuses on transnational feminist prison studies, Indigenous, Chicana and Latina, queer feminisms, race-radical and critical race feminisms, transformative justice and community accountability, media justice, as well as participatory action research.