Graduate Center Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 30, 2021

Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a renowned scholar and leading voice in the contemporary abolition movement, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore
Ruth Wilson Gilmore

The Graduate Center of The City University of New York celebrates the election of Professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest and most prestigious honorary societies in the United States.  

Gilmore is a renowned scholar and leading voice in the contemporary abolition movement. The author of the prize-winning book Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, she writes extensively on racial capitalism, organized violence, organized abandonment, changing state structure, revolutionary and other oppositional formations, the African diaspora, infrastructure, and extraction. At The Graduate Center, she teaches in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program and directs the Center for Place, Culture and Politics. She also serves on the executive committee of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean.

“The Graduate Center congratulates Professor Gilmore on her election to the American Academy of Art and Sciences,” said Graduate Center President Robin L. Garrell. “Through her innovative scholarship and activism, she has challenged societal norms, catalyzing grassroots initiatives to address persistent inequality and injustice. She is also a treasured mentor and adviser for our students and alumni, exemplifying our mission to enhance the public good through outstanding scholarship and education.” 

Founded in 1780, the Academy honors individuals who discover and advance knowledge and apply knowledge to the problems of society. The Academy’s highly accomplished members include leading voices and innovators in the arts and humanities, social policy, education, global affairs, and science and technology. Notable members from the Academy’s past include Margaret Mead, Jonas Salk, Barbara McClintock, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, John Hope Franklin, Georgia O'Keeffe, I.M. Pei, and Toni Morrison.

“We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” said David Oxtoby, President of the American Academy in announcing the 2021 members. “The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge, and leadership that can make a better world.”

Gilmore is joined by 251 other new members including Joy Connolly, former interim president of The Graduate Center; Oprah Winfrey; legal scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw; playwright, screenwriter, and actor Suzan-Lori Parks; neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta; playwright David Henry Hwang; and journalist Kara Swisher. 

Gilmore is known for creating the concept of carceral geography, which involves examining the relationships among landscape, natural resources, infrastructure, and political economy in terms of  surplus, crisis, and the policing and jailing of people. In a 2019 The New York Times Magazine profile, Rachel Kushner wrote, “Gilmore has shaped the thinking of many geographers, as well as generations of graduate students and activists.” 

She has published widely and is the co-founder of many grassroots organizations including the California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network. Her honors include the American Studies Association Angela Y. Davis Award for Public Scholarship (2012); the Association of American Geographers Harold Rose Award for Anti-Racist Research and Practice (2014); the SUNY-Purchase College Eugene V. Grant Distinguished Scholar Prize for Social and Environmental Justice (2015–16); the American Studies Association Richard A Yarborough Mentorship Award (2017); The Association of American Geographers Lifetime Achievement Award (2020); and most recently (along with Angela Y. Davis and Mike Davis) she was named winner of 2020 Lannan Foundation Lifetime Cultural Freedom Prize.

Gilmore is one of a succession of Graduate Center faculty members to join the Academy. Among them are Professor Miranda Fricker (2020); Distinguished Professor Richard Alba (Sociology) (2017); Distinguished Professor Charles Mills (Philosophy) (2017); Distinguished Professor Nancy Foner (GC/Hunter, Sociology) (2013); Distinguished Professor Ervand Abrahamian (GC/Baruch, History) (2010); Distinguished Professor Emerita Mary Ann Caws (Comparative Literature, English, and French) (2009); Distinguished Professor David Harvey (Anthropology and Earth and Environmental Sciences) (2007); Distinguished Professor Ursula Oppens (GC/Brooklyn, Music) (1999); Distinguished Professor Emeritus Leo Treitler (Music) (1994); Professor and Einstein Chair Dennis Sullivan (Mathematics) (1991); and Distinguished Professor Saul Kripke (Mathematics) (1978).