Technology, Sexual Violence, and Power-Evasive Politics: Mapping the Anti-violence Sociotechnical Imaginary

Renee Shelby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Recent discussions on technology and gender-violence prevention emphasize that technoscientific applications often advance pro-punishment logics that enact gendered inequalities. Less attention has focused on racialized dimensions and how technology might advance abolitionist and transformative justice agendas. In response, this article considers how inventors mobilize technology as a frontline response to sexual violence, in which technoscience—rather than police—enables individuals, friends, and family to provide safety and mutual aid. Through analysis of seven popular technologies produced between 2010 and 2020, this paper documents how their “abolitionist sensibility” is accompanied by fellow-traveler discourses that are unattuned to intersecting power relations. Findings suggest that while this sociotechnical imaginary is reacting to state power, it reinforces a race-neutral and techno-optimistic vision for building a violence-free future. These power-evasive politics may thus signal increased susceptibility to carceral creep and coercive surveillant regimes. After discussing these double-edge politics, I conclude by discussing power formations that are left unexamined in the imaginary and how to cultivate a counter-carceral praxis in line with transformative justice goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • abolition
  • carceral state
  • intersectionality
  • sexual violence
  • sociotechnical imaginary
  • technologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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