Documenting State Violence: (Symbolic) Annihilation & Archives of Survival


  • Gabriel Daniel Solis Texas After Violence Project



state violence, symbolic annihilation, liberatory archives, liberatory memory work, dehumanization, police violence, mass incarceration, death penalty


This essay explores symbolic annihilation in the context of state violence, including policing, incarceration, and the death penalty in the US. Using auto-ethnography to reflect on the work of the Texas After Violence Project (TAVP) and other community-based documentation and archival projects, I argue that the personal stories and experiences of victims and survivors of state violence are critical counter-narratives to dominant discourses on violence, criminality, and the purported efficacy of retributive law enforcement and criminal justice policies and practices. They also compel us to engage with complex questions about victimhood, disposability, and accountability. Building on the work of activists and archivists engaged in liberatory memory work, I also argue that counter-narratives of state violence confront and challenge the social, cultural, and ideological power of symbolic annihilation. Because these counter-narratives are under constant threat of being suppressed, co-opted, or silenced, they are forms of endangered knowledge that must be protected and preserved. Finally, I reflect on ‘archives of survival,’ repositories of stories and other ephemera of tragedy that contribute to envisioning and achieving transformative justice.


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Author Biography

Gabriel Daniel Solis, Texas After Violence Project

Prior to returning to the Texas After Violence Project in 2016, where he previously served as Project Coordinator and Associate Director, Gabriel Daniel Solis worked as a post-conviction mitigation investigator for the Texas Office of Capital and Forensic Writs. Gabriel was also a researcher at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and coordinator of the Rule of Law Oral History Project at Columbia University. He has conducted research on policing, mass incarceration, the death penalty, and the effects of violence and trauma on families and communities. He received a B.A. in Philosophy and M.A. in Mexican American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. His previous work has appeared in the Oxford American and Cultural Dynamics: Insurgent Scholarship on Culture, Politics, and Power.


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How to Cite

Solis, Gabriel Daniel. 2018. “Documenting State Violence: (Symbolic) Annihilation & Archives of Survival”. KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 2 (1):7.

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