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Redemption in the Neoliberal and Radical Imaginations: The Saga of Stanley “Tookie” Williams

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Abstract

The controversial death penalty case of Stanley “Tookie” Williams functioned as a confrontation over the efficacy of capital punishment in America, as well as the legitimacy of neoliberal and radical imaginations. I demonstrate how radical iterations of Williams's redemption narrative resisted logics of individualism and White supremacy, while neoliberal renderings, even in Williams's favor, fell prey to such logics. In the end, however, radical discourses of redemption also created a point of legitimation for the state's decision to execute Williams, revealing redemption as an ambivalent thematic whose rhetorical and political functions are contingent on the stakeholders wielding it. The Williams saga also reveals how conflicting imaginaries confront movement rhetors with daunting questions when, quite literally, confronting life and death.

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