‘Cold casing’ police power and the closure of law enforcement

Authors: Mat Coleman*, The Ohio State University
Topics: Political Geography, Social Geography, Population Geography
Keywords: policing, state power, racial profiling, law
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon D2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Derickson (2016) encourages us to see white supremacy as a material and discursive practice whereby white bodies are valued in contrast to non-white bodies, systematically coded as disposable. Bonds and Inwood (2015) likewise insist on white supremacy as a materially grounded set of state practices which result in what they call “social exclusion and premature death of people of color”. In conversation with these, and other, authors I argue that white supremacy should also be approached as a material and discursive valuation of white spaces, and a concomitant devaluation or discounting of non-white spaces as disposable. In this paper I examine the methodological devaluation of non-white spaces in the police science literature on racial profiling, as well as the ways in which the dominant liberal lens on the police in criminology and elsewhere in the social sciences – as a form of ordered practice which follows from policy or the law – constitutes what I am calling the ‘closure of law enforcement’. By this phrase I mean that policing is bracketed as a somehow rational, benign, objective, and racially-neutral undertaking. I argue that this approach to the police will leave critical scholars ‘cold casing’ the problem of police power, or trying to reconstruct police practice after the fact, and unsuccessfully. Bonds, A., and J. Inwood. 2015. Beyond white privilege: Geographies of white supremacy and settler colonialism. Progress in Human Geography 40 (6):715-733. Derickson, K. D. 2016. The racial state and resistance in Ferguson and beyond. Urban Studies 53 (11):2223-2237.

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