Police Geographies of Dispossession and Displacement

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Johnson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Organizers: Andrea Miller, Tyler Wall


In his 1997 Policing Space, Steve Herbert describes the territorial character of police through their capacity to “make and mark space,” where “it is only with the capacity to control and clear space that the police are in many situations able to restore the order they are presumed to maintain” (Herbert 1997, 5-6). Herbert’s classic study focused on the territorial maneuvers of the Los Angeles Police Department and the “normative orders” that negotiate and justify the coercive marking and making of urban space. What is needed, in our view, is a more thorough accounting of the historical and geographic emergence of the police project as a spatial project. Therefore, this panel conversation takes up the spatial mandates of police power, which is inseparable from the state’s claim to a monopoly of violence, within a longer historical arc of police power, where policing and its many institutional and practical forms emerge explicitly through legacies of colonial violence and racial capitalism (Gilmore 2007; Camp and Heatherton 2016; Neocleous 2013; Satia 2006). Exemplary to this end is Kelly Lytle Hernández’s City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965, which in many ways can usefully be read as providing the settler-colonial history of LA policing that Herbert’s analysis lacks (Lytle Hernández 2017). To torque and expand upon Herbert’s territorial thesis, then, it is through practices of dispossession and displacement that police make and mark space. This panel engages the relationship between policing, dispossession, and displacement to interrogate how police power’s territorializing practices are operationalized across scales of time and space—from border walls and roadblocks to gentrifying neighborhoods and simulated digital worlds to the very air that makes life possible for some and impossible for others (Coleman and Struesse 2016; Tahir 2017; Smith 1996; Jefferson 2017; Simmons 2017; Dillon and Sze 2016). The aim of this panel, then, is to examine policing through the historical geographies of dispossession and displacement that emerge from panelists’ own case studies.


Camp, Jordan T., and Christina Heatherton, eds. 2016. Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter. London: Verso.

Coleman, Mat, and Angela Struesse. 2016. “The Disappearing State and the Quasi‐Event of Immigration Control.” Antipode 48 (3): 524-543.

Dillon, Lindsey, and Julie Sze. 2016. “Police Power and Particulate Matters: Environmental Justice and the Spatialities of In/securities in U.S. Cities.” English Language Notes 54 (2): 13-23.

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. 2007. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Jefferson, Brian Jordan. 2017. “Cities, Crime, and Carcerality: Beyond the Ecological Perspective.” Journal of Planning Literature 32 (2): 103-116.

Lytle Hernández, Kelly. 2017. City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Neocleous, Mark. 2013. “Air Power As Police Power.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 31, no. 4: 578-593.

Satia, Priya. 2006. “The Defense of Inhumanity: Air Control and the British Idea of Arabia.” The American Historical Review 111 (1): 16-51.

Simmons, Kristen. 2017. “Settler Atmospherics.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1221-settler-atmospherics.

Smith, Neil. 1996. The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. New York: Routledge.

Tahir, Madiha. 2017. “The Containment Zone.” In Life in the Age of Drone Warfare, edited by Lisa Parks and Caren Kaplan, 220-240. Durham: Duke University Press.


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Brian Jordan Jefferson University of Illinois Urbana Champaign 10
Panelist Erin McElroy University of California - Santa Cruz 10
Panelist Andrea Miller University of California - Davis 10
Discussant Lisa Bhungalia Kent State University 10
Discussant Tyler Wall University of Tennessee, Knoxville 10
Panelist Mat Coleman Ohio State University 10

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