Beyond a Discourse of Fear: Recognizing Casual Refusals to Regimes of Digitality Policing Children’s Lives

Authors: Emily Kaufman*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Digital Geographies, Feminist Geographies, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: children, policing, abolition, surveillance, qualitative methodology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Socio-economically marginalized children in U.S. cities today are subject to near-constant policing—from video surveillance to heavily weaponized and technified patrols. Much scholarship on technified policing treats it with techno-optimism or alarmist fear; both construct a fearful victim, whether saved by or victimized by surveillance and police. In fear-based discourse, resistance appears as balaclavas and facepaint that block surveillance, or running from police for not only do they exercise force with impunity, but even non-forceful police stops feeds databanks that track civilians and influence risk assessments in sentencing. Discussions of explicit refusals of digital regimes are important. But are other refusals overlooked?
In my research with socio-economically marginalized children in Cincinnati of different races and genders policing and surveillance were nearly ubiquitous in their everyday lives. Yet they expressed nonchalance even when negatively impacted. There were occasional expressions of anger, fear, and explicit resistance, but this framing risks foreclosing black futures (McKittrick 2014), performing itineraries of verification (Derickson forthcoming), and disrespecting participants’ attempts to be defined by more than their fear, anger, and law-breaking acts. BIPOC and feminist abolitionist scholarship offer alternatives, refusing to depict policing as debilitatingly total (Loyd 2020), and documenting concrete demands, plans, and actions (LeBrón 2019; Ritchie 2017) and playful workarounds to escape surveillance (Nguyen 2015). Building on this work and new trends in intersectional feminist digital geographies (Elwood and Lesczcynski 2018), I suggest that through nonchalance, satire, joy, and developing alternative networks of support, marginalized children refuse regimes of digitality designed to police their lives.

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