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"Ancestries of Interest" and "Locations of Concern": The Reimagining of Arab American urban geographies through post-9/11 NYPD surveillance in New York City (2003-2014)

Authors: Peter DeBartolo*, University of Oxford
Topics: Social Geography, Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: imaginative geography, War on Terror, surveillance, policing, race, ethnicity, space, city, urban geography, United States, Arab American, Muslim, Orientalism
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This qualitative case study analyzes how post-9/11 New York City Police Department (NYPD) surveillance of Arab American communities (2003-2014) was embedded within and also contributed to the discursive production and performance of racialized urban imaginative geographies associated with the War on Terror (Bialasiewicz et al., 2007; Graham, 2006, 2011; Gregory, 2004; Gregory & Pred, 2007) and Orientalism (Gregory, 2004; Said, 1978). While the NYPD Demographics Unit targeted and surveilled various Muslim ethnic communities during this period (Apuzzo & Goldman, 2013; Apuzzo & Goldstein, 2014), the current research specifically focuses on the socio-geographical reimagining of New York City's Arab Americans in this context, due to their precarious historical positionality in relation to the construct of whiteness in the United States (Cable, 2013; Cainkar, 2009; Beydoun, 2013; Jamal & Naber, 2008).

Through a Foucauldian critical discourse analysis, this study examines qualitative verbal and visual intertextual data derived from a purposeful sample of archival and historical sources to uncover how the NYPD's racialized geographical discourse enabled certain forms of knowledge, disciplinary power, and practice. This project interrogates the discursive, institutional, and social processes implicated in the NYPD's own urban spatialization of the imaginative geographies of the War on Terror (Graham, 2006, 2011; Gregory, 2004; Gregory & Pred, 2007; Stephens, 2011) and also contributes to the broader social scientific literature analyzing the racialization and surveillance of Arab and Muslim Americans in the United States after 9/11 (Cainkar, 2009; Cainkar & Selod, 2018; Jamal & Naber, 2008; Selod, 2018).

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