In this study of police union organizations, I focus on their work to reproduce historical features of the police institution, through interpretive analysis of public speech and texts. One central feature attended to in this analysis is the enduring associations between Blackness and threat to social order (i.e., criminality). Another is the association between danger and police work. Together, those minorities most disproportionately surveilled and detained are cast as dangerous and those police who perform this work are cast as endangered. These themes of endangering and endangered build on conceptualizations introduced by Judith Butler in her seminal essay on the Rodney King beating and its video documentation.
Discursive activity by police union representatives influences police agencies to continue long-established practices of maintaining high police-population ratios in segregated communities and of maintaining immunity for the actions of individual officers stationed in these communities. This work provides organizational and institutional explanations for ongoing racial discrimination in investigatory stops of pedestrians and motorists, in use of force, an in arrests. It also helps explain why accountability processes in police organizations routinely fail in their stated missions.
In addition to synthesizing primary and secondary historical texts, these are analyzed by placing Joel Olson’s political theory of race, Mark Neocleous critical theory of police, and Loïc Wacquant’s analysis of the hyperghetto in conversation.
This research informs a developing book manuscript and my teaching of the sociology course Race & Policing at UMass Amherst.
Drawing from political theory, science and technology studies (STS), critical race theory, new institutionalism, and cultural studies, this interdisciplinary study began in 2012 and has informed a number of publications in sociology, American studies, media studies, and political theory.
Initially reported in my doctoral dissertation and developed through ongoing research and analysis, this study will culminate with a book manuscript, currently in its final stages.
Critical Technology Studies (CTS) is an area in technology studies that coheres around four key elements:
In 2014, the panel “Minority Report: The Fall and Rise of Critical Technology Studies” was co-convened and co-chaired by Gretchen Gano and me. Papers were presented by Leon Angelo Morenas (School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, India), David Reinecke and Janet Vertesi (Princeton University, US), Thomas Lemke (Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany), and Taylor Dotson and Ben Brucato (then of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US).
The conference paper co-authored by Taylor Dotson and me has been updated and expanded, and will be submitted to a journal this summer.
This was a joint project with economist Ken Simons and management scholar Susan Sanderson, as part of the Translational Thrust in the Commercialization Cluster of the NSF- and NYSERDA-funded Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center.
This project discovered ways that socio-technical obduracy channeled and limited SSL development and sought to find which disruptions to the lighting industry that were caused by SSL signal near-term opportunities for SSL technologies to develop.
Specifically, we found that obdurate technologies and infrastructures limited early market success. Edison bases and AC wiring channeled research and development toward replacement technologies and away from novel applications. Lighting designers experienced trouble integrating with existing or new controls and other elements of lighting system. A wide array of new SSL products tested the cognitive limits of designers and organizational limits of standards boards. Early product offerings failed to meet designer and user expectations in color rendering and reliability, and this generated some lasting prejudice against the technology. New industry actors were perceived as not possessing sufficient understanding of lighting.
Resistance to change channeled the development of SSL toward replacement. While this allowed SSL to demonstrate viability, it undercut unique capabilities of SSL. Moreover, stability in manufacturing and specification presented barriers to development. Established and powerful lighting firms, economies of scale in production, and prior expertise favor replacement technology over radical technologies (i.e. new form factors, smart lighting).