“Other than the projects, you stay professional”: Between institutional racism and routine policing
This presentation considers several common understandings of “institutional racism,” and ultimately propounds an understanding that foregrounds institutional, legal and professional knowledge as a prominent domain through which racism is enacted and by which it persists. To do this, I focus on a recent study in which my co-authors and I show how routine policing is conscripted into the project of maintaining and reproducing spatial racism in urban settings through an intersecting set of macro-level processes and micro-interactional practices. Our analysis of ethnographic interviews conducted with over 40 police officers during 20 ride-alongs in the Western U.S. identifies person- and place-specific heuristic classifications that police officers rely on to manage routine encounters. We find that officers use membership categorization devices to sort people and places in the city into distinct categories (e.g., nice places, normal people, the projects, and people in the projects), which, in turn, prefigure different orientations-to-action at the start of and throughout their encounters with the public. Our findings provide an empirical basis for thinking of professional police knowledge, and of institutionalized knowledge more generally, as encoding systemic racism in routine policing, rather than being a break from it. Ultimately, this understanding of institutional racism also directs us to forms of action and institution-making that are oriented by local and community-grounded notions of security, health, and social life.
Dr. Gil Rothschild-Elyassi
since October 2021. Gil’s work focuses on institutional violence, criminal law and punishment, knowledge production across worlds and under conditions of domination, and the interaction between law, technologies, and human life. Gil’s work is trans-disciplinary, and it primarily draws on ethnographic, historical and collaborative research.
Gil completed a PhD at UC Berkeley in 2021 alongside a designated emphasis in critical theory. Gil’s dissertation explores community/penal supervision as an institution tasked with seeing and acting across the color line, that is across worlds that exist side by side under conditions of racial and economic domination. Prior to that, Gil attained an LLM at New York University (as a Hauser Global Scholar) and an LLB at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Alongside teaching and research, Gil is committed to documenting institutional violence also in non-academic areans, as well as to coming with others to create and sustain spaces for mutual care, support and hope
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