CRIM 455. Policing Bodies: A Biopolitical History of Race, Riots & Surveillance

This course examines the evolution of policing in direct relation to the social, political, and economic tensions of different historical moments. (Prerequisites: CRIM 225 or CRIM 225s or SOC 225s and Exclude Frosh and Soph).

“If a white man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem.  If he’s got the power to lynch me, that’s my problem.  Racism is not a question of attitude; it’s a question of power.” - Stokely Carmichael

Advanced information and media technologies coupled with the constant presence of handheld video devices have brought the killings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray, among countless others, into mainstream view.  Events such as these have sparked growing protests across the nation and led to renewed debates concerning the limits of parameters of police power.  Nonetheless, much of the national conversation focuses on peripheral issues such as body cameras, defining proper use of force, and increased training for officers rather than examining core questions concerning State power.  This course applies a biopolitical and genealogical lens (in the Foucauldian tradition) to the issue of State and Police power in an effort to better understand how this power operates through bodies and how police power, incarceration, and deviance are normalized within our society.  Drawing upon the historical record to better understand the evolution of policing within our society helps us see how police action/tactics/training has always evolved in direct relation to the social, political, and economic tensions of that particular moment.  Using a series of flashpoints over the last 140 years, we will study how police power has been articulated at different moments in order to control and regulate different populations. 


Haas, Jeffery. The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. Chicago Review Press, 2010

Madigan, Tim. The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. St. Martin’s Press, 2001.