Policing Mass Civil Breakdown

Three inter-related stories caught my eye over the weekend–all of which point to different forms of policing “disorder,” from the planetary scale, to the urban environment, right down to the doorways outside of grocery stores.

The question that  needs to be asked in approaching issues like this, is what kind of a system is being policed in the first place? What is made possible and impossible in everyday life? Is it an unjust system? If so, then the very contours of injustice are being violently policed and reproduced in the terrain of the earth.

Policing the Planet

Minerva Institute

1.  Following the global banking crisis in 2008, the U.S.’ Department of Defense began the “Minerva Research Initiative” to understand the social, cultural, and political forces that are responsible for civil unrest around the world. One Cornell University-led study, for the period between 2014-2017, and managed by the U.S. Air Force, aims to develop a model for the “dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.” Social media conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.” More here.

Policing the City

Police, Camden NJ

2. In a “stylistic” video, called “Minority Report meets The Wire,” The Guardian has produced a short, 5 minute video, on the use of high-tech technology in policing Camden, New Jersey–one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., with a murder rate 12 times the national average. The technology is used to watch and “preempt” crime before it takes place. Video here. The video is interesting to me for a variety of reasons, not least that I’ve previously written on The Wire. See also: Minority Report war-policing: the rush to secure time.

Policing the Homeless

Anti-homeless spikes

3. Organizations in London–public and private–have recently been criticized for developing “hostile architecture,” including “anti-homeless spikes.” Such technologies are clearly designed to reflect and support a dominant order of things, and enforce the “correct” disposition and use of urban space, keeping it free from “deviants.”

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