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Rahim Kurwa, ABF Visiting Scholar, University of Illinois Chicago

  • When: January 18, 2023, 12 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at skofman@abfn.org

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Falloon’s Descendants: Situating Policing in the History and Present of Racial Segregation

This talk argues for a re-consideration of policing as a key factor in the historic and contemporary production of racial residential segregation. Historical evidence suggests that policing has long been a substituting force among many modes of segregation which increased and decreased in use and effectiveness based on social and legal context. However, in contemporary contexts, policing not only substitutes for other mechanisms of segregation, but also has become synthesized with them. Using a case study of crime-free and nuisance housing ordinances, I suggest that policing has been metabolized into the everyday ways that residents reproduce hierarchy within neighborhoods. These ordinances encourage individuals to surveil their neighbors and file complaints with them through city bureaucracies and municipal police departments. These processes threaten and, in many cases, produce eviction, which reproduces segregation in the context of whites policing Black neighbors.

Building from Cheryl Harris’ work on whiteness as property, I theorize policing as a form of property. I argue that to engage in neighborhood policing is to acquire social status and power through dispossession, forms of social status unavailable to those vulnerable to such policing. As traditional mechanisms of racial segregation weaken or change, seeing how policing functions as property reveals one way that whiteness is imbued with new meaning in the face of de-segregation.

To access the related paper draft, please click here


Rahim Kurwa is an ABF Visiting Scholar (September 2022- August 2023) and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Justice and Department of Sociology (by courtesy) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work is broadly focused on the policing of housing, and he has published scholarship on this topic in City and CommunityDu Bois Review, Feminist FormationsHousing Policy Debate, and Surveillance and Society. His book project traces the past century of Black history in Los Angeles' northernmost outpost, known as the Antelope Valley, showing how pre-1968 methods of racial segregation in this region have been replaced today by policing. His other interests include the family implications of the policing of housing assistance, neighborhood policing on digital platforms, and tenant social movements. He currently serves as the chair of the Poverty, Class, and Inequality Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California at Los Angeles in 2018.

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