Essays on Policing, Legal Estrangement, and Urban Marginality
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Bell, Monica Clarice
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CitationBell, Monica Clarice. 2018. Essays on Policing, Legal Estrangement, and Urban Marginality. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractHow do parents and youth in American cities understand policing in their everyday lives? This dissertation tackles this question using three cases. The first empirical chapter visits Washington, DC, in 2012-2013. I draw upon fifty in-depth interviews to understand how African-American mothers living in low-income housing perceive and strategically rely upon the police. The chapter identifies four frames that justify momentary trust in the police: officer exceptionalism, domain specificity, therapeutic consequences, and institutional navigation. The chapter aims to situate mothers’ interactions with police within a broader social milieu than is usual in scholarship on police-community relations.
The second empirical chapter visits Cuyahoga County, Ohio. There, based on in-depth interviews with a racially and socioeconomically diverse sample of seventy-three parents, I show how families use the police as part of the neighborhood frames they apply to communities within and beyond Cleveland. Policing, like schooling, is a located institution that actively gives meaning to place. In a similar spirit to the DC study, the Cleveland study situates policing within urban social processes—here, neighborhood framing.
The third empirical chapter brings us back East, to Baltimore, Maryland, shortly after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Drawing from fifty in-depth interviews with African-American youth collected through participatory research, this chapter shows how police harshness and the Baltimore “riot” fed into young people’s larger understandings of the collective fate of their city. These youths fought to maintain their personal aspirations in a city they saw as declining. The results contribute to theory on civil unrest, collective efficacy, and the aspirations of marginalized youth.
The dissertation, as a whole, has broader ambitions. In Chapters One and Five, I describe and develop the concept of legal estrangement. While other concepts, such as legal cynicism, shed light on the perceived bindingness or efficacy of the law and legal authority, legal estrangement focuses on the perceived group inclusivity of law and legal authority. This concern about the inclusiveness of the law connects to a normative interest in social solidarity, a value that should (again) guide empirical research, policy discussion, and legal interpretation.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129143
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