edited by Jessica Katzenstein, Brown University
George Floyd’s killing in May 2020 catalyzed global public outrage and reignited a slow-burning crisis of U.S. police legitimacy. Legal mechanisms for avoiding murder charges, police unions’ political dominance, and omnipresent white supremacy and anti-Black racism all faced broader scrutiny than ever. Meanwhile, harshly imposed lockdowns in other parts of the pandemic-stricken world worsened existing police violence. Officers harassed, beat, and killed already vulnerable people as they enforced regulations in India, Brazil, and multiple European countries. Clearly, the work of policing is imbricated within and often exacerbates the crises of the early twenty-first century. Among critics, police are often seen as an engine and conduit of state violence or else as a spectral power, a “nowhere-tangible, all-pervasive, ghostly presence” (Benjamin 1978: 243). Yet policing is also materialized in forms of labor riven by internal struggles, and its frontline representatives are subject to boredom, precarity, and exploitation. How do we read these aspects together?