Laurence Ralph

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Princeton U.

Grant number

Gr. 9619

Approve Date

April 13, 2018

Project Title

Ralph, Dr. Laurence, Princeton U., Princeton, NJ - To aid research on 'Tensions of Force: Policing, Security, and Governance in New Orleans'

Preliminary abstract: This study examines how law enforcement and community residents differently define ‘excessive’ use of force in New Orleans, Louisiana. As the city with the highest rate of incarceration in the world, New Orleans is an ideal site to understand policing. The city has a) a long history of grappling with the issue of police force; b) it has community policing programs in place that provides opportunities to evaluate police-citizen relationships; c) it is ranked in the top ten for measures of police violence since 2014; d) and it has a diverse mixture of races, ethnicities, and unique regional contexts. The project explores the extent to which ethnocentric philosophies of governance shape legal understandings today. This includes an examination of why police-community dialogues are understood as either fraught or unsuccessful. The team will employ a mixed-methods approach that utilizes surveys, participant observation, in-depth interviews, social media analysis, ethnographic mapping, and team-based qualitative data coding to examine the way police force is measured and understood. Although no two city police agencies have the same problems, the historical development of police and their use of force in New Orleans has influenced today’s public policy, public discourse, current police formation and contemporary police practice. This ethnographic research on race relations and police use of force in New Orleans will provide valuable findings that can impact broader issues of policing in the United States, and advance anthropological theories of policing, state, governance and force, as well as race and social stratification.