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In/Versions: Journal of the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group, Winter 2018

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In/Versions: Journal of the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group Winter 2018

“[T]his officer believed he was pursuing an armed felon” Racism, Police Violence, and Transversive Affective Systems Taisto Witt* TaistoW@uvic.ca University of Victoria, Department of Sociology

Abstract

This paper explores the critical role of affect and emotion in racialized police violence in the United States using the case of the death of Ramarley Graham at the hands of a NYPD officer in 2012 as a way of expanding several models of affect theory. This is done through the demonstration of a theoretical link between the representations of bodies, the creation of virtual threat, and the transference of emotion between bodies based upon that threat. In doing so, the paper draws from the theorizations of affect through both Brian Massumi’s Affective Systems, and Sarah Ahmed’s Affective Economies. The paper levels the critique at both Massumi and Ahmed that their theorizations of affect are not individually satisfactory when examining racialized police violence, and presents a theoretical synthesis of the positions of the two that allows for the tracing of affect, emotion, and responses between bodies that allows for an explanation of disproportionate police responses to racialized bodies. Keywords: Police Violence, Racism, Emotion, Affect, Media, Representation of Bodies

1. Introduction This paper explores racism as an affective system based upon Brian Massumi’s theorization of affect in Fear (The Spectrum Said) (2005). This exploration will be performed through an inspection of the experiences of violence and racism against black bodies at the hands of police. This violence is the result of the operation of a racist affective system upon the population as a whole, and police specifically. Through an inspection of the shooting death of Ramarley Graham in 2012, I will demonstrate that an examination of this racist system requires an expansion of Massumi’s affective systems, as the presentation of these systems in his paper renders them inadequate when the complexities of affective racist interactions are inspected and interrogated. It is the intent of this paper to demonstrate that by addressing this inadequacy in Massumi’s structural description of affective systems via the incorporation of the treatment of affective emotions by Sarah Ahmed (2004), one can develop a more expansive and robust model for affective systems, allowing for a more extensive application of this theoretical framework. ———

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In/Versions: Journal of the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group  

In/Versions is a new annual peer-reviewed publication produced by the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG), a not-for-pr...

In/Versions: Journal of the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group  

In/Versions is a new annual peer-reviewed publication produced by the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG), a not-for-pr...

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