3 September 2021 • Faculty Policing. Protest. Post-Democracy?

Associate Professor of Political Science Paul Passavant’s new book details the roots of policing protest in the U.S. — and its impact on the political present and future.

This month, Duke University Press published Policing Protest: The Post-Democratic State and the Figure of Black Insurrection, Associate Professor of Political Science Paul Passavant’s exploration of political protest in the United States and how policing such events has become increasingly hostile since the late 1990s.

Peter B. Kraska, a leading scholar on police militarization and professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies, calls Policing Protest a “masterful book filled with keen insights about policing protests using grounded data and compelling stories. It’s easily the best analysis I’ve read on this topic and sets a new standard for theoretical integration, clarity, and real-world relevance.”

“Although of late a lot has been written on policing, nothing that I have read takes up this important topic of protest policing, let alone gives it such a far-reaching and well-supported reading,” notes Jonathan Simon, the Lance Robbins Professor of Criminal Justice Law at the UC Berkeley School of Law. “The policing of protest turns out to be a distinctive but truly revealing piece of contemporary policing, one that no one has covered as comprehensively as Paul A. Passavant does in this text.”

As the publisher notes, Passavant “identifies reactions to three interrelated crises that converged to institutionalize this new mode of policing: the political mobilization of marginalized social groups in the Civil Rights era that led to a perceived crisis of democracy, the urban fiscal crisis of the 1970s, and a crime crisis that was associated with protests and civil disobedience of the 1960s. As Passavant demonstrates, these reactions are all haunted by the figure of black insurrection, which continues to shape policing of protest and surveillance, notably in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Ultimately, Passavant argues, this trend of violent policing strategies against protesters is evidence of the emergence of a post-democratic state in the United States.”

Passavant, who joined the HWS faculty in 1997, has written extensively about free speech, the neoliberal state, protests and political violence. He is the author of No Escape: Freedom of Speech and the Paradox of Rights and coeditor, with Professor of Political Science Jodi Dean, of Empire’s New Clothes: Reading Hardt and Negri. Passavant’s scholarship has appeared in journals such as Political Theory, Contemporary Political TheoryTheory and Event, and Law, Culture, and the Humanities, among others. He is a member of the editorial board of Polity, one of the leading journals in political science, and a member of the American Political Science Association, the Law and Society Association, and the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a B.A. from the University of Michigan.