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Race-Making and Land-Taking: Uncovering Policing in the Constitution of Racial Capitalism and Settler Colonialism

This dissertation addresses calls for greater communication studies inquiry into processes of colonization, racialization, and the White standpoint all too often naturalized in research (Chakravartty et al. 2018). The dissertation accomplishes this through a communication study that expands the horizons of critical research on policing and race, revealing policing as a constitutive force of cultural and structural racism. I study cases of policing in transformative conflicts: uprisings by Anglo Eastern North American settler colonists against Indigenous people and British rule in the 1670s and 1760s, anti-Indigenous settler colonial uprisings in the Northwest Territory from 1795-1815, and the adaptation of colonial policing in industrial urban conflict in Chicago, 1854-1867. These case studies provide previously absent context on the colonial practices, racial ideology, and infrastructures that conditioned practices of policing in Chicago. Policing, the dissertation argues, must be understood as a colonially emergent social technique that gained political importance as means to creatively assert, not merely reinforce, representations and material systems of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. Later urban conflicts in Chicago, I show, adapted colonial policing as means to control geographic, racial, market, and legal boundaries necessary to the hegemony of capitalists, the Chicago Police Department, and city government. Scholarly contributions also include an original research framework of theory and method. I draw on ideas from WEB Du Bois to re-formulate Gramsci’s (1971, 2000) theory of hegemony and its later poststructural adaptation (Laclau & Mouffe, 1985 [2001]). My original genealogical method enables the search for emergence and descent (Foucault, 1977) of characteristic labor performances, the relations and representations those acts cite and adapt (Butler 1988; Derrida, 1972 [1988]; Taylor, 2016a), as well as the structures they produce or destroy, and thereby the form of hegemony they organize. For police studies and history, the dissertation finds continuities between modern and colonial policing and needed redefinitions of policing as a practice. For feminist abolition and Black Marxist studies, my redefinitions expand understandings of the constitutive role of policing in racial capitalism and the White nation project. The dissertation works to draw these fields of study into collaboration with critical communication studies.
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