Scenes from the Psychic Life of Policing
Sheds light on the emotional dynamics behind policing with an eye toward its abolition.
In Uniform Feelings, American studies scholar and abolitionist psychotherapist Jessi Lee Jackson reads policing as a set of emotional and relational practices in order to shed light on the persistence of police violence. Jackson argues that psychological investments in U.S. police power emerge at various sites: her counseling room, manuals for addressing bias, museum displays, mortality statistics, and memorial walls honoring fallen officers. Drawing on queer, feminist, anticolonial, and Black engagements with psychoanalysis to think through U.S. policing—and bringing together a mix of clinical case studies, autotheory, and ethnographic research—the book moves from the individual to the institutional. Jackson begins with her work as a psychotherapist working across the spectrum of relationships to policing, and then turns to interrogate carceral psychology—the involvement of her profession in ongoing state violence. Jackson orbits around two key questions: how are our relationships shaped by proximity to state violence, and how can our social worlds be transformed to challenge state-sanctioned violence?
Praise / Awards
“Uniform Feelings incisively shows how the national fantasies and psychic cultures of policing reach far beyond interactions with police officers. From the therapist’s office, to the gun range, to the museum, Jackson pushes us to examine our affective investments in policing cultures. Working at the intersections of race, affect, and carceral studies, Uniform Feelings astutely reveals the psychological and materialist entanglements that must be undone if we are to build an abolitionist future.”
—Paula Ioanide, author of The Emotional Politics of Racism: How Feelings Trump Facts in an Era of Colorblindness
“The police stand at the very heart of white bourgeois order. Uniform Feelings puts this fact up front and center, forcing readers to contemplate the politics of police power and the everyday violence it enacts in the most insidious and spectacular of ways. The book offers a thoughtful and very helpful discussion about racialized state violence as its agents understand, and disown, their legal capacity for violence. Given its focus on material culture and psychology, the book offers a unique approach to thinking about the police power. It is a welcome offering.”
—Tyler Wall, co-author of Police: A Field Guide
“If you're looking for a book that performs an apologia for police violence under the pretense of psychoanalyzing carceral logics, this is not the book for you. Rather, Jackson meticulously grounds her scholarship and narrative in an abolitionist, queer and feminist framework that relentlessly highlights the structures, conditions, and logics undergirding policing in the United States. The specific focus on the socio-psychic makes this book a must-read, especially for any clinician who heeds the call for abolition as an integral struggle in service of our collective liberation.”
—Lara Sheehi, co-author of Psychoanalysis Under Occupation: Practicing Resistance in Palestine
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