Celebrating our Sesquicentennial 1867-2017
University of Illinois Quadrangle
Celebrating our Sesquicentennial1867-2017

Death by Policing: Race, State Violence, and the Possibility of Justice



This symposium will examine racialized deaths at the hands of law enforcement agents (e.g., police and border patrol) and at sites of state authority and responsibility (e.g., prisons and immigration detention centers). It is particularly interested in exploring how the pervasive criminalization and policing of the racialized poor, immigrant workers, and black and brown youths make these deaths possible. This focus is captured in the notion “death by policing,” the idea being that state-involved racialized deaths are a function of the way bodies of color are policed in American society. The symposium will also look at how policing norms in United States influence the kind of justice that is accorded to racially marginalized populations. And it will discuss collective strategies and actions—at local and national levels—that can be employed to prevent racialized deaths.


Click here to view schedule.



Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
Department of Latina/Latino Studies




Kelly Lytle Hernandez

Kelly Lytle Hernandez

      • University of California, Los Angeles

        • Kelly Lytle Hernandez is Professor of History and African American Studies at UCLA. She is also the Interim Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. One of the nation’s leading experts on race, immigration, and mass incarceration, she is the author of the award-winning book, Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol (University of California Press, 2010), and City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). Currently, Professor Lytle Hernandez is the research lead for the Million Dollar Hoods project, which maps how much is spent on incarceration per neighborhood in Los Angeles County.

Jordan T. Camp

Jordan T. Camp

      • Barnard College

        • Jordan T. Camp is a term assistant professor of American studies at Barnard College, author of Incarcerating the Crisis: Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State (University of California Press, 2016), and co-editor (with Christina Heatherton) of Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (New York: Verso, 2016).

Andrea J. Ritchie

Andrea J. Ritchie

      • Barnard College

        • Andrea J. Ritchie is a Black lesbian immigrant and police misconduct attorney and organizer who has engaged in extensive research, writing, and advocacy around criminalization of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color over the past two decades. She recently published Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. Ritchie is currently Researcher-in-Residence on Race, Gender, Sexuality and Criminalization at the Social Justice Institute of the Barnard Center for Research on Women. In 2014, she was awarded a Senior Soros Justice Fellowship to engage in documentation and advocacy around profiling and policing of women of color – trans and not trans, queer and not queer.

Nadine Naber

Nadine Naber

      • University of Illinois, Chicago

        • Nadine Naber is an associate professor in the Gender and Women's Studies Program and Global Asian Studies and Faculty Director of the Arab American Cultural Center at UIC. Nadine is author of Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism (NYU Press, 2012). She is co-editor of the books Race and Arab Americans (Syracuse University Press, 2008); Arab and Arab American Feminisms, winner of the Arab American Book Award 2012 (Syracuse University Press, 2010); and The Color of Violence (South End Press, 2006). 

Monica Muñoz Martinez

Monica Muñoz Martinez

      • Brown University

        • Monica Muñoz Martinez, Andrew Carnegie fellow 2017 – 2019, is the Stanley J. Bernstein Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. Her book The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in the Texas Borderlands is forthcoming with Harvard University Press in Fall 2018. 

Jenna M. Loyd

Jenna M. Loyd

      • University of Wisconsin, Madison

        • Jenna M. Loyd is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978; co-editor with Matt Mitchelson and Andrew Burridge of Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis; and co-author with Alison Mountz of the forthcoming Boats, Borders, and Bases: Race, the Cold War, and the Rise of Migration Detention the United States.

Robin Reineke

Robin Reineke

      • University of Arizona and Colibrí Center for Human Rights

        • Robin Reineke is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit family advocacy organization working to end death and suffering on the US-Mexico border by partnering with families of the dead and missing. She is also a Research Social Scientist in Anthropology at the University of Arizona's Southwest Center. She and Colibrí have worked in Arizona to support families of missing migrants since 2006. 


Wendy Vogt

Wendy Vogt

      • Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

        • Wendy Vogt is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Her research addresses the intersections between migration, violence, and human rights in Latin America and the United States. For the past decade, she has conducted ethnographic research on the political economy and embodied realities of Central American transit migration in Mexico. Her book manuscript, Lives in Transit: Violence and Intimacy on the Migrant Journey , will be published by UC Press in Fall 2018.

John Major Eason

John Major Eason

      • Texas A&M University

        • John Major Eason is associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Texas A&M University. In his prior position at the School Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University he received the 2012 Rural Sociological Society Young Scholar Award.  He also served as the Provost’s Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Sociology at Duke University after receiving his Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago.


Angelica Camacho

Angelica Camacho

      • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

        • Angelica Camacho is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and also a former Ford Dissertation Fellow. She received a PhD in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Her current research is on the Pelican Bay California Prisoner Hunger Strikes and the subsequent uprising of the prisoners’ families.

Alex S. Vitale

Alex S. Vitale

      • Brooklyn College

        • Alex S. Vitale is Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project there. He has spent the last 25 years writing about policing and consults both police departments and human rights organizations internationally. He is also a frequent essayist, whose writings have appeared in the New York Daily NewsNew York TimesNationGotham Gazette, and New Inquiry.

Peter Bandettini



8:45-9:00 am Opening Remarks: Jonathan Inda, Chair - Department of Latina/Latino Studies
9:00-11:00 am

Fatal Encounters: Race and Police Use of Deadly Force

Chair: Junaid Rana (Asian American Studies)
Jordan T. Camp (Barnard College)
Andrea Ritchie (Barnard College)
Nadine Naber (UIC)
Monica Martinez (Brown)


"The Bombs Explode at Home: The Political Economy of Police Violence"
Jordan T. Camp


Responding to a massive buildup of military forces at home and abroad, Dr. Martin Luther King observed in 1967, “The bombs in Vietnam explode at home.” Amidst growing resistance to the U.S. imperialist war in Vietnam and a wave of urban uprisings against police violence, King had come to the inescapable conclusion that overcoming racism would require attacking its roots in the political economy of capitalism and imperialism.  Taking King’s insights seriously, this presentation analyzes the political economy of policing violence in the U.S., a carceral-warfare state that kills Black and Indigenous people at disproportionate rates. At the same time, it will suggest how uprisings from Ferguson to Baltimore to Standing Rock highlight the unfinished business of freedom struggles today.


"Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color"
Andrea J. Ritchie


Police killings of Black women and women of color, while less frequent than those targeting Black men, nevertheless have a great deal to teach us about the scope, forms, and contexts of police violence in the United States, and the strategies necessary to reduce death by policing. Additionally, current policing paradigms and practices can be fatal even if death does not come directly at the hands of police, pointing to additional arenas of potential intervention. Finally, setting fatal police interactions as the gold standard for police violence obscures and elides multiple forms of police violence that have the effect of diminishing life chances which therefore must also be addressed.


"Criminalizing Muslims: The Surveillance Industrial Complex and the Possibilities for Joint Struggle"
Nadine Naber


This presentation maps the criminalization of persons perceived to be Muslim through an analysis of the surveillance industrial complex. It will address the mutual relationality between militarism and economic neo-liberalism in the policing of Arabs/Muslims/South Asians in the United States. It will additionally explore the possibilities for solidarity with "Muslims" that are grounded in anti-imperialism, intersectionality and decolonization.


"Reckoning with Histories of Violence in a Hive of Border Policing"
Monica Muñoz Martinez


Between 1910 and 1920, vigilantes and law enforcement, including the renowned Texas Rangers, killed Mexican residents with impunity, the full extent of the violence known only to the relatives of the victims. The failure to remember this history enables the perpetuation of violent border policing. As we reflect on the centennial of this period, anti-immigrant sentiment is shaping public policy and clouding public conversations. Martinez will discuss the limits and possibilities of reckoning with histories of state-sanctioned racial violence in the midst of ongoing violent border policing. 


11:15-12:15 pm Keynote Address: Kelly Lytle, Hernandez, UCLA


"City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965"
Kelly Lytle Hernandez


Los Angeles incarcerates more people than any other city in the United States, which imprisons more people than any other nation on Earth. This talk explains how the City of Angels became the capital city of the world’s leading incarcerator. Marshaling more than two centuries of evidence, historian Kelly Lytle Hernández unmasks how histories of native elimination, immigrant exclusion, and black disappearance drove the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. In this telling, which spans from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, Hernández documents the persistent historical bond between the racial fantasies of conquest, namely its settler colonial form, and the eliminatory capacities of incarceration.


This talk is also a chronicle of resilience and rebellion, documenting how targeted peoples and communities have always fought back. They busted out of jail, forced Supreme Court rulings, advanced revolution across bars and borders, and, as in the summer of 1965, set fire to the belly of the city. With these acts those who fought the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles altered the course of history in the city, the borderlands, and beyond. The dynamics of conquest thus met deep reservoirs of rebellion as Los Angeles became the City of Inmates, the nation’s carceral core.


1:15-2:45 pm

Deadly Crossings: Border Policing and Lives Lost

Chair: Gilberto Rosas (Anthropology and Latina/Latino Studies)
Jenna Loyd (Wisconsin)
Robin Reineke (Arizona)
Wendy Vogt (IUPUI


"America's 'Boat People': Anti-Black Racism and the Place of the Caribbean in U.S. Migration Deterrence Practices"
Jenna M. Loyd


In December 1994, the government of Panama told the United States that it would no longer permit the U.S. to use Howard Air Force Base to process Cuban asylum seekers intercepted at sea. Howard Air Force Base and Guantánamo Bay Naval Base (GTMO) occupied the center of a carceral archipelago of military and civilian spaces planned, and in some cases established, as "safe havens" for Haitian and Cuban asylum seekers across the Caribbean in the early- to mid-1990s. Despite important scholarship recollecting this Caribbean chapter of US border enforcement, the role that deterrence operations in the Caribbean played in the rise of contemporary US detention and deterrence policies remains less well known. This talk aims to resituate deterrence in the Caribbean and anti-Black racism in accounts for the U.S. migration detention and deterrence regime.


"Disappearance by Policing in the Arizona Desert"
Robin Reineke


Southern Arizona has been an over-policed geography since at least the early 2000s, when federal enforcement policies took effect. The militarization of border enforcement and the criminalization of immigrants, migrants, and people of color in the region has led not only to thousands of deaths, but also thousands of disappearances. This paper will follow the story of one woman, Nancy. It will trace the timeline of events that led to Nancy's disappearance and erasure in one of the most heavily surveilled landscapes in the world. Ultimately it was Nancy's family and a small community of Arizona-based humanitarians who found Nancy and made her and her story knowable, visible, and publicly grievable. 


"A Cemetery Without Crosses: State Violence and Migrant Death Along Central American Transit Routes"
Wendy Vogt


This talk examines the production of state violence and death along Central American transit routes in southern Mexico. Since the late 1980s, Mexico's interior has increasingly become the site of a diffused migration enforcement strategy through roadside checkpoints, surveillance technologies, vehicle patrols, raids and detention facilities. As unauthorized racialized and gendered others, Central American migrants become the hunted prey of Mexico's security regime as well as organized criminal groups, which are increasingly intertwined. Close attention to the dynamics of the state-criminal-migrant nexus illuminates how clandestine migrant journeys become sites of profit, power and impunity.  


3:00-4:00 pm

Careless Detention: On the Lethal Politics of Incarceration

Chair: Naomi Paik (Asian American Studies)
John Eason (Texas A & M)
Angelica Camacho (Latina/Latino Studies)


"Permanent Injury Beyond Medical Intervention: Disguising Death in U.S. Immigrant Detention"
Aldana Marquez, Beatriz, John M. Eason, Amorette T. Young, and Kay Varela


Between 2003-2015 over 150 deaths occurred across public and private Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities. Despite these fatal conditions, immigrant detention facilities routinely pass federal audits and are rarely held accountable for their deficiencies. We analyze qualitative and quantitative data obtained through Freedom of Information Request (FOIR) that include 5 years of data (2008-2012) across 116 of the largest ICE detention facilities. Looking specifically at 106 immigration detention contracts and 181 office of detention oversight audits, we conclude that ICE creates a framework of obscurity around troubling conditions to disavow the agency from responsibility for administrative detainee’s deaths and poor health. These frames also allow ICE to reinforce legitimacy of the immigrant detention network despite the awful conditions creating a potential human rights crisis.  Our analysis also demonstrates how immigration detention facilities fortifies structural legitimacy to continue intergovernmental service agreement with providers despite poor performance reviews.


"This is War: The California Department of Corrections Attempt to Annihilate Adversaries"
Angelica Camacho


In 1989, Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) and its Security Housing Units (SHU) were built to hold in extremely isolation those the California Department of Corrections (CDC) deemed "the worst of the worst." In 2005, out of the 44 prisoners who committed suicide in CDC prisons, 70% of them were in solitary confinement. The CDC used these extreme forms of isolation to eradicate dissent or render prisoners insane to the point of self-destruction. In a refusal to cede, men in Pelican Bay SHU, launched hungers strikes. Many committed participants had spent 20 to 45 years incarcerated and had already accepted that one way or another they would die in the SHU. It was only a matter of how. Alas, the California prisoner hunger strikes were a struggle to live differently, but also a way to die. As representative Todd Ashker exclaimed, "If necessary we'll resume and go all the way, starve to death. This is a war."


4:15-5:30 pm

Closing Roundtable: The End of Policing, with Alex Vitale

Moderator: Lisa Cacho (Latina/Latino Studies)
 Alex Vitale (Brooklyn College)
Jonathan Inda (Latina/Latino Studies)
Gilberto Rosas (Anthropology and Latina/Latino Studies)
Naomi Paik (Asian American Studies)


“The End of Policing”
Alex Vitale


Recent years have seen an explosion of protest against police brutality and repression—most dramatically in Ferguson, Missouri, where long held grievances erupted in violent demonstrations following the police killing of Michael Brown. Among activists, journalists, and politicians, the conversation about how to respond and improve policing has focused on accountability, diversity, training, and community relations. In his book The End Policing, Alex Vitale argues that these reforms will not produce results, either alone or in combination. The core of the problem must be addressed: the nature of modern policing itself. “Broken windows” practices, the militarization of law enforcement, and the dramatic expansion of the police’s role over the last forty years have created a mandate for officers that must be rolled back. Indeed, the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety.


Beginning with Vitale’s observations in The End of Policing, this closing roundtable will serve as the occasion for a broad ranging discussion about the nature of modern policing, strategies for preventing state-involved racialized deaths, and the possibility of justice for racially marginalized populations. Engaging Vitale in the roundtable will be Jonathan Inda (Latina/Latino Studies), Lisa Marie Cacho (Latina/Latino Studies), Gilberto Rosas (Anthropology and Latina/Latino Studies), and Naomi Paik (Asian American Studies).


Peter Bandettini