Black Lives Matter Syllabus Project, Pedagogy

The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatter Syllabus Project, Week 18: Avram Bornstein on the Statistical Geographies of Racialized Policing

The editors of Anthropoliteia are happy to continue an ongoing series The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus Project, which will mobilize anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing and justice. You can see a growing bibliography of resources via our Mendeley feed.  In this entry,  Avram Bornstein discusses how mapping projects can reinforce problematic racial geographies.


I make two additions to the Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatter syllabus. The first is a website project called The Racial Dot Map, and the second is a piece I wrote in North American Dialogue titled, “Institutional Racism, Numbers Management and Zero-Tolerance Policing in New York City,” in which I explain the “institutional” features in policing that have reproduced racial iniquities in early 21st century New York City. What is at stake is an understanding of how certain statistical geographies, which are mapped on top of existing racial geographies, can insidiously reproduce racial hierarchies, often without reference to race. While my article does not explore the wider application of these forms of power, the straightforward use of this management technology in policing could frame an inquiry into similar processes in other areas of public service or private venture.

In classes about criminal justice, whether for professionals or non-professionals, this article may also help students to complicate the more common and often more polarizing focus on individual bias as a structuring force (without undermining the importance of implicit bias, too). The Racial Dot Map allows students to look at their own cities, towns and neighborhoods, to see more clearly how segregated the U.S. remains. While more than 50 years has passed since the federal government made “redlining” (mortgage lending based on racial segregation) illegal, the legacy of racial geography remains.

These resources guide students towards analyzing how racialized geographies are inevitably intertwined with racialized policing.


Avram Bornstein is the Director of the Criminal Justice Master of Arts Program and co-Director of the NYPD Leadership Program at John Jay. He teaches in John Jay’s undergraduate and graduate programs and in the Anthropology Ph.D. program at the CUNY Graduate Center. His research and teaching focus on violence and ethnic conflict. He has done extensive ethnographic research in Israel-Palestine and published on issues such as border enforcement, work, political prisoners, healthcare, international intervention and ethnographic reflexivity. In recent years, Bornstein has also focused on New York City, with particular attention to community policing, police ethnicity and police education.


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