Research

As of 2015 I am a visiting scholar at the Center for Research on Social Change, University of California, Berkeley. I will be working on the following research project.


Trajectories of Political Engagement: Unruly politics, criminalization and organizing for social change

Recent events in the US, such as the protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, show that many young people of color, from a lower class background, and living in deprived neighborhoods do not feel represented by formal politics. They often highly distrust and feel criminalized by state representatives and express their discontent in informal, sometimes rather confrontational ways on the streets. In my dissertation I use the concept “unruly politics” to designate the expressions of dissent of such young urban “troublemakers”. In my PhD project I explicitly focused on unorganized, spontaneous events of unruly politics; riots and disturbances of the public order instigated by youth of immigrant descent in France and the Netherlands. During my visiting scholarship at UC Berkeley I wish to investigate the transition from such unruly politics to more deliberately organized political agency, aiming at sustainable social change and emancipation.

Dr. Victor Rios, external faculty member of CRSC, speaks in his book “Punished” of the political significance of the counter-agency of delinquent youth from the San Francisco Bay Area (2011). Delinquent boys who break the rules can engage in certain forms of “everyday resistance” against injustice, punishment and a lack of recognition in relation to authorities. Rios’s analysis seems to imply that delinquent boys display a certain form of unruly politics. He writes: “the ‘irrational’ acts of defiance that the boys in this study deployed may have, at the very least, provided them a sense of dignity and empowerment, and, at best, these acts could become seeds that sprouted into a more critical political and intellectual analysis of the system that criminalized them” (2011, 117). I would like to further explore this hypothesis, and investigate whether criminalization can indeed, paradoxically enough, become a vehicle to develop political consciousness. In order to do so, I will interview community activists who formerly have been incarcerated at a young age, and ask them what role their experience with the prison system has played in their development towards community activism. My investigations will be guided by the following main research question:

  •  In what way can expressions of defiance and “everyday acts of resistance” evolve into a more developed political consciousness and activism, that could contribute to the empowerment of criminalized youth? 

Reference:

- Rios, V. 2011. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. New York: New York University Press