Policing and Public Health: Logics of Power and Resistance  

An Exploratory Workshop

July 19th, 2023

University of Liverpool and via Zoom

Recent developments ranging from the excesses of the endless global ‘war on terror’ and the spectre of global warming and recurring environmental catastrophes, to the governance responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, have opened new questions about the intersections between police power and public health across the global South and North. Many questions remain, however, about the historical antecedents of these contemporary intersections and nature of their transformation in the present conjuncture – including the logics of power at work therein and the forms of struggle and resistance that accompany them. Can we talk, for example, of totalizing global or universal transformations, or perhaps rather of a series of more diverse and disjointed (if connected) processes? In what ways has the policing of public health taken place along new gendered, sexualized and racialised logics? How has political and moral authority been used to legitimize and sustain such developments? In what ways are contemporary anxieties about, and surveillance of various Others – whether racial, religious, gendered, or sexual – as a threat to public health a product of the interactions between old (particularly imperial and colonial) histories and new incitements? How have peoples and communities become subjects of, resisted, and shored up policing regimes in response to concerns over public health? What, moreover, are the local and global genealogies of such developments? 

As scholars who work has focused on the global South, in the fields of History and Politics, our aim in organising this workshop is, firstly, to bring together scholars and activists who are working on issues to do with policing, public health, psychology, criminal justice, security, and law, either historical or contemporary, in the UK and wider global North, as well as the global south, to consider such questions. The wider aim is also, however, to form a research network, and to begin to develop possibilities for research collaboration. 

As such, the workshop will not be organised around formal research papers. Rather, following two short introductory addresses, which will help lay out a series of issues and themes for participants to consider, the workshop will then be organised into three sessions: 

  • What is the state of knowledge vis-a-vis the intersections between policing and public health?
  • What are the big questions that still need to be explored, particularly in light of recent events?
  • Where do we go from here?

Workshop participants may be asked to speak to one of these questions, for no more than 5 minutes – i.e., about how their current research or activism speaks to one of these questions – to help kickstart discussion. 

If you would like to participate, or for further info, please contact Prof. Deana Heath (heathdeana@liverpool.ac.uk) and Dr. Rhys Machold (Rhys.Machold@glasgow.ac.uk).