In 2015, Americans learned that public authorities in Ferguson, Missouri had imposed a “predatory system of government” on poor black citizens. Ferguson residents were targeted, arrested, and summonsed on civil-ordinance violations, assessed prohibitive fines and fees, and subjected to jail if they failed to pay. Monetary penalties served as the gateway for an elaborate and lucrative poverty trap for citizens, who became mired cycles of perpetual debt and payment and mounting entanglements with police and courts.
How do Americans narrate their interactions with police authority? How do they relate these experiences to ideals of American dream, democratic inclusion, community wellbeing? How do people seek autonomy from police intrusion? How do they counter the daily portrayals of their neighborhoods and confront the daily practices that encompass state action there? How has Ferguson shaped the collective memories and politics of a generation?
This talk explores these questions using a new technology, Portals, to initiate conversations about policing and incarceration in communities felled by police violence – communities like Freddie Gray’s, Michael Brown’s, and Eric Garner’s. By creating a “wormhole” through space, a bridge to places unseen and unheard, and, crucially, by making access to these wormholes easy and free, Portals transforms the capacity of disparate people and communities to define their narratives, enhance political activism, create connected political spaces, and expand the possibility of studying politics in beneficially recursive ways.