45 Global Policing 3 Laurence Ralph: Reckoning with Police Violence

In the third episode of our Global Policing series, Elizabeth and John speak with anthropologist Laurence Ralph about his 2020 book The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence. The book relates the decades-long history in which hundreds of people (mostly Black men) were tortured by the Chicago Police. Fascinatingly, it is framed as a series of open letters that explore the layers of silence and complicity that enabled torture and the activist movements that have helped to uncover this history and implement forms of collective redress and repair. Elizabeth and John ask Laurence about that genre choice, and he unpacks his thinking about responsibility, witnessing, trauma and channels of activism. Arendt’s “banality of evil” briefly surfaces.

“People are always reckoning. People are always trying, no matter how overwhelming the odds may be, people are always trying to fight back.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Laurence Ralph, Renegade Dreams: Living through Injury in Gangland Chicago

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Mahomedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo Diary

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa)

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963, “banality of evil”; not optimism but hopefulness)

Recallable …..Stuff

Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” (here introduced by Angela Davis)

Listen and Read Here:

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