Dying fast and dying slow in black space: Stop and frisk's public health threat and a comprehensive necropolitics

Naa Oyo Kwate, Shatema Threadcraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Aggressive policing strategies have come under scrutiny for stark racial and ethnic inequities. New York City, home to the United States' largest police force, was subject to a federal class action lawsuit that culminated in its Stop, Question and Frisk policies being ruled unconstitutional. In this paper we argue that Stop and Frisk not only violates constitutional rights, but also constitutes a public health problem. Operating as one process in the death world, Stop and Frisk transforms urban space from a resource to a source of danger; induces perceptual dysfunctions that stymie possibilities for Black engagement with the state and make blackness a metonym for crime and disorder; depletes economic and civic resources; and is embodied, by imprinting on the Black body, physically and mentally. Taken together this policing practice induces stress, fear and trauma, marks the Black body as the proper target for erasure by those who would restore the moral order of the polity, and sets Black lives on a trajectory of debility. Stop and Frisk, whatever its intent, is a necropolitical project. Though Achille Mbembe defined necropolitics as the sovereign determination of who lives and dies, we argue that necropolitical projects need not produce a dead body immediately to function. We extend Mbembe's concept to include diffuse, environmental factors that scale up from individual encounters to Black communities. Though Foucault's widely cited analysis sees the prison as central in the management and regulation of populations, we hold that Stop and Frisk has more in common with necropower than with biopower, producing dysfunctional bodies awaiting death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-556
Number of pages22
JournalDu Bois Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • African American/Black
  • Health
  • Necropolitics
  • Neighborhoods
  • New York City
  • Police
  • Stop and Frisk

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