Skip to Main Content

SOC 448: Racial Profiling (Professor Ali) [Spring 2021]

SOC 448 Research Projects

This assignment invites you to reflect on your use of technology that:

  1. Tracks movement, records dialogue, maintains (and perhaps, shares) information about your personal profile or
  2. Limits your exposure to tracking. This is intended to be an elementary exercise in autoethnography. How do these technologies show up in your everyday lives and for what purpose?

The technology of choice is up to you. Initial suggestions of technology that tracks include social media apps (Instagram, Tinder, Grindr, Facebook), GPS systems and dashboard cameras, voice assistants (e.g. Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home), facial recognition software and fingerprint sensors, fitness trackers and digital dietary logs (e.g. Fitbit), recreational drones, contact tracing apps. Or, if you decide to select countersurveillance technologies, this may include Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), face masks, camera detectors. What work do these technologies claim to do in improving our quality of life? What do we surrender in the process?

Responses should be 2-3 pages, double-spaced. Students must draw on at least two (2) scholarly sources and at least two (2) course texts/readings.

For full assignment guidelines, please consult the SOC 448 Cougar Course site.

For your final assignment, you will select a case study and offer a critical analysis of how racial profiling and racial surveillance discourses and practices manifested in that specific case.

  • You can focus on one case of racial profiling or compare the case to other similar incidences.
  • Feel free to use popular/mainstream media (e.g. New York Times, NBC, CNN, FOX, etc.) police/incident reports, or government discourses in your critical analysis.
  • Guiding questions – How does race inform the dominant discourse of your case study? How is race discussed without explicitly naming race? What terms are used to mark racial difference? The key task is for you to interrogate how racial profiling discourses function in the case/s you have selected. How are bodies regulated in this case? What does this case/s say about our society? How is exclusion communicated in the infrastructure, politics and culture of the environment? To what extent are racial profiling discourses and racial surveillance practices and policies made explicit?

For those of you interested in comparing more than one case, consider the similarities and difference between the popular or official coverages of each case.

  • The cases can draw on similarities as to how racial profiling discourses and practices are utilized by the nation-state, police, society and media (e.g. police discourses of Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland; media coverage of George Floyd and Eric Garner, etc.).
  • Or these cases can be juxtaposed to shed light on racial profiling discourses and practices (e.g. Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and Capitol insurrection on Jan 6; media coverage of Trayvon Martin vs. Dylan Roof, etc.)
  • You can explore wider/macro implications of everyday or lesser publicized/known racial profiling cases, such as ‘driving while Black/Brown’, taken aside for questioning at borders/airports (based on your skin color, name, place of birth, immigration status, etc.), racial profiling while shopping, walking, studying, and generally existing. Keep in mind, these cases must fall under the course definition of racial profiling and racial surveillance.

For full assignment guidelines, please consult the SOC 448 Cougar Course site.