Anti-Police Rhetorics as an Issue of Race and Sexuality

Professor Jyoti Puri’s research examines how anti-police rhetorics appear across cultures and work to marginalize specific communities in the U.S. and India.

Jyoti Puri Research

Professor Jyoti Puri defines anti-police rhetorics as generalizations, made by police, describing certain communities as being hostile toward law enforcement. Anti-police rhetorics are used as forms of criticism against these communities.

Puri draws a connection between African American communities in the U.S. and specific groups in India that are characterized as anti-police. Puri references the fact that, in his testimony at the grand jury trial investigating the killing of Michael Brown, accused officer Darren Wilson called Brown’s predominately black community “anti-police.” Meanwhile, Puri conducted fieldwork in India, where there is an anti-sodomy law criminalizing same-sex activity. Puri puts forth that, during her fieldwork, police characterized Muslims as inherently prone to sexual deviance. In a way, this portrayal racializes and pejoratively queers Indian Muslims. Puri also talked with Delhi constables who called Hijras anti-police. Hijras are people who are assigned a male gender identity at birth but are female presenting and are sometimes translated as transgender. Puri’s research, including her forthcoming book from Duke University Press, Sexual States: Governance and Anti-Sodomy Law in India’s Present, considers policing as a sexualized and racialized form of governance by the state in which these populations bear the brunt of police violence.

According to Puri, juxtaposing police responses to African American communities in the U.S. with police responses to Hijras in India highlights that, despite the significant differences between the two contexts, policing rhetorics are issues of race, sexuality, and gender. One of the goals of her scholarship is to challenge state power that is reproduced when police seek to quell criticism from the public—as seen in the wake of racialized killings of African Americans that have occurred recently in the U.S—by accusing communities of being “anti-police.” Puri believes that it is the obligation of feminist scholars, like herself, to continue to draw attention to the complex ways in which sexuality, gender, and race are implicated in forms of state governance.

Puri's awareness-raising scholarship on this topic was supported by a Fulbright Senior Research Award and by Simmons College resources. These institutional resources included an allocation from the President’s Fund for Faculty Excellence and a Scholarship Completing Grant from the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office.