NYAS Lecture 12/3: The Right to Remain Silent: Self-Monitoring and the Experience of Inequality During Traffic Stops in the U.S. South

Finish out the year with one more engaging installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series on December 3rd, 5:45 PM at its new location, Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. Sharon Feliciano-Santos, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the University of South Carolina, will be presenting, “The Right to Remain Silent: Self-Monitoring and the Experience of Inequality During Traffic Stops in the U.S. South.”

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required. If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

What impact do knowledge of police discretion and the potential for the escalation of violence have upon the communication and expression of subjects during police-initiated traffic stops? Drawing on fieldwork in a mid-size Southern city, interviews with subjects of stops, and analysis of dash-cam and body-cam video, we highlight the different fears, concerns, and knowledges that impact how subjects of traffic stops manage their speech and body language in order to avoid being interpreted as threatening or non-compliant. Interviews with differently raced and gendered subjects of police-initiated stops describe the multiple frameworks that influence their expressive decisions, from media-circulated news of shootings between police and subjects, their knowledge of their legal rights, to their past experiences of being stopped by law enforcement officials.

While the knowledge of subject’s rights during a police-initiated stop is not equally distributed, in cases where subjects do know their rights, interviews reveal how subjects experience the responses to expressing their right to remain silent as non-compliance or refusal. Here, pressures toward compliance may implicitly work against subject’s rights. Ultimately, a systemic analysis of these patterns of self-monitoring suggests how racial and gendered inequalities in charges and arrests emerge and become reproduced in the context of routine police stops. The presentation concludes by connecting these findings to global issues related to self-monitoring and the production of silences in reproducing inequality.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Feliciano-Santos‘ research interests include linguistic anthropology, the politics of language use, social activism, language and cultural revitalization, racial and ethnic formations, and religion. Her areas of interests are Puerto Rico, St. Croix, Caribbean, Latin America, and the U.S. Feliciano-Santos’ research has focused on Taíno cultural revitalization and identarian movements in Puerto Rico. She has examined face-to-face interactions, and the culturally situated communicative ideologies that influence and emerge from such movements. She is also interested in how historical revisions affect the task of reconstruction (religious, linguistic, institutional, etc.) and indigenous ethnic identification. Her current project focuses on the language ideologies and practices of Puerto Ricans in St. Croix, including the ways in which they construct their relationships to multiple Caribbean islands linguistically and narratively.

A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk. Buffet dinner begins at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).

Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required.

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