The Torture Letters, Reckoning with Police Violence: Laurence Ralph, Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University

Laurence is a Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. His research and writing explore how police abuse, mass incarceration, and the criminalization of the drug trade naturalize disease, disability, and premature death for urban residents of color, who are often seen as expendable by “polite” society. Theoretically, his research lies at the nexus of critical medical and political anthropology, African American studies, and emerging scholarship on disability. Combining these literatures, he shows show violence and injury play a central role in the daily lives of Black urban populations.

His most recent book, Torture Letters, is about torture as an open secret in Chicago. Between 1972 and 1991, at least 125 black suspects were tortured by Chicago police officers working under former Police Commander John Burge. For more than fifty years, police officers who took an oath to protect and serve have instead beaten, electrocuted, suffocated, and raped hundreds—perhaps thousands—of Chicago residents. The Torture Letters chronicles the history of torture in Chicago, the burgeoning activist movement against police violence, and the American public’s complicity in perpetuating torture at home and abroad.