Police-technology Assemblages and Social Movement Protest: Intervention and Political Decomposition

By Matthew Greaves.

Published by The Technology Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 21, 2014 $US5.00

While the study of social movement policing has done well to identify macro-social shifts in law enforcement mandates, the existing research gives us little information on the translation of these imperatives into the immediate networks for controlling protest nor of these networks make up. Taking as a case study the development of pepper spray use in American social movement policing, I argue that less-lethal technologies in the policing of protest become involved with heterogeneous and unstable configurations of policing techniques, social codes, signification regimes, bodily competencies, and contingent agreements between police and protesters, what I am referring to as police-technology assemblages. Enrolled in an assemblage for the policing of social movements, pepper spray acts as a decompositionary moment against the political composition involved in such gatherings.
This paper directly addresses three aspects of pepper spray in use against social movements: the translation of law enforcement imperatives through the police-technology assemblage; the formal ordering of protesters, police, less-lethal technologies and other non-human aspects; and technical intervention in the formation and expression of community power. Along with a history of the development of pepper spray use, including its testing by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, attention is paid to the recent deployment against student protesters at the University of California at Davis and the conditions and immediate networks through which this use occurred.

Keywords: Theme: Technologies in Community, Protest, Autonomist Marxmism, Police Technology

International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp.109-117. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 21, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 479.274KB)).

Matthew Greaves

Doctoral Student, Applied Communication and Technology Laboratory,, School of Communication,, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Matthew Greaves studies the technologies of social movement policing at Simon Fraser University. His other research interests include Marxisms, the philosophy of technology, and actor-network theory. He lives in Vancouver with his partner Ashley and their cats Chad and Finnegan.


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