Surveillance City: The War on Drugs in Urban Neighborhoods

Presented by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School

2014 Nathan Levin Lecture on Public Policy

The War on Drugs has created a powerful surveillance state in America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. High-tech techniques criminalize entire blocks and transform informal community networks into liabilities for local residents as police use family relationships to demand information, pursue suspects and threaten incarceration. The presumption of criminality takes a relentless toll.

Our 2014 Nathan Levin Lecturer, sociologist Alice Goffman, spent six years living in one neighborhood in Philadelphia, documenting the complex web of warrants and surveillance. She describes the long-term damage done to working class and low-income families and communities.

  • Alice Goffman, assistant professor of sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; author, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City

Followed by a conversation with:

  • Jeff Smith, assistant professor of politics and advocacy, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy, The New School
  • Jamelle Bouie, politics, policy, and race reporter, Slate

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The Nathan Levin Lecture on Public Policy was established in 1989 in honor of the late Nathan Levin, a trustee and acting president of The New School. Mr. Levin was one of a number of local civic leaders affiliated with The New School in the early 1960s who sought to promote the university’s involvement in reform politics and community service. Their vision led to the founding of the Center for New York City Affairs and the Milano School's program in urban policy analysis and management.

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