Call for Papers
Journal of Urban Affairs 

Special Issue Theme: Police and Policing in 21st Century Cities

Guest Editor:
Michael Leo Owens, Ph. D.
Emory University, United States

The urban world is a world of police. Whether in the Global North or South, democracies or autocracies, police are present in our cities and metropoles. In some urban quarters, police seem omnipresent. For many, the urban world is inconceivable without police and policing.

As agents of public (and private) principals, police coproduce, implement, and enforce norms and policies, inclusive of biases, laws, and rules. Moreover, police surveil, stop, arrest, harm, and jail some groups more than others. Plus, police and policing consume large shares of public budgets. Accordingly, the police and policing influence how cities distribute or impede safety/security, liberty, equality, and justice.

The histories, functions, and roles of police and policing vary from country to country. But police and policing are indelible and important governance institutions in urban and peri-urban spaces. Furthermore, all governments and commercial interests defend police and policing in cities and other urbanized areas as necessary; deterring and reducing crime, apprehending suspects, and solving crime, they posit, are impossible without police and policing.  Unlike other domestic faces of the state, however, governments grant police authority to hurt or kill civilians in their performance of urban governance tasks. Consequently, police-denizen encounters in cities and metropoles have the potential for violence and death, both for denizens and police.

Contemporary police and policing bear on enduring theoretical concerns about power, privilege, and place-making at the local level. And police and policing are implicated in, often pivotal to, processes of cities, inclusive of segregation, marginalization, regeneration, community development, gentrification, and even financialization.

This special issue seeks to leverage or improve urbanist vantages in the study of police and policing in contemporary cities across the globe. The call presumes that concepts and theories of urbanist thinking—from “regulating the poor” to “the right to the city” to “the revanchist city,” from “growth machines” to “governing regimes,” from “neoliberalism” to “racial capitalism”—are important for revealing, interrogating, understanding the social, commercial, and political workings and products of police and policing in urban and peri-urban spaces. The call also assumes that urbanist notions, often derived from multiple disciplines and intended to foster equitable urban transformations, can significantly contribute to imagining and pursuing an urban world that is not a world of police.

This call for papers is open to activist scholars and non-activist scholars from the range of disciplines and other intellectual networks that inform urban theory and methods. The call welcomes both descriptive and causal studies of police and policing in cities and other urbanized areas. The call especially welcomes papers focused on police and policing of urban spaces outside the United States and Western Europe.

Abstract and initial paper submissions 

Scholars are invited to submit abstracts of 150-300 words for proposed papers related to the theme of police and policing in 21st Century cities. Abstracts should state proposed research question(s), explain their theoretical foundation(s), and describe their methods, expected claims and/or findings, and broader implications for understanding the relationships among police, communities, governance, and contemporary cities. Additionally, include a 50-word (max.) bio and full contact details of each contributing author. Submit abstracts and bios in a single email message to Michael Leo Owens (, guest editor of the issue, by September 15, 2020. *** Direct all correspondence to Michael Leo Owens, using the subject line “JUA Special Issue on Police.” *** Initial decisions regarding abstracts will be made around November 1, 2020. Full papers (8,500-12,000 words, including all text, tables, references, etc.) invited for submission are to be submitted to Michael Leo Owens ( by May 15, 2021.

Important dates

Abstract submission deadline: September 15, 2020 (submit to

Decisions on abstract proposals: November 1, 2020

Initial manuscript submission deadline: May 15, 2021 (submit to

All manuscripts should follow the submission guidelines of the Journal of Urban Affairs. For more information please visit: Journal of Urban Affairs