Conor Hodges

Project title: The Black Freedom Movement, National Security, and the War on Crime

Project description:  At the height of the Cold War the United States was faced with a statistical crime wave and ‘Long, Hot Summers’ of Black insurrection against racial capitalism. Federal, state, and local governments responded with mass incarceration, police militarization, and the expansion of the carceral state. Contemporary with domestic unrest, the U.S. national security apparatus was preoccupied with managing European decolonization and countering Communist insurgency abroad. To what extent and to what ends did the expanding carceral state draw upon the logics and expertise of the Cold War counterinsurgent state in conceptualizing and launching the War on Crime? What can we learn from this historical moment of the birth of racialized mass incarceration that can help us to better understand our modern reality of a Global War on Terror, police militarization, and nationwide racial upheaval?

Most important accomplishment: Over the past year I’ve been grateful to contribute to two intertwined university initiatives that I hope will constitute significant first steps towards antiracist action at Cornell. First was the joint faculty-student working group which proposed establishing a campus Center for Antiracist, Just, and Equitable Futures. After decades of failed attempts to establish such a center, I’m thankful that our proposal has been met with overwhelming approval in the Faculty Senate and is on track to implementation.  Second was the recent report of the Public Safety Advisory Committee which reimagines public safety at Cornell and outlines a roadmap to recalibration. After a year of work, PSAC has set in motion the creation of a new emergency response structure which no longer relies on police to address problems better suited to alternative public health and safety resources.

Reflections on the College Scholar Program: College Scholar enables students to pursue their passions unfettered by college requirements and beyond disciplinary boundaries. It’s a terrific responsibility and honor to be given such freedom, and I think most College Scholars recognize that such responsibility comes with an obligation to leverage that freedom to pursue questions of societal or global importance. College Scholars motivate and challenge one another to broaden their views of what their work can – and should – do. I couldn’t have pursued my research interests any other way, and I’d encourage all undergraduates to consider whether this program might be right for them.