Deconstructing Ferguson is a website dedicated to disseminating scholarship, commentary, and public resources. The site run by the Deconstructing Ferguson Working Group, a multi-disciplinary endeavor that aims to understand one of the key issues of our time: namely, how citizens experience state institutions and how that experience shapes identity, inequality, and membership. Our sponsors include the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School, The ISPS Center for the Study of Inequality at Yale University, and the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, with generous support from the MacArthur Foundation.
The motivation for Deconstructing Ferguson builds on a simple observation: people are not born knowing who they are as citizens. Instead, they learn their relationship to the state, to other constituents of the state, and their positioning in the racial order, in significant part through their experiences with governing institutions, policies, and law. While scholars usually understand this process of civic education in terms of the formal education offered in primary and secondary schools (or in the child-rearing practices of the home), a growing body of scholarship has underscored the ways in which a much wider and more pervasive array of social structures, legal determinations, and state institutions also offer people a civic education, or lessons in what Judith Sklar called “political standing.” This process of state-structured inequality, learning, and citizenship is very much alive in our current moment.
The tragic death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer in 2014 and the expansion of collective action that resulted, has fuelled a movement among American citizens and scholars alike to interrogate the relationship between poor citizens and the state in contemporary America. Deconstructing Ferguson is a starting point in a journey toward a more just and democratic life for all Americans.