Policing car space and the legal liminality of the automobile

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13 Scopus citations


The car is a primary locus for police-civilian interaction as measured by routine legal intrusion into the lives of vulnerable populations – communities of color, undocumented immigrants, and those experiencing homelessness in particular. It is the car’s ability to transport bodies as well as its legal liminality as a hybrid public-private space that facilitates such coercive and carceral contact. I therefore argue for the increased inclusion of the car and contact made with its operators and occupants within studies of policing by geographers. In this article, I provide a review of how car space and the automobile have been discussed by social scientists more broadly, followed by a call for geographers to take the lead in centering the car in research looking at everyday policing and routinized state control of people occupying and moving through public space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-155
Number of pages20
JournalProgress in Human Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • automobiles
  • carcerality
  • cars
  • legal geographies
  • policing
  • public space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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