My name is Laura D. Keesman and I am a PhD candidate in cultural sociology and part of the Group Violence Research project at the University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR). I hold a Bachelor’s of Applied Sciences in Social Work (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) and Master of Science in Cultural Sociology (University of Amsterdam).
My prime interests are the micro-sociology of violence, the sociology of emotions, the sociology of policing, embodiment studies, ethnomethodology, phenomenology and performativity. I am also interested in classical sociology and cultural sociology in general.
Previously I worked as a social worker in a domestic violence shelter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, U.S.A. and a homeless shelter of the Salvation Army in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. I continued this job during my studies, which has culminated into over seven years of experience in the homeless community and care giving facilities. This is where I became intrigued by violence and group dynamics during tense interactions. Therefore, I conducted my master thesis research in Sociology on the situational and emotional dynamics of violent situations and the lived experiences of tension and fear among social workers in homeless shelters. This has led to a publication on the emotional and bodily processes of social workers and how they manage these during tense and threatening situations: Bodies and Emotions in tense and threatening situations (Journal of Social Work).
In addition to my research I teach in the Department of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam in courses such as Sociological Theory and Supervision of Bachelor Thesis on the topic of violence. In 2016-2017 I also taught as a junior lecturer at the UvA and worked as a junior researcher at RIGO Research en Advies BV, a commercial research agency in Amsterdam.
My project in the Group Violence Research Programme focuses on police teams. Police officers are often confronted with tense, threatening and violent individuals and situations. They have a heightened risk of exposure to aggressive and violent behaviour. In order for the police to do their job they need to be ‘in control’. How do police officers manage to gain control collectively, and how do they work together in tense or threatening interactions?
I am interested in how police officers cope with antagonistic situations. For instance how do they ensure ‘control’ in a situation, what happens when they fail to do so, in other words: when violence escalates. How do police officers work together as a team, and more specifically: how do they use their body when doing so, and what types of (non) verbal communication do they use? How do police officers intervene in early stages of tense interactions, and how do they successfully de-escalate? On the other hand, when do they fail to do so? Finally, how do police officers cope with anxiety, tension or other negative emotions, and what are the meanings they give to violence? This research is about police officers' experiences, explicitly from their point of view.
In order to understand the intricate dynamics of tense situations police teams are dealing with I conducted ethnographic fieldwork, that is, (participant) observations within different police teams in The Netherlands during their daily shifts. I witnessed training sessions, riot police conduct, special arresting teams, and rode along during surveillance. In addition, I interviewed the members of the observed teams about specific violent events and in this way try to come to an understanding of their experiences. In practice, I reconstruct their experienced antagonistic situations. Finally, I watched video's with police officers collectively to discuss the details of their actions, communication, cooperation, and understanding of what is going on. By combining an ethnographic method with interviews I seek to comprehend the emotional processes and situational group dynamics of violent situations, and specifically how police officers deal with these in violent interactions.
In short my research profile looks like this:
- qualitative research; ethnographic fieldwork/participant observation during policing in multiple police forces in the Netherlands and in depth/reconstructive interviewing
- visual methodology; video's, drawings of antagonistic situations, and body maps
- qualitative data analysis in Atlas.ti
- publishing (peer reviewed) articles
- presentations at international conferences and seminars
From 2017 to present as PhD candidate:
In 2016 - 2017 as junior lecturer: