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 am affiliated with The Amsterdam Center for Conflict Studies (ACCS) and in the spring of 2022 a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Criminological Research, University of Alberta Canada. 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 main research interests are: (the micro-sociology of) violence – policing – the sociology of emotions – embodiment studies – ethnomethodology – symbolic interactionism – phenomenology – performativity – and visual methods. I am also interested in classical 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 sociological 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. I conducted research on the situational and emotional dynamics of violent situations and the lived experiences of tension and fear among social workers in homeless shelters for my master thesis. This has led to a publication on the emotional and bodily processes of social workers and how they manage these in Journal of Social Work: ‘Bodies and emotions in tense and threatening situations’. In 2016-2017 I worked as a junior lecturer at the Department of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and as a researcher at RIGO Research en Advies, a commercial research agency.
Currently, as a PhD, I study violent incidents in policing. I specifically focus on how police officers deal with tense and threatening situations (see more at The Group Violence Research Program). See for my recent publication on analyzing videos of violent situations together with police officers who experienced them: 'Action accounts of police-civilian interactions: Using video elicitation to explore police officers’ how-to knowledge' and how officers sometimes 'freeze' in the face of violence: ‘FREEZE?’ An analysis of police officers accounts of self-enclosing experiences'.
Finally, and in addition to my research, I am a tutorial teacher in theoretical courses for the BA Sociology, supervise BA thesis on violence, sexual harassment, and police related topics such as police brutality, provide guest lectures in various MA classes such as the 'Minor Violence' and 'Body, Emotions and Culture', as well as an individual reading course in the Research Master Social Sciences, and am a departmental internship supervisor.
My project in the Group Violence Research Program focuses on violent incidents in policing. Police officers are sometimes confronted with tense, threatening and violent situations in the course of their daily work. They have a heightened risk of exposure to aggressive and violent behaviour of individuals. In order to deal with such behaviours and situations officers need to gain control. At the same time, they should be accountable for their actions. The aim of this research is twofold. First, I aim to understand how police officers manage to collectively gain control in antagonistic situations and how they work together in tense and threatening interactions. Second, I seek to understand how police officers experience violence, mentally, physically and emotionally.
I am specifically interested in how officers cope with antagonistic situations. For instance, how do they ensure ‘control’ in a situation, what happens when they fail to do so or when violence escalates. How do police officers work together as a team, and more specifically: how do they use their body when doing so. What types of (non) verbal communication do they employ and how do police officers intervene in early stages of tense interactions? How do they successfully de-escalate and when does it fail? In addition, I pay specific attention to how police officers cope with anxiety, tension or other negative emotions. This research is about police officers' experiences, explicitly from their point of view.
In order to understand the intricate dynamics of tense situations police officers deal with I conducted ethnographic fieldwork, that is, (participant) observations within different police teams in The Netherlands. I went along during their daily shifts, accompanied officers during surveillance, witnessed training sessions, riot police conduct, and special arresting teams. In addition, I interviewed the members of the observed teams about specific violent events. In this way I try to come to a thorough understanding of their experiences. In practice, I reconstruct their experienced antagonistic situations. Finally, I watched videos together with police officers who experienced violent incidents to discuss the details of their actions, communication, cooperation, and to understand how they manage tense situations. This had led to a publication in Poetics (see publications). 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; videos, 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: