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).
Previously I worked as a social worker in a domestic violence shelter in the 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 an upcoming publication on the emotional and bodily processes of social workers and how they manage these during tense and threatening situations (forthcoming).
In 2016-2017 I worked as a junior lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and as a junior researcher at RIGO Research en Advies BV, a commercial research agency. My prime interests are the micro-sociology of violence, the sociology of emotions, classical sociology and cultural sociology.
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 officers are dealing with, I will be observing different police teams during their daily shifts. I will be interviewing the members of the observed teams and try to come to an understanding of their experiences by reconstructing how they experienced antagonistic situations. Finally, I will watch video's with police officers collectively to discuss details of their actions, communication, and cooperation. 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 2016 - 2017 as junior lecturer:
From 2017 to present as PhD candidate: