Kiela Crabtree

I am a PhD. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan with a focus on American politics, race, identity, and conflict in the United States. 

How does violence influence

American political behavior?

My work focuses on the impact of violence -- specifically racially-targeted violence -- on political participation and public opinion. My research also considers the political legacies of conflict in the United States, emphasizing dynamics of social identity and hierarchy. With interests in both contemporary and historical conflict, I have conducted intensive archival work on the legacies of Civil Rights Era violence and terrorism in the American south, and I continue to examine the implications of such violence for present-day political behavior.

I am an American Political Science Association (APSA) Minority Fellow, and my research has been supported by the Hanes Walton Award for the Study of Race and Ethnic Politics, in addition to the Converse-Miller Fellowship in American Political Behavior. My dissertation proposal has been recognized by APSA's Urban and Local Politics Section with the Byran Jackson Dissertation Research Award.

 

I am a member of Michigan’s Conflict and Peace, Research and Development (CPRD) workshop and Interdisciplinary Workshop on American Politics (IWAP). I have also been a Visiting Researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). 

Prior to moving to Michigan, I was a life-long Tennessean and completed my B.A. in Politics at Sewanee: the University of the South.

Projects and Working Papers

 

Historical  Violence

"Bombingham:" Violence, Mobilization, and the Risk of Reprisal

Building on existing collective action and conflict studies literature, I contend that work regarding the American Civil Rights Movement (CRM) has undervalued a critical component of resource mobilization and local movement organization -- violence. In this paper, I propose a theory of collective mobilization or repression in the aftermath of racially-targeted violence. Focusing on a case-study of Birmingham, Alabama, I argue that CRM outcomes in the city of Birmingham cannot be fully understood without due consideration of the violence that preceded the nation's focus on the city in 1963. That is, violence which occurred long before Dr. King’s arrival in Birmingham is critical to understanding why the city was successfully desegregated. This paper expands on established theories of mobilization, and it provides insight into the enduring political implications of racially-targeted violence, the consequences of which we have yet to fully grapple with in the present-day.

 

A working version of the paper, presented at the 2020 Symposium on the Politics of Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity is available here.

        June 12, 2020. PRIO Blog.

How the South was Cleansed with Christian Davenport

Outside of the Great Migration, hundreds of counties in the American South saw decreases in black population, and at times the complete disappearance of black communities in the span of several years. In this project, we examine the role of racial violence, specifically lynchings, as well as other political and economic factors, on such occurrences of black out-migration. We look not only at disappearances of black communities, but also the lasting effects of racial violence in areas where black populations do not return.

Framing Hate and Terror: Violence Classification in the United States with Corina Simonelli

A multi-methods project using survey experiments and content analysis to understand how Americans and the American media conceptualize and differentiate terrorist attacks, hate crimes and mass violence. We argue that the labels ascribed to violent events in the United States have powerful implications for how the general public perceives violence and responds politically. 

A working version of one of this project's studies is available here.

         August 13, 2019, PRIO Blog.

         June 22, 2020, Center for Political Studies Blog

Breeding Contempt: Reactions to Police Violence

with Nicole Yadon

Growing media coverage and conversation around police shootings has occurred in the United
States in recent years, but little research in political science has explored individual reactions
to the news of police shootings or the implications for feelings towards police organizations.
Consequently, this project explores how Americans react to stories about police-involved shootings and their subsequent opinions towards police. Using a survey experiment, we expose white participants to a news story which describes a police officer shooting and killing either a Black man, a white man, or a dog, followed by measures of feelings towards police. We find evidence that the victim presented -- when either a white man or a dog -- influences the perceptions white people hold of police brutality, police racism, and their attitudes toward policing more broadly. Moreover, and perhaps of greatest concern, is the lack of reaction white respondents express after reading about the murder of a Black victim. We contend that this finding has important implications for the politics of policing and police oversight.

A working version of the paper, presented at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting is available here.

Contemporary Violence

Dissertation

 

Under what conditions is racially-targeted violence a means of political repression? When is it a counterproductive force, instead activating political participation? Further, what mechanisms facilitate these disparate outcomes? 

 

“Racially-targeted violence” is a concept that I construct to include violent acts committed by non-state actors that are intentionally directed at victims on account of race. These actions include lynchings, bombings, and mass shootings, among other tactics. Whereas research on similar violence in political science and sociology has focused on predicting when and where these events occur, my work takes a new direction. Instead, I concentrate on the aftermath of RTV, asking what happens politically in a place after it has occurred.               

My dissertation provides new insight into the political effects of racially-targeted violence in the United States, and specifically how these events influence local-level political participation. Traditional theories of political participation consider resource models and institutional barriers to engagement,  but not the role of threat or fear in influencing engagement. I build from a literature that views racially-targeted violence as a form of social control, intended to police racial and social borders when their perpetrators sense threat and a need to restore societal order. From this, I develop a theoretical framework of political engagement in the aftermath of racially-targeted violence, which posits a coordination problem that prevents individuals within a community from mobilizing.

My dissertation consists of five chapters, developing the original theoretical framework, and then empirically testing the framework and its hypotheses. The dissertation’s mixed-method research design has been carefully chosen to address an issue inherent in the study of racially-targeted violence – the inability to predict when or where it will occur. Thus, I adapt the approach I take to triangulate different methodologies, data sources, and empirical models. I use an original dataset of racially-targeted violence, local-level observational data, and an original survey experiment. Through this process, I argue that acts of violence, which are seemingly small or isolated, have striking political repercussions for the targeted communities. Ultimately, I build a case for why greater attention should be paid to the ways in which racially-targeted violence, and violence more generally, influence American politics.

 

Dissertation Committee: Christian Davenport (Chair), Robert Mickey, Vincent Hutchings

Recognized by APSA's Urban and Local Politics section for outstanding scholarship by a graduate student studying racial and ethnic politics in an urban setting.

Introduction to American Politics

University of Michigan --

Graduate Student Instructor

Course introducing students to the study of American politics, including fundamental concerns of collective action, the structure and function of American political institutions, patterns in political behavior, and the roles of parties, social movements, and the media in the United States’ political system.

Black Politics in the United States

Designed

Considering race as a political reality underscores why it has been, and remains, a topic of immense interest and importance in the study of political science. In this course, we engage with academic research, as well as with the writings of black authors and scholars, from the present and the past, to gain a sense of how irrevocably intertwined blackness and politics are in the United States. That is, American politics, in many ways, has defined what it means to be black and is so too influenced by the presence of black citizens in institutions, through activism, and by threat. We cover a variety of topics, including the role of race in defining American citizenship, the formation and reinforcement of racial boundaries, the racialization of politics in the United States, and political and social heterogeneity within the black community.

Introduction to Political Theory

University of Michigan --

Graduate Student Instructor

Moving from discussions of power, political problems, proposed solutions, and movements of resistance, this course introduces students to classic and contemporary perspectives on issues that arise in the course of governance while challenging them to think critically about resolutions.

Complexities of Homelessness

Designed and Taught

A service learning course designed to integrate community service, classroom discussion and meaningful reflection in order to gain a better understanding of the complexities of homelessness in the United States and around the world. In association with local non-profit Groundcover News, participants engage in weekly volunteer work serving those experiencing homelessness and housing instability in their own community. This service accentuates classroom discussions of individual-level homelessness, as well as the broader policies which inform how homelessness is approached and the inevitable challenges that arise in proposed solutions.

Teaching

 
 

Contact

Kiela Crabtree

The University of Michigan

Department of Political Science

Email: crabtka@umich.edu

Twitter: kielacrabtree