Ordering Violence: Fast Food and Police Power

Professor Bill McClanahan, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Power produces the orders – both mundane and fantastic – of everyday life. From property to racial capitalism, and from polity to public space, our worlds are fabricated and maintained by police.

While some attention has been given, particularly from within emerging fields like abolition ecology and critical police studies, to the role of police power in the fabrication and maintenance of environmental order, little has been said about police power and the social, cultural, and material orders of food and nutrition.

This talk develops a critical theory of police and food through a consideration of the ways in which food and nutrition have been central in the policing of race, class, and gender and through an analysis of efforts from within the dangerous classes to resist and undermine police power through engagement on the material, cultural, and discursive battlegrounds of food and nutrition.

Noting the increasingly visible collision of the violence of police with the urban landscapes of fast food, I demonstrate the ways in which headline-grabbing moments of police violence like the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky can be read to reveal the role of food and nutrition in the violence of police power.


Professor Bill McClanahan (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) is a leading scholar in visual, cultural and green criminologies. His most recent book is Visual Criminology (Bristol University Press), and he has been a regular contributor to Theoretical Criminology, Critical Criminology, British Journal of Criminology and more.

Photo credit: Colin Lloyd, UnSplash