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Dr. Laurence Ralph is the recipient of the 2021 Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology for his book and animated short, The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence.
The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence is a timely, robust, and creative anthropological response to racialized violence in the U.S. The book was published amidst the social unrest and global reckoning around racism and police violence in 2020 and the first reparations to victims of police torture in Chicago. The Torture Letters is constructed as a series of letters addressed to Chicago's youth of color, police superintendents, whistleblowers, police officers, racial justice advocates, present and future Chicago mayors, individuals tortured by Chicago police, an ex-prisoner of the US detention center in Guantanamo, and others.
Dr. Ralph uses extensive archival and media research to prepare materials, including drafts of the letters, for discussions with a wide range of Chicago residents. In the accompanying animated film, Dr. Ralph reads from these letters, thereby adding to the multiple forms of engagement that the book provides. The Torture Letters has been featured in The New York Times and other prominent media outlets and is being used in the Chicago Public Schools curriculum. A remarkable example of anticipatory scholarship, The Torture Letters “holds the potential to reach and shape the lives of millions of people and affect governmental policies and practices.”