“Death of a Traveller” Examining the Crisis in Policing

Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, brings the policing crisis into stunning focus in his new book Death of a Traveller: A Counter Investigation, recently translated from French by Rachel Gomme.

Fassin presents the story of a 37-year-old man who was killed in 2017 in front of his family by an antiterrorism unit of the French police. The officers claimed self-defense and faced no consequences despite contrary testimony from relatives present at the scene.

In this struggle for truth and justice, Fassin conducts a counter investigation that re-examines key details and features interviews with those involved. He goes on to offer a critical reflection on the work of police forces, the functioning of the justice system, and the conditions that make such tragedies possible and seldom punished.

According to a review in The New Yorker: “Fassin, a sociologist and anthropologist, aims to supplement the approaches of activists and of the justice system in confronting police violence, and scrutinizes the evidence with an emphasis on its socioeconomic context. To do otherwise, he argues, impedes both truth and human dignity.”

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