The Multiscalar Geography of Hate Crimes

2 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2010

Date Written: August 6, 2010


This paper develops a theoretical analysis of hate crimes in light of some core concepts of legal geography – physical place, discursive space, scale, territory, and citizenship. It argues that bias crimes and reactions to them, including the possibility of state counterviolence, constitute a dynamic and ongoing dialogue that constructs territory and citizenship around marked bodies, buildings, and other physical structures, whose visible presence in specific places is visibly threatened. It introduces the concept of ubiety – having whereness or place – as a characteristic that distinguishes bias crimes from hate speech. Hate crimes engage both physical place and discursive place. So do governmental and community responses to bias crimes. Because bias crimes and the reaction to them always involve competing claims around the safety and security of bodies and things in physical places, the dialogue they engender can occur at different scales. These include the neighborhood, city and country, but also, as feminist theory teaches us, the supposedly “private” space of the home. The discursive aspect of hate crimes is likewise multiscalar, depending in part on the interests of the media that notice and disseminate dialogue about hate crimes. Finally, inasmuch as citizenship often implicates a sense of belonging or exclusion that can involve the physical body, bias crimes and responses to them can be understood as an integral component of the processes of defining citizenship. In considering these related themes, this paper will draw its examples primarily from the world of violence against LGBT folk, where issues of place have been less often examined than in parallel considerations of bias crimes based on race, ethnicity, alienage, religion, and gender.

Suggested Citation

Poirier, Marc R., The Multiscalar Geography of Hate Crimes (August 6, 2010). Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 1654350, Available at SSRN: or

Marc R. Poirier (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

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Newark, NJ 07102-5210
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