Laura Keesman

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As of november 1st 2022, I am an Assistant Professor at the department of Sociology, University of Groningen.

See for an overview of my publications and media performances (including writing, tv, radio and professional talks) my CV on the RuG profile.


My main research interests are: (the micro-sociology of) violence – policing – use of force - the sociology of emotions – embodiment studies – ethnomethodology – symbolic interactionism – phenomenology – performativity – and visual (video) methods such as video elicitation.

Between 2017 and 2022, as a PhD candidate at the department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), I conducted an ethnography of the Dutch police to study violent police-civilian encounters. I specifically focused on how police officers deal with tense and threatening situations (see more at The Group Violence Research Program). These interactions included violence against officers, and use of violence (force) by officers.

In my dissertation, I developed a phenomenological-interactionist approach and video based methods to analyze violent police-civilian encounters and officers’ experiences. The dissertation entitled ‘Being in control: policing bodies, emotions and violence’ will be published and defended in the coming months.

I published on the use of video-elicitation in police research and officers’ freezing experiences. My latest article together with Don Weenink on foreseeingsituational turning points in police-civilian encounters was published in the co-edited Special Issue on "Visibilities of Violence" in Historical Social Research.

I am affiliated with The Amsterdam Center for Conflict Studies (ACCS) and SCOOP program. In spring 2022 I was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Criminological Research, University of Alberta, Canada. I hold a Bachelor’s of Applied Sciences in Social Work (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) and a Master in Cultural Sociology (University of Amsterdam).

Previously I worked as a social worker in a domestic violence shelter in Sioux Falls, South-Dakota, U.S.A and a homeless shelter of the Salvation Army in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. I continued this job during my sociological studies, which has culminated into over seven years of experience in the homeless community and care giving facilities. This is where I became intrigued by violence and group dynamics during tense interactions.

I conducted research on the situational and emotional dynamics of violent situations and the lived experiences of tension and fear among social workers in homeless shelters for my master thesis. This has led to a publication on the emotional and bodily processes of social workers and how they manage these in Journal of Social Work: ‘Bodies and emotions in tense and threatening situations’. In 2016-2017 I worked as a junior lecturer at the department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam and as a researcher at RIGO Research en Advies, an independent research agency, focused on the intersection of social policy and social/public governance.

In addition to my research, I am a teacher. At the University of Amsterdam I taught theoretical courses for the BA Sociology, supervised BA thesis on violence, sexual harassment, and police related topics, provided guest lectures in various MA classes such as the ‘Minor Violence’ and ‘Body, Emotions and Culture’, as well as an individual reading course in the Research Master Social Sciences, and am a departmental internship supervisor. At the University of Groningen I teach academic skills and writing, and supervise BA and MA thesis.

Since 2019, I have been interviewed by the media on multiple occasions, and published the following opinion and popular science pieces:

- Interviewed by Giulia Fabrizi University of Groningen paper Ukrant. Na de bezetting: hoe nu verder? On the use of violence by the Dutch police in ending the occupation of the Academy building RUG by students. (24-05-2023)
- Radio interview NPO radio 1. De Nieuws BV. Hoe houd je als politieagent controle in een geweldssituatie? (inclusief video fragment). “Stel je voor: je komt als politieagent in een gewelddadige situatie terecht. Agenten krijgen jarenlang training op dit soort situaties. Waarom gaat het dan toch soms mis? We praten erover met socioloog Laura Keesman. Ze deed vijf jaar lang onderzoek naar manieren waarop agenten in geweldssituaties controle kunnen houden.” (03-04-3023)
- Radio interview NPO Radio 1. Dr Kelder & Co. Rubriek ‘Jonge Doctor’. Toelichting promotieonderzoek ‘Being in Control. Policing Bodies, Emotions and Violence.’ (01-04-2023).
- Persbericht / Interview about PhD thesis Laura Keesman and defense: Hoe houden agenten controle?University of Amsterdam (29-03-2023).
- [Invited] Interviewed by journalist Robert Heeg) for platform (07-02-2023). ‘Leer medewerkers om met geweld om te gaan’. On violence against employees, ‘agressie tegen medewerkers’.
- [Invited] Interviewed (21-06-2022). Ongewenst gedrag risico van het vak?Agressie tegen sociaal werkers. Author: Ineke Westbroek. Movisies Relatieblad voor het sociaal domein, juni 2022, nummer 2.
- [Invited] Interviewed (11-03-2022) ‘Linkse directe voor voordringer. Waarom worden mensen agressief als anderen voordringen?’ EditieNL Item 02:52 minutes
- Invited guest NPO Radio 1 ‘Dit is de dag’ (03-08-2021). Moeten we stoppen de term 'zinloos geweld' te gebruiken? Radio clip: 18:30 – 18:45
- [Invited] Short documentary GoodHabitz Moments (30-03-2021) and interviewed by Ikenna Azuike on my experiences with violence in homeless shelters, and sociological research on violent incidents in policing for e-learning module ‘conflict management’. Internationally distributed, production by Myrugia Joseph. Trailer here.
- [Invited] Interviewed by KRO-NCRV Pointer (previously De Monitor) (23-10-2020). “Onderzoeker van geweld bij hulpverleners: ‘Verantwoordelijkheid wordt vaak bij medewerkers gelegd’”
- Keesman, L. (07-12-2021). We moeten geweld tegen professionals leren doorgronden. Movisie.
- Keesman, L. (2021, September). We moeten geweld tegen sociaal professionals leren doorgronden. Tijdschrift voor Sociale Vraagstukken,NAJAAR 2021 nummer 3. (pdf available).
- Keesman, L. (05-08-2021). De term ‘zinloos geweld’ is misleidend. Benoem daadwerkelijke gebeurtenissenNederlands Dagblad Opinie & Columns.
- Keesman, L. (02-08-2021). Opinion piece: Hou op ‘zinloos geweld’ steeds weer als zinloos te bestempelen, dat is een misleidende termDe Volkskrant Opinie.
- Keesman, L. (04-06-2021). Agressie tegen sociaal werkers: melden, melden, melden. In Sociale Vraagstukken.
- Keesman L. (08-09-2020). Opinion piece: “Oproepen om normaal te doen tegen hulpverleners hebben nog nooit geholpen”Het Parool Opinie.
- Keesman L. (2019, August).Instellingen mogen alerter zijnbij geweld tegen sociaal werkersTijdschrift voor Sociale Vraagstukken, Summer Edition 2019, shorter version published online.