Conviction: The Making and Unmaking of The Violent Brain


Dr. Oliver Rollins

Thursday March 10 at Noon

followed by Q&A and Conversation at 1pm

via Zoom (send email to [email protected] for invite)


Conviction: The Making and Unmaking of The Violent Brain

There is a notorious, and quite racist, history that underpins biological research on violence. In attempts to eschew this past, today’s neuroscientific and genetic researchers reject deterministic and racist explanations of violence for brain-based risk models of such behaviors. Nevertheless, in Conviction, Rollins pinpoints a looming danger in this technology, due to the ways it re-envisions, and ultimately silences, the voices, bodies, and experiences of those most effected by social difference, power, and inequality. The threat from biological theories of violence today, therefore, is less about the return of an older bio-deterministic rationale of crime, and instead rests in the way this research may help normatively preserve static social and racial inequities through the technical omission of unequal life chances. By unveiling the social assumptions that underpin this science, Rollins warns that violent brain model will likely provoke new regimes of corporal surveillance in the name of public health and safety, that will effortlessly bolster the existing problematic and racist law enforcement tactics.

About the Author

Dr. Oliver Rollins

Assistant Professor, Department of American Ethnic Studies

Research Affiliate, Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

University of Washington

Oliver Rollins is a qualitative sociologist who works on issues of race/racism in and through science and technology. Specifically, his research explores how racial identity, racialized discourses, and systemic practices of social difference influence, engage with, and are affected by, the making and use of neuroscientific technologies and knowledges. Rollins’s book, Conviction: The Making and Unmaking of The Violent Brain (Stanford University Press, 2021), traces the development and use of neuroimaging research on anti-social behaviors, with special attention to the limits of this controversial brain model when dealing with aspects of social difference, power, and inequality. Currently, he is working on two new projects. The first, Neuro-visions of the Prejudice Mind, examines the neuroscience of implicit bias, chiefly the challenges, consequences, and promises of operationalizing racial prejudice and identity as neurobiological processes. The other project, Brain Politics as Social Justice, seeks to elucidate, and speculate, the socio-political dilemmas, ethical vulnerabilities, anti-racist potentials for contemporary neuroscientific practices. Rollins received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, San Francisco.