Policing an Occupied Legislature, Part Three: Throwing Police Under the Bus.

[Updated 2014/03/25]

Propaganda from a Taiwanese protest camp

Fig. 1. Propaganda from the protest camp regarding last night’s police action: “You go to sleep. When you awake, Taiwan is not the same”

“Police friends,” said the student with a microphone, speaking over the heads of people facing him to the riot troops massing in the street behind them, “We have a chance to make history tonight! Join with us! Show the autocratic Ma government that the people and police are united!”

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Policing an Occupied Legislature (part 2).

(Continued from part one)


Fig. 1 A note reading “Everyone, police, thank you for your struggle” hangs on a barbed wire barricade.

An emphasis on unity between the police and the people has emerged as a core element in the struggle by Taiwanese protestors to control representations of their movement. Where the Presidential Office has sought to describe them as a “Violent Mob,” they have successfully asserted the peaceful qualities inherent in the sympathetic bond that stretches across the barricades, uniting them with the rank and file policemen called up to contain them.

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Policing an Occupied Legislature (or “Institutional memory will get you through a time of no constitution better than a constitution will get you through a time of no institutional memory”).


“We are not enemies. We are allies that stand facing one another” (caption to a picture that is purportedly an expression of police attitudes towards the recent occupation of Taiwan’s legislature)

In the context of a loving relationship between consenting adults, it’s normal for police to get screwed from both sides. Taiwanese democracy is sometimes a strained marriage, however. Tensions are introduced to any enterprise of collective self-determination when the great power next door insists your state does not exist. The existential tensions of Taiwanese democracy are currently being expressed in a constitutional crisis.  Last Tuesday night, the unpopular president’s ham-fisted attempt to fudge the procedures involved in his party’s pursuit of economic integration with China blew up in his face. Dissident students (later joined by their professors, constitutional law scholars and, increasingly, the general public) occupied the legislative assembly to physically prevent the conclusion of a process that would have endowed an agreement concluded between legislatively unqualified bodies with the force of statutory law.

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New website for the Policing Studies Forum in Hong Kong

Just a note to let everyone know that our little seminar group in Hong Kong is slowly but surely growing a vibrant intellectual community around the interdisciplinary discussion of policing. We now have entered the 21st century with our own WEBSITE (yay!). The address is Tell your friends and colleagues! And drop me a line if you want to get on the mailing list.

Announcements, Conferences

November & December Police Studies events in Hong Kong

The Policing Studies Forum has some events scheduled for the upcoming months. On the 13th of November, we will meet at the Hong Kong Police College to engage in a discussion of Allan Jiao’s controversial monograph The Police in Hong Kong (2007, University Press of America) moderated by Dr. Lawrence Ho of Lingnan University. And on the 11th of December we will meet to discuss Wayne Chan’s ongoing PHD research into community policing practices in Hong Kong. As always, anyone interested is invited to participate, drop me a line at jt dot martin at gmail dot com.


Criminology post at Auckland University of Technology

The Department of Social Sciences at AUT University invites applications for the permanent full-time position of Lecturer in Social Sciences/Criminology.

At present, the Department offers multidisciplinary programmes in social sciences, psychology, criminology and conflict resolution at pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate level. Since its first intake in 2008 the BA major in Criminology has experienced significant growth and an opportunity now exists to contribute to continuing development of criminology and other multidisciplinary programmes offered by the Department of Social Sciences.

Applicants must have a PhD in Criminology or other related relevant social science discipline, together with successful tertiary teaching experience and a strong record of research and scholarly publications.

The successful applicant will be expected to contribute to curriculum development and teaching BA Criminology papers as well as contribute to other multidisciplinary social sciences programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Preferred areas of research interest and expertise include criminal justice, social justice and ethics, social and legal studies, penology, punishment, white collar crime, alternative dispute resolution and comparative criminology in the New Zealand and Asia Pacific contexts. Experience and interest in teaching social science research methods at advanced undergraduate and postgraduate level would be an advantage.

The start date will be 1st February 2011 or by negotiation. The level of appointment and salary will be commensurate with the skills and experience of the successful applicant.

Enquiries of academic nature should be addressed to the Head of Department,
Dr Oksana Opara telephone +64 9 921 9999 ext 5891, or email


Job Openings at the University of Hong Kong

The sociology department at the University of Hong Kong is hiring three assistant professors on 3-year renewable fixed-term contracts, hoping to find people to start Jan.1 of 2011. One position is in culture & media studies, one in sociology, and one in criminology.

I have been here a year, and find it a good place to work. I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in qualitative studies of policing to consider applying. If you have any questions, drop me a line at jtmartin ‘at’ hku ‘dot’ hk.

The departmental website is here.

The HK Policing Studies Forum is a work in progress, but a “real” website will eventually take shape here.

Announcements, Conferences

Workshop on British Colonial Policing in Historical Perspective, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The sociology department at the University of Hong Kong is hosting a number of events this June, focusing on the legacies of British colonial policing, both in Hong Kong and globally. On June 22nd, Dr. Georgina Sinclair of the Open University will be giving a lecture on Internationalizing British Policing: 1945-2010. The following day we will hold a workshop on British Colonial Policing in Historical Perspective, which will bring local scholars working on policing in Hong Kong into dialogue around Dr. Sinclair’s comparative project. Prior to these events, in early June, we will be convening an informal group to read and discuss some foundational texts in the study of colonial and post-colonial policing.

The workshop is open to the public. The informal reading group will convene around the schedules of those interested in attending. Anyone interested in participating in it is warmly invited to contact Dr. Jeff Martin at at their earliest convenience

Call for papers


(This CFP seems relevant to this dialogue about the utility of theorizing policing around a concept of culture)

Call For Papers — Proposed Session for AAA 2010

Does the culture concept have a place in anthropological understandings of a world increasingly defined and shaped by global circulations? Or, as decades of critique would wish it, can a concept of distinctive logics organizing human relations no longer hold water as the boundaries between the contexts and spaces in which those relations are negotiated become increasingly porous?  This panel will consider, in light of both the history of its critiques, and recent ethnographic work from diverse locations and positions, the continuing relevance of a concept of culture — taken as a distinctive logic organizing social relations, moral and political projects, collective histories and imagined futures — as anthropology responds to the apparent dissolution of spatio-temporal, social and communicative boundaries. To what extent does the culture concept rely on our capacity to identify bounded collectivities, or on the isolation of those collectivities from each other, their ignorance of a world outside their “own” world, or on the difficulty of people associating with more than one of them or moving between them? (To put it another way: must “cultural” context always be relatively presupposed, rather than entailed?)  What do prior theorizations of culture qua both difference and structure bring to our understanding of contemporary negotiations of the semiotic fields in which identity, alterity, and other sorts of projects come (or fail to come) into being?  As it proliferates as a form in circulation beyond anthropological discourse, what force does culture retain or accrue as context or pretext, social text or hypertext?  What pressure does the appearance of culture as a form in circulation place on our uses of culture as analytic frame?

Rather than seeing contemporary difficulties with deploying the concept of cultures as objects coterminous with geographically bounded social entities as an occasion for despair we see it as an opportunity for a productive untangling:  Is difference (especially difference marked by a boundary) essential to the culture concept or simply the context in which it was first noticed?  Need cultural “logics” be largely or partly unconscious to be powerful or is this a misguided analogy with linguistics? Need people have only one culture?  Are unit cultures but one historically specific way in which human semiotic life can be organized (as bands, empires, or states are historically specific ways of organizing human political life)?  Such untangling might let us continue to understand culture as the ground on which both alterity and alliance are negotiated regardless of the size and boundedness of the units involved, a use we see as faithful to its intellectual and political history, as well as one with a promising future on both fronts.  As a platform for — and as a form accompanying— people and projects in circulation, the analytic concept of culture may in fact be of greater importance than ever.

Please address inquiries and submissions, in the form of an abstract of no more than 250 words, as e-mail text or attachment, to session organizers:  Amy McLachlan (University of Chicago), or Daniel Rosenblatt (Carleton University), by Friday, March 26th.  In addition to an abstract, please also include your full name, contact information and institutional affiliation.

Feel free to circulate this announcement widely!


Resolved: Culture is the Center of the Anthropology of Policing

This is the second entry in my series of posts on the question: “What is the curriculum for the anthropology of policing?” As promised, in this post I will share a syllabus I taught last semester, and follow Kevin’s lead in using critical reflection on my teaching experience as a way to think about the challenges of “canon formation” for the anthropology of policing. Before I do this, however, I should put all my cards on the table and say that I am beginning from a particular assumption about the anthropology of policing. My ‘original position’ (apologies to Rawls) is this: (a) the disciplinary core of anthropology is its concern with culture and, therefore, (b) the integrating core of the anthropology of policing is an anthropological concern with culture. Based on this assumption, I expect the answer to the question of my previous post (i.e. overlap in the syllabi for three hypothetical courses on the anthropology of policing pitched to the distinct audiences of (i) practitioners, (ii) undergraduate liberal arts majors, and (iii) anthropology graduate students) to be “Yes.” And not just “Yes,” but “Yes, there is an overlap. And it consists of a particular literature about the culture of policing.”

So, the ultimate purpose of this exercise in public auto-critique is to rise to the challenge of converting the vague prejudices of an American-cultural-anthropologist into a bibliography of canonical ideas about the culture of policing. The job will be finished when we have assembled a bibliography robust enough to answer critiques registered on behalf of any of the three audiences listed above. And if, at the end of this ordeal, my culturalist prejudices have not been crushed under the jackboot of political economy, or scattered to the winds of the policy community, then I will call myself a winner and buy everyone a drink at the November AAAs.

So, on to the syllabus. It is for a course I taught last semester, called Policing: An International Perspective, as an elective in the University of Hong Kong’s masters program in criminology. This is a popular two-year coursework-based degree “designed as a professional qualification for practitioners in criminal justice and related fields (including NGOs), [but also] open for people with an interest in the field of criminology in general.” The program is housed within a sociology department that awards PHDs in sociology, anthropology and criminology. Thus the experience of working here has thus brought me into contact with all three audiences mentioned above. The course itself enrolled 18 students, about half of whom were serving in what is locally known as the “disciplined forces.” I designed the course before I came to Hong Kong, however. And the lack of a practical familiarity with my audience gave a rather free rein to my personal sense of the how the anthropology of policing fit together as a coherent topic of instruction.

So, without further ado, for your apprasial and critique, here is the syllabus.

Where do you think its grand intellectual vision crumbled most dramatically in its confrontation with the realities of the classroom?