By Randol Contreras
One summer night, I was conducting field research on a group of Dominican men in a South Bronx neighborhood. It was just past midnight and some of us were high or inebriated from smoking weed and drinking hard liquor. Only the dim streetlights broke the darkness as we huddled against two beat up parked cars. We talked about familiar topics – women, sports, women, drugs, women – in loud, exaggerated tones. But we also talked about their new drug market activity: Stickups.
On the streets, these Dominican men were known as Joloperos in Spanish, or Stickup Kids in English. Their specialty, robbing upper-level drug dealers, involved unimaginable brutality, violence that mimicked state-sponsored torture from around the world.
Tukee: He told a story of a non-compliant drug dealer who would not talk, would not reveal the cash, the drugs, nothing, nada, leading him to chop off the dealer’s pinky with a kitchen knife.
David: He told a story of how his accomplices became angered when a stubborn dealer insisted that he did not have three kilos of cocaine (“Mierda! We knew he had them! The dealer’s own partner set him up!”). They found a clothes iron in the dealer’s closet and used it to burn his back.
Neno: He told several stories, ones where he and Gus pistol-whipped dealers; burned them with la plancha, or iron; threatened to sodomize them, sometimes following through on the threat as a last resort.
Aye mi madre! I thought to myself when I later transcribed the tape-recordings. On their face, these stories rendered these men as sociopathic monsters. They seemed heartless and irredeemable, as sadists pursuing violence for pleasure.
The series ‘tips the proverbial hat’ to the major works and big ideas that inspire established and up-and-coming scholars alike. In it, we’ll showcase these scholars and the classic works that shaped them.
The first installment of this series is written by Randol Contreras, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and author of The Stickup Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream (University of California Press, 2013), and focuses on C. Wright Mill’s The Sociological Imagination. If you are interested in seeing a scholar featured here please send an email to email@example.com with “Tip of the Cap” in the subject line. Enjoy!
As long time readers may know, we like to offer a run down of the sessions, papers and events at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association that may be of interest for readers of this blog. This has been made considerably easier the last couple of years by AAA’s personal scheduler function, which allows for the creation of sharable schedules. You can see a full* list of these papers and sessions via our shared Google Calendar, here. If you’re also a user of Google Calendar, you can easily copy individual events to your own schedule there.
In particular, though, I’d like to highlight a few events that are either directly sponsored or otherwise associated with Anthropoliteia.net. Perhaps the most important of these is the first ever Anthropoliteia “Tweet-Up.” Based on the previous success of similar events hosted by Savage Minds (among others), our Editorial Board has decided to extend an invitation to anyone interested to come meet with us–along with a select group of our various Section Editors and Contributors–to discuss, imbibe, and otherwise commiserate. You can find** us Thursday, December 4th from 6-8pm at Murphy’s Irish Pub, around the corner from the conference hotel.
Besides the tweet-up, there are a few official sessions that come out of collaborations on Anthropoliteia and the CFP we circulated earlier this year:
On Wednesday, December 3rd from 4-5:45pm in Washington Room 3 of the Marriott Wardman Park will be the panel “Thinking Through Police, Producing Anthropological Theory: police ethnography as a tool for critical thought,” organized by and featuring yours truly, along with Avram Bornstein (John Jay-CUNY), Mirco Gopfert (U Konstanz), Beatrice Jauregui (U Toronto), Matthew Wolf-Meyer (UC Santa Cruz) and Matthew Hull (U Michigan).
On Friday, December 5th from 6:30-8:15pm in the Diplomat Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham will be a roundtable on “Critical Potentialities of the Anthropology of Policing. Accounts of Police, Power and Politics on Public Display?” organized by our own Paul Mutsaers (Tilburg U) and featuring Beatrice Jauregui (U Toronto), Eilat Maoz (U Chicago), Simanti Dasgupta (U Dayton), Daniel Silva (Unicamp), Michelle L Stewart (U Regina), and Craig William Schuetze (UC, Santa Cruz).
Finally, on Saturday, December 6th from 9-10:15am, again in the Diplomat Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham, will be the panel “Violence and Ethics in Ethnographies of Security in Latin America,” organized by Stephanie Savell (Brown U), guest editor of this summer’s Forum “Security in Brazil: World Cup 2014 and Beyond“, and featuring Erika Robb Larkins (U Oklahoma), Aldo Civico (Rutgers U), Stephanie Savell (Brown U), Kristen Drybread (University São Paulo/ NEV) and Danial M. Goldstein (Rutgers U).
We hope to see you all there!* As always, if you notice any oversights or would like to suggest additions send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org ** If you’re not sure who to look for, I basically look like this, possibly with shaggier hair. Also, I’ll try to be attentive to twitter–@anthropoliteia and @kevinkarpiak–especially towards the beginning
Monica Eppinger, one of the contributors to our Forum “What’s Going on in Ukraine?“, also happens to be Assistant Professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law, which offers her a unique insight on one of our other recent Forums “#Ferguson and Elsewhere“. Over at her other blog, the Comparative Law Prof Blog, she has some interesting reflections on the two. Here’s just a snippet:
Two commonalities invite comparison between late summer in Ferguson and deep winter in Kyiv. First is the form of public action, street protest. It speaks of an electorate that, despite a polity’s record of holding fair elections, resorts to alternatives to usual democratic processes. The second, and most striking, commonality is the kind of spark that ignited protest, the relationship between citizen death at the hands of police and public assessments of state legitimacy.
In the past week and a half there has been a wave of stories out of Winnipeg that shine a spotlight not only on police practices but larger questions about the ongoing legacies of colonialism, structural violence and institutional racism that play out in this settler nation. More specifically, I am talking about Tina Fontaine as her case returned to the headlines last week with the sentencing of her father’s killers; and an admission by Winnipeg police that officers saw the missing teen and did not take her into protective custody—it is believed she was murdered shortly thereafter.
I will state here, at the outset, that I am not writing this article to blame these police officers for Tina’s death. On the contrary, I am writing this to join many other voices that are pointing out the need for systemic change in Canada.