What's going on in Ukraine?

Bakhtin at the front

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Monica Eppinger as part of our developing Forum What’s Going on in Ukraine?

I’m an anthropologist of law and other serious speech acts, with fieldwork concentrated in Ukraine. Meg and Kevin asked me, “What’s going on over there?” I’ll try to give a range of possible answers in a series of posts.

Over the weekend, after reports of foreign troops taking over Crimea circulated in Kyiv, one prominent Ukrainian took to the internet urging several resistance tactics. Some were predictable: national unity, “information warfare.” But one was not: laughter. His reasoning was, it’s the best way to counter those whose tactics are meant to inspire fear and hatred. Plus, it has the advantage of surprise.

Troops taking over (or besieging) Ukrainian military installations and neighboring residential neighborhoods across Crimea have faced a sea of cell phone-cameras. In the initial footage that’s reached me, I’ve noticed a second “secret weapon” at Ukrainians’ disposal, discourse. Ukrainians have not lost the intense passion for or engagement in discourse that Alexei Yurchak describes marking the late Soviet period.  The readiness to engage in it seems to take the interlocutors by surprise.

And so, this footage: On the front, armed with discourse and laughter.  In this encounter, a Ukrainian journalist interviews men who have taken over a Ukrainian installation in Balaklava, Sevastopl (a part of Crimea, Ukraine). The journalist is, himself, questioned by women standing nearby (who seem to be local employees of the installation, or family members of employees). (Even if you don’t understand Russian, you can get the flavor of the interaction.)

The men are in unmarked uniforms but one wears a baseball cap with the name of a Russian city, Ryazan (where a famous paratrooper school is located). The journalist asks the men why their uniforms have no insignia. His line of questions is as much inquiry as it is an invitation to self-reflection along a certain logical argument.

– He says, “What do you call it when the armed forces of a foreign country occupy the territory and government installations of another country? That’s called war, isn’t it?”
– He points out, “Sooner or later, war means death.”
– He reminds them that their president (Putin) is insisting that there are no Russian Federation troops in Crimea, only local “self-defense forces.”
– He asks them, “So why don’t your uniforms have any insignia? Your beautiful country, your beautiful president, has sent you here in uniforms without any identifying marks.” His camera investigates: No country indicators, no rank indicators, no flags, no nothing. [He zooms in on the only identifying mark on the battle-ready newcomer, which is a Batman pin.] “Don’t you realize, when the shooting starts, your country is not going to acknowledge you as its soldier? How do you want to be remembered after your death?”

Heavy questions, light touch. And such bravery.

Monica Eppinger is an Assistant Professor at the Saint Louis University College of Law. She has extensive experience in diplomacy, serving nine years as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service with tours of duty at the U.S. Consulate General in Kaduna, Nigeria; U.S. Embassy, Kiev, Ukraine; and at the State Department in Washington, D.C. where her responsibilities included policy in the former Soviet Union, Caspian basin energy development, and West African security. Her research concentrates on sovereignty and selfhood. Her main areas of expertise include property, national security, and international law.
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Commentary

The Anthropology of “Robocop:” Finding New Audiences in Popular Media

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Nolan Kline

Spoiler alert! This post reveals details about the new Robocop film.

As a kid, I loved the 1987 Robocop (even though I can’t recall how my parents allowed me to see it given its R rating and violent scenes).  Having grown up in the Detroit area and as a PhD candidate with research interests that all hinge on social inequality, it isn’t hard for me to understand now what I found so fascinating as a child about a film featuring a dystopian capitalist future. When I learned about the 2014 Robocop, admittedly I was excited to see it and interested in discovering whether the new film retained some of its social commentary roots. I was surprised to notice that the new film, more than the original, cut to the core of my current research interests around policing and health. The overlap with my scholarly interests led me to consider how I and other anthropologists might use popular media as a way to discuss anthropology with non-academic audiences.

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In the Journals

As I try to put together a course on “Policing in Society” for the upcoming semester at the same time that I try to figure out for myself the place of anthropology in criminology (or vice versa, or somesuch). I came across this article, which I think has particular potential for our discussions here:

Rethinking Criminology(ies) through the Inclusion of Political Violence and Armed Conflict as Legitimate Objects of Inquiry

Maritza Felices-Luna

University of Ottawa

Abstract: Criminology has yet to achieve full recognition as an independent discipline. Its development has been hampered by a multiplicity of often stale debates between a “traditional” and an “alternative” criminology over the legitimate object, theories, and methods of the discipline. Rather than pursuing the debate in its current form, this article explores how focusing on new objects of inquiry and the challenges they represent may help to bridge the criminological divide. By rendering the borders of criminology’s object permeable, we may produce a malleable and dynamic discipline that deals with processes of normalization/differentiation/othering as well as ordering, governance, and control from different normative and political perspectives, theories, and methods.

via Project MUSE – Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice – Rethinking Criminologyies through the Inclusion of Political Violence and Armed Conflict as Legitimate Objects of Inquiry.

Articles referenced

Felices-Luna, M. (2010). Rethinking Criminology(ies) through the Inclusion of Political Violence and Armed Conflict as Legitimate Objects of Inquiry Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice/La Revue canadienne de criminologie et de justice pénale, 52 (3), 249-269 DOI: 10.3138/cjccj.52.3.249

Rethinking Criminology(ies)

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Pedagogy

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?

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Pedagogy

What is the Curriculum for the Anthropology of Policing?

Hello Anthropolitians,

After surviving baptisms by fire, ice and everything in between (lukewarm beer, mostly) in my new position, I now have recovered enough to aspire to blog. In particular I hope, over the next few months, to write a series of posts musing on the following topic: “What is the curriculum for the anthropology of policing?”

To begin, I would like to start thinking about the different ways in which the anthropology of policing fits into the contemporary markets for higher education. I wonder if we can identity a set of core concerns that effectively translates between these different contexts?

For example, suppose that you are an anthropologist joining a department with a broader social-sciences identity (e.g. sociology/criminology/anthropology). And suppose that this department is – shockingly – rather cohesive as an intellectual community. Your colleagues consider interdisciplinary give-and-take a font of inspiration, and treat the department’s disciplinary fusion as a substantive asset rather than an administrative convenience. And now suppose that, as the newest member of the club, you have been asked to develop a “signature” course in your specialization – policing. Moreover, you are asked to develop it in a way demonstrates the distinctive assets that anthropology brings to the conversation, and do this in a way that harmonizes synergetically with the theoretical interests your sociologically and criminologically trained friends have in the police. How do you design your syllabus?

Now, by contrast to the above syllabus, suppose that you are an anthropologist working for a college that offers degree programs in criminal justice and social work (among other things). You have been invited to develop a course in your specialization – policing – with the purpose of contributing an anthropological (or “cultural”) perspective to these semi-professional degrees. How do you design this syllabus? Just how different is it from the one you designed above?

Now, finally, suppose you have been hired by a department that does nothing but anthropology for anthropology’s sake. And, your only teaching requirement is to lead a graduate seminar designed to establish the anthropology of policing as a viable sub-disciplinary specialization. What is the syllabus for this course? Does it have any overlap with the above two syllabi?

Look forward to any thoughts folks might have. Next, I will post the syllabus from the policing course I taught last semester, providing fodder for more specific points of critique while I work through the lessons I learned while trying to teach it.

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Announcements

Studying Military, Security & Intelligence Communities Ethics Casebook by the American Anthropological Association

I don’t know how many of you have been following the machinations of the CEAUSSIC committee of the American Anthropological Association, but over the last several years they’ve been getting together to think through the admittedly thorny problem of the relationship between anthropologists and those involved in military, security and intelligence communities.  As an effort to step away from grand proclamations towards thinking about what actual anthropologists in actual situations do and the decisions they make, the committee is putting together a case book in anthropological ethics.  In fact, they’re looking for contributors:

We need more cases and are actively working our own networks to encourage our colleagues to provide material for the book. Rob Albro and I are spearhending this project. We have contacted friends and colleagues who work in federal agencies, but we are also interested in talking to anthropologists who self-identify as having some involvement in military, intelligence, or other forms of national security work, or who have studied or critiqued some form of national security practice. Rather than define “national security,” we are asking our contributors to tell us what that category means in their work-lives, because we think it is important that anthropologists in national security explain what this sweeping affiliation actually means. The cases must be grounded in real-world experience, even if the details are disguised; but to ensure anonymity, we are working collaboratively with our contributors to make appropriate, case-by-case decisions about publishing the contributor’s identities and disguising identifying details, such as precise places or institutions or names.

We expect to publish this case collection as a set of discussion materials for use in classrooms. We are also talking with other AAA committees involved in ethics to develop mechanisms for expanding and maintaining grounded conversations about ethics, perhaps in the form of an ethics blog, an annual update to the casebook which we hope to be made available online, or regular sessions at the Annual Meetings where we can present and debate particularly provocative or timely cases. We are also open to any creative suggestions about how maximize the relevance of this casebook, as a point of reference in ongoing disciplinary discussion on ethics, disciplinary practice, and security.

via CEAUSSIC: Ethics Casebook « American Anthropological Association.

Now, on the one hand, this seems an exactly appropriate move.  On the other hand, I find interesting the lack of involvement in these discussions (at least so far, as far as I know) by any of us who understand ourselves as working on “the police”.

I’m just thinking on my feet a bit here, but I can come up with a few reasons why this might be:

  1. Demographics.  People who are part of these conversations tend to be already firmly established in the field–it’s unlikely that a junior scholar (which all of us are) gets asked to be a part of such things, and conversely, it’s not really the kind of thing junior scholars are burning to be a part of–careers aren’t exactly made on ethics committees.
  2. Conceptualizing “police” and “security”.  The problem with possibility #1 is that there’s no “old-school” police studiers either (although who that might include, I think, is a good question).  This suggests the much more interesting possibility that the lack of police-studiers has more to do with an as-yet (as far as I can tell)  unremarked contour of the ethical problem itself–an ethical element that distinguishes the types of violence the police use, and/or anthropologists’ relationship to it, versus the military.  I haven’t quite got my finger on what that might be, but I think it might be an interesting place to try to work through the particular stakes of “anthropoliteia”…
  3. No good reason.  Of course, perhaps I’m over-thinking this and one of us should offer to contribute to the casebook

Thoughts?

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Announcements, Conferences

Panels on Policing & Security at the 2009 American Anthropoligical Association Annual Meetings

I’ve compiled a list of panels and individual papers on security and policing-related issues at the upcoming AAA meetings.  You can see them below.

I’d like to give a special shout-out to the panel THE END/S OF POLICING: ETHNOGRAPHIC PERSPECTIVES ON POLICE POWER (Fri., 8:00-9:45 AM in rm 406) organized by the newest anthropolitician, William Garriott of James Madison University, also featuring myself, Michelle Stewart, Thom Chivens, Eva Harmon and Mindie Lazarus-Black of Temple University.  It should be good times.

Other than that, the following look interesting (panels are in bold):

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Commentary

Claude Levi-Strauss on police

If you haven’t heard the news yet,  anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss passed away last week.  his passing has sparked a considerable amount of reflection and commentary–including a couple of attempts to synthesize, or, on the other hand, separate out a particular aspect of his grand corpus.

One aspect of his thought that most reviewers emphasize is his consistent critique of modernity through a complicated  anthropological lens which emphasized both a sensitivity to cultural diversity and universal human structures.  One under-remarked element of his work, however, is the way that police and policing, as ethnographic figures, functioned within his critique so as to make it possible.

I think we’re all agreed that it’s one of our shared goals here at Anthropoliteia to point out the centrality of police and policing to the anthropological project, so as a supplement to the various orbituaries and syntheses mentioned above, I thought I’d highlight a passage from Tristes Tropiques which I think illustrates my point.  Pay attention to the complicated ways in which police both illustrate and push forward his anthropological critique of modernity:

(The text is quoted, at length, after the break.  I know it’s a bit lengthy for a blog post, but there really is no way to edit the twists and turns of his prose, in that the meandering juxtapositions are often the very point.  Believe me, by the time you get to “The atmosphere thickens, everywhere” you’ll think every word has been worth it.)

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In the Journals

New Virtual Issue of Cultural Anthropology on “Security”

Once I get done with these midterm exams, I’ve been itching to get another edition of Anthropoliteia In the News out, but this is too exciting to wait: one of our fellow anthropoliteians, Michelle Stewart, has co-edited a special online virtual issue of Cultural Anthropology on the topic of “Security”.

Check it out at: http://culanth.org/?q=node/258

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