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!


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.


Anthropoliteia In the News (through 11/13/09)

To quote Timbaland, “It’s been a long time/ Shouldn’t have left you / without a dope beat to step to”

That’s right, it’s time for one more pre-AAA Annual Meetings edition of Anthropoliteia In The News.

Cultural Anthropology & Security

Thanks in part to one of our co-Anthropoliteia-ers, Michelle Stewert (along with Vivian Choi), we not along can enjoy a special “virtual issue” of the journal Cultural Anthropology on the theme of “security” but we can look forward to a discussion with several of the authors at this years Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association.  The event will be called “Thematizing Security” and will be held Friday December 4th at 12:15pm.  Discussion participants will include Didier Fassin, Ilana Feldman, Andrew Lakoff, and Joseph Masco

Policing the Rio Olympics

In the wake of being awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, a violent outburst between police and drug gangs which left two dozen dead has garnered increased international scrutiny for Rio police forces, NPR reports.  Chief among the Rio police’s strategies are community-policing style attempts to integrate the police force into the poorest and most troubled areas.

Whether these strategies will actually reduce violence is unclear.  As one woman lamented,   “The violence you are seeing on TV which happened last weekend you have almost every day. If not in this favela, you have it in another favela.

“Nation’s Top Cop”

Former Boston, New York City–and now Los Angeles–police chief Bill Bratton stepped down from his position as the nation’s “top cop”  in order to work for a private security consulting agency.  Bratton has been closely associated with both the “zero tolerance” and “broken windows” philosophies of urban policing. On his last day he addressed the LAPD via radio dispatch, repeating his motto, “cops count, police matter” to the listening troops.

(Not) Famous Last Words

Claire Cameron at the New York Times wrote a haunting piece using the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s database of death row executionee’s last words.

The Clock Is Ticking

Anthropoliteia-er Meg Stalcup writes, over at On the Assembly of Things, about the release, by the US Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, of “The Clock Is Ticking,” a progress report on what has happened with the recommendations made in the 2008 World at Risk publication.

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:

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