Views of Venezuelan Protests, Pt. 3: Who is Policing the Protests? A Perspective from Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Police

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post, the third in a series from Rebecca Hanson on recent political developments in Venezuela. 

“It is better to think of the police as providing support to the National Guard in the protests [as opposed to the other way around].  The National Guard has more experience and more training…and they aren’t restricted [in their use of force] like us…We can’t even defend ourselves.”  –National Police officer-in-training

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What's going on in Ukraine?

Silencing and backtalk: Scenes from the Crimean Occupation

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

There’s a phrase in Russian, tikhiy uzhas, “quiet horror”. For some in Crimea, that would summarize the week between March 4 and March 11 .

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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.

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


Announcements, Conferences

UC BERKELEY CONFERENCE: Queering Race, Policing Bodies: Militarization & Resistance | Center For Race Gender | CRG

Queering Race, Policing Bodies: Militarization & Resistance


“Documents and Disguises: Transgender Politics, Travel, and U.S. State Surveillance,” Toby Beauchamp, UC Davis


“The Face of Gays in the Military: Neoliberalism, Multiculturalism, and the ‘Right to Fight,’” Liz Montegary, UC Davis


Thursday, September 10, 2009 – 4:00pm – 5:30pm


691 Barrows Hall

via Queering Race, Policing Bodies: Militarization & Resistance | Center For Race Gender | CRG.

(poster after the break)

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Book Reviews

The Liberal Way of War, The Liberal Way of Policing?

Tim Dunne, professor of international relations and head of humanities and social sciences, University of Exeter, reviewing the new book The Liberal Way of War:Killing to Make Life Live in Times Higher Education:

In the West, the thawing of the Cold War coincided with a revival in liberal internationalist ideas about the importance of regime type. Leading American thinkers including Michael Doyle and Francis Fukuyama seized on a claim initially articulated by Kant about the peaceful character of democracies. From Reagan onwards, every US President has endorsed the mantra that democracies are more peaceful than authoritarian regimes.

In The Liberal Way of War this hubris is dramatically punctured. Kant appears not as an exponent of a separate peace forged among republican states but as a philosopher of biohumanity. The consequence of the emergence of the human species as a referent for security is that war “becomes war without end”. On this logic, liberals are pushed closer and closer to the realist position that war is necessarily a recurrent feature of politics.

via Times Higher Education – The Liberal Way of War: Killing to Make Life Live. (emphasis added)

If the argument is that once the referent for security becomes “the human” that the result is a temporally indefinate state of affairs best described as “a war without end,” what do we make of the anagolously indefinate state of policing?

My first impression is that there are least two issues at stake here:

  1. What is/are the object(s) of contemporary policing?  What, exactly, is being “policed” in each of our projects?  In my own fieldwork, the answer to this question certainly varied–was a point of considerable debate, actually, but in a daily sense it was certainly not “the human species” itself.  yet the temporality of “security” seems the same (perhaps)…
  2. In a more tangential manner–though key to understanding what, exactly, we’re up to here in this blog–is the question of police vs. military, or quotidian policing vs. war (even the variety “without end”).  Certainly there exists a now almost overwhelming amount of social science, anthropology being one of the key contributors, on war and its aftermaths.  Oftentimes the instinct is to take the insights garnered from this material and apply it to the kind of situations that we study, leading to descriptions of police as a broadly “paramilitary” exercise.  Again, I know form my own work that this is only partly true, at best.  how to articulate the difference?