The title of Rosas’ work suggests a balance between the concreteness of Mexican barrio’s and the abstraction found behind scholarly walls. One could say that ‘Barrio Libre’ did not disappoint, in fact, it surpassed expectation. In order to offer the reader a deep understanding of the phenomenon called Barrio Libre, Rosas theorizes in his work the multiple threads which come together in the phenomenon. According to Rosas these social, economic and political threads constitute the fabric of the problems underlying the emergence of Barrio Libre. Continue reading
In the spirit of continuing our discussion of the British “riots”, Jonathan Simon has an interesting post that I think echoes many of the things that came up in our own discussion. Here’s one particularly cogent nut he offers up in describing the importation of American criminal justice techniques to Britain over the past decade:
“….[C]hronic overuse of criminal justice as a ready made tool for addressing social insecurity under Neo-liberal economic assumptions has led to collapse of both deterrence and legitimacy.”
Now there’s a thesis. Thoughts?
I have to say I resisted writing this post. I have a visceral distaste for academic discursive hermeneutics performed from afar–this is partly why I’m an ethnographer, after all– and, that’s even more the case when trying to write au courant journalistically
However, despite having absolutely no ethnographic expertise among British police and only a concerned collaborator’s familiarity with the issues on the ground there, I’m going to just get over it–tempered still, hopefully, by a degree of humility and a recognition of our responsibility to ignorance. The reason I’ve made this decision is to emphasize an ethnographic fact that I think is important for this blog: so much of what makes police a salient issue in broader terms are in fact riots and, conversely, so many riots, uprisings and rebellions are in fact about police.
All that was a way of putting a large preliminary asterisk on certain observations I’ve made following the news coverage via my own personal extended network of interwebs (BBC, CNN, NPR, Jeff Martin’s twitter feed…). I’ve noticed a narrative dynamic emerging that I find a bit frustrating: on the one hand, news coverage presents the familiar “these are criminals/hoodlums without a politics,” with all its logical absurdities (is criminality innate and apolitical? If so, if these are innate tendencies and not the result of social conditions, how has London and then other cities in the UK suddenly–within the last several days– sprouted so many of this type? What would be the litmus test for whether determining this is a political act, by the way?).
On the other hand, often in an effort to show “the other side” or to emphasize some diversity of opinion on the events, news coverage includes another narrative which risks being equally tired and absurd, the “this is an expression of political-economic disenfranchisement” argument (with it’s equally non-falsifiable claims–what, again, are the criteria for deciding that this is political, and when where these events put to that criteria? what factors and/or data were considered? what would apolitical events look like? If at least one of these criteria should be statements of such from the protesters themselves, it does not seem to meet the definition…)
- Generational conflict. The “this is political” camp insists that the events are the result of the UK’s disinvestiture in social programs while experiencing wideing gaps in real wealth, but within that analysis there’s a type of inter-generational awkwardness, especially between what I think of as the Stuart Hall generation, associated with the Tottenham riots of the early 1980′s, and the present generation of protesters. What’s interesting is to watch the older leftists struggle with understanding and/or translating the events; I’m thinking of some of the interviews with the MP from Tottenham and others, such as Darcus Howe, who seem to be attempting to work out some space for understanding them within a framework of social dis-investiture in the absence of an actually articulated voice of such a grievance. The terms, or even the very language, seems to have moved somehow in the last 30 years.
- Policing is a social program. On the other hand, the “these are hoodlums” camp–set up as critics of the protesters (and thus anti-anti-dis-investiture)–emphasizes the affected business people and residents, often pointing to their calls for more police presence and in fact outrage at the lack of protection. The contradiction here, of course, is that policing is a social program financed through government. If anything, this is the voice criticizing dis-investiture. What to make of that?
I think a less contradictory framing is possible if we make use of Foucault’s geneaology of liberalism (which I’ve written a bit on before), itself formulated during a crisis-point in global capitalism, which identifies neoliberal efforts to “reduce government” as one strategy, within a longer history of liberal political thought, which attempts to find external principles of limitation on government. Part of why Foucault spends so much time on this is that it offers a prescient insight into so much of the nature of policing, security & surveillance today: namely that it springs from the same concern and theory of government. Although often misread, I think, Foucault’s point is that the policing techniques of surveillance (much used in Britain) which skeev many of us out are not efforts to achieve a tightly controlled police state, but the opposite: it’s a strategy of governance which, for many reasons, sees such totalitarian aspirations as ineffectual and unnatural. In this sense, security strategies of surveillance are attempts to provide a “policed” state (in the older sense of “happy, well -ordered and thriving”) with minimal police (in the sense of a specialized political organ claiming the monopoly of legitimate violence) interventon; police without policing.
In this sense, the policing strategies so heavily relied upon by Britain over the last several years are both part and parcel of a political rationality that also focused on finding more “economical” forms of government. The same rationality which leads to a dis-investiture of the social programs targeted by “austerity measures.” The two sides of the framing in the popular news-framing, then, are certainly not contradictory, nor is the one an effect of the other: they are two sides of the very same political rationality; one that more and more seems diseased. What will be the alternative? I’m not sure, but finding a useful answer, I think, depends on understanding the political logic in which we find ourselves.
Since people seemed to find it helpful last year, I’ve decided to try and make A@AAA an annual feature. So here you go, my annual round-up of police, crime and security events at this year’s American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings. As always, if you know about a session or paper that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add it to the list.
Wednesday, Nov. 17th
- STEFAN LE COURANT — Names Written on the Wall: Understanding Graffiti in Alien Detention Places in France as part of the panel MIGRATORY SPACES OF INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION, Studio 3, Second Floor, Marriott
- DANIEL MAHER — Trash Talkin’ and Resurrectin’ Lawmen in Hell on the Border: African American Identity, Performance, and Representation in Fort Smith, Arkansas as part of the panel COUNTER-MEMORIES, Salon H, Third Floor, Marriott
- MEGAN CALLAGHAN (Bard College) — “Bricking the Peelers”: Children’s Challenges to the Police in Northern Ireland as part of the panel CIRCULATIONS OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY, Southdown, Fourth Floor, Sheraton
- JONATHAN PADWE (Yale University) — Remaking Ethnic Attachments by Fleeing the Police in Cambodia: Rethinking the Place of Jarai in Cambodia After the Refugees Have Moved On, as part of the panel ETHNIC LANDSCAPES AND LANDED ETHNICITIES: ATTACHMENTS, STOPPAGES AND CIRCULATIONS. (Salon H, Third Floor, Marriott)
Thursday, Nov. 18th
- BETWEEN GOVERNMENTALITY AND STATE COERCION: GOVERNING BODIES IN SPACE, Organized by YASSER MUNIF
- ILGIN ERDEM — Dis-Ordering the Urban Space: The Case of May Day Protests in Turkey
- YASSER MUNIF — Disciplinary Spaces and “Lawless Zones” in a French Suburb
- SWATI BIRLA — Revisiting Public and Private Space- Prostitution Regulation in Gujarat
- ERIKA MARQUEZ — Social Movements in the Security State: Territorial Struggles in Valle Del Cauca, Colombia
- PANAYIOTIS MANOLAKOS (Sanhati) — Primary Accumulation qua Developmental Terrorism: Meditations on Political Strategy
- INTERROGATING POLICE, Organized by ERIKA ROBB LARKINS (University of Wisconsin-Madison) & R BRIAN FERGUSON (Rutgers the State University of New Jersey-Newark) , Balcony M, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- R BRIAN FERGUSON (Rutgers the State University of New Jersey-Newark) — Killing Bill: Politics, Policing and Street Violence in the Gangs of New York Era
- AVRAM BORNSTEIN (John Jay College, City University of New York) — Policing, Race and “Color-Blindness” in the US
- ALDO CIVICO (Columbia University) — Policing as Cleansing: Gangs, Militias, and Death Squads in Medellin.
- ERIKA ROBB LARKINS (University of Wisconsin-Madison) — Men in Black and the Golden Gun: Maintaining Disorder in Rio’s Hyper Favela
- RIC CURTIS & TRAVIS WENDEL — Call the Policed: The Evolution of Police Tactics as Seen Through the Experience of Drug Distributors and Drug Users in New York City
- DISCUSSANT: NEIL WHITEHEAD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
- COPS & CANONS: WHAT IS THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF POLICING AND WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?, Organized by KEVIN KARPIAK (Eastern Michigan University) & WILLIAM GARRIOTT (James Madison University), La Galerie 1, Second Floor, Marriott
- MICHELLE STEWART (University of California-Davis) — “Don’t Dare Me”: A Consideration of Interdisciplinarity and Reflexivity in Policing Practice
- JEFFREY MARTIN (University of Hong Kong) — The Culture of Policing
- BEATRICE JAUREGUI (University of Cambridge) — Police Postings as Cultural Politics: Forces and Relations of State Authority in Northern India
- MEG STALCUP (University of California-Berkeley) — The Battle of Algiers on Main Street: Anthropology and the Policing of Terrorism
- WILLIAM GARRIOTT (James Madison University) — Ethical Failure or Ethical Imperative?: “Lumping It” as Method in the Anthropology of Police
- JULIA HORNBERGER — From Free Health Care to the Care of the Criminal Self as part of the panel SHIFTING SOVEREIGNTIES: CIRCUITS AND COUNTER-CIRCUITS OF KNOWLEDGE,La Galerie 4, Second Floor, Marriott
- KARINA BIONDI (Universidad Federal de São Carlos) — The Political Model of a Collective of Prisoners in São Paulo, Brazil as part of the panel NEW DIRECTIONS IN POLITICAL THEORY, Studio 3, Second Floor, Marriott
Friday, Nov. 19th
- JENNIFER AENGST (University of California-Davis) — The Movements of Adolescents: Youth Policing and Secret Dating in Ladakh, India as part of the panel SEXUALITIES IN ‘OUT-OF-THE-WAY’ PLACES: TRACING INTIMACIES ACROSS BOUNDARIES, Salon 817 & 821, Eighth Floor, Sheraton
- BRIAN LANDE (University of California-Berkeley) & KEVIN KARPIAK (Eastern Michigan University) — ‘Taking the Field’: Thinking ‘Police’ Through the Social Sciences, Thinking ‘Society’ Through Policingas part of the panel BUSINESS ENCOUNTERS: FIELDWORK CONVERSATIONSOrganized by TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT (BBDO & Parsons, The New School for Design), BRIAN MOERAN (Copenhagen Business School), Balcony N, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- BJORN BERTELSEN — Chamboco, Lynchings, Death Squads and Prisons. Social Ontologies of Violence, Sovereignty and Conflict in Chimoio, Mozambique as part of the panel CONFLICTS ON THE MOVE,Balcony L, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- ROBERT A RUBINSTEIN (Maxwell School, Syracuse University) — Back to the Future?: Peacekeeping and Imperial Policingas part of the panel CONFLICTS ON THE MOVE,Balcony L, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- JENNIFER GOETT (Michigan State University) — Afro-Descendants and Counternarcotics Policing in Multicultural Nicaragua as part of the panel AFRO-LATINO POLITICS: REASSESSING THE MULTICULTURAL TURN TWO DECADES AFTER REFORM, (Studio 1, Second Floor, Marriott)
Saturday, Nov. 20th
- KEVIN KARPIAK (Eastern Michigan University) — Use and Abuse of the Police in French Theory: Or, Uncanny Encounters With Foucault, Bourdieu and Many Others Among the Police Nationale as part of the panelFOUCAULT ET AL. FROM PARIS TO CALIFORNIA AND BACK AGAIN: THE CREOLISATION OF ‘FRENCH THEORY’organized by STEPHANIE LLOYD (McGill University), BAPTISTE MOUTAUD (INSERM), & LIVIA VELPRY (Cesames, University of Paris-Descartes), Grand Couteau, Fifth Floor, Sheraton
- THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF MASS INCARCERATION: GLOBAL ETHNOGRAPHIC PERSPECTIVES ON PRISONS AND POLICING organized byANDREA MORRELL (City University of New York-Graduate Center), & STEPHANIE CAMPOS,Oak Alley, Fourth Floor, Sheraton
- KAREN WILLIAMS (City University of New York-Graduate Center) — From Social Control to “Caring”?: Imagining a ‘Kinder Gentler’ Prison System Under Neoliberalism
- STEPHANIE CAMPOS — Las Burriers: Incarceration & Gendered Work in Illicit Economies
- HOLLIS MOORE (University of Toronto) — The Permeable Prison and the Production of (Un)relatedness: Household Responses to Imprisonment in Northeast Brazil
- ANDREA MORRELL (City University of New York-Graduate Center) — “A Label Tightly Sewn on the Community”: Race, Justice, and the Making of a Prison Town
- LILIAN NYAMPONG — Micro Interactional Processes State/Human Rights Interventions: Ethnography of Everyday Experiences in Correctional Institutions
- DISCUSSANT: PEM BUCK (Elizabethtown Community and Technical College)
Sunday, Nov. 21st
- CIRCULATING TECHNIQUES OF GOVERNANCE: CRIME, INSECURITY, AND DELINQUENCY IN THE AMERICAS organized by CONNIE MCGUIRE (University of California-Irvine), Salon H, Third Floor, Marriott
- TIM GODDARD (University of California-Irvine) — Managing ‘Risky’ Populations: Crime Control Through Public-Private Partnerships
- CONNIE MCGUIRE (University of California-Irvine) — Transnationalizing Gangs in the Americas: From Local Problems to Regional Solutions
- VIRGINIA RAYMOND (Texas After Violence Project) — Lethal, Legal and Premeditated: U.S. State Homicide and Its Reverberations Throughout the Americas
- NINA SIULC (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) — U.S. Crimmigration Policies, Transnational Insecurities, and ? “Retraining”? Deportees
- WENDY REYES & ANGELA SANGUINETTI — Addressing the Limits of Orthodox Language
- MARIANA MORA — The Effects of Mexican State Security Policies: New Expressions of State Violence, Human Rights and the Production of Subjectivities in the State of Guerrero
- DISCUSSANT: ELANA ZILBERG (University of California-San Diego)
- SANTIAGO GUERRA (University of Texas-Austin) — Los Mafiosos Y La Chota: Drug Trafficking and Policing in the South Texas-Mexico Borderlands
as part of the panel CIRCULATING MILITARISM, CIRCULATING SUBJECTS,Salon 829, Eighth Floor, Sheraton
- TOM HALL (Cardiff University) & ROBIN SMITH — Local Motion, Local Knowledge: Research ‘On the Move’ With Urban Patrols as part of the panel OBSERVERS ON THE MOVE: REVISITING TRADITIONS AND EXPLORING INNOVATIONS IN PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION, Bayside B, Fourth Floor, Sheraton
So I did a little bit of “exploratory ethnography” here in my new home of Worcester, MA by going to a Public Safety Commission Meeting. There’s plenty that could be said about it, even though it lasted all of ten minutes (has anybody else gone to these kinds of meetings? Have you noticed how existentially absurd they are? They don’t really do anything like that in France), but one thing in particular stuck out… It seems that the City of Worcester will need to lay off 24 officers by the end of September due to the city’s $1,300,000 (i like to leave in zeros) deficit. this is on top of the fact that they apparently graduated 32 new recruits in February and promptly proceeded to lay them off at the end of the month.
To me, that sounds like a lot. To put that in context, according to the WPD’s 2008 Annual report they had 381 budgeted police personnel, which amounted to $38,969,002 in Salary, Overtime and Holiday/Extras. So these cuts would mean anywhere from about a 6% (just subtracting the 24 officers from last year’s corps) to a 17% (adding together the 24, plus the 32 recruits, plus the 9 scheduled retirees) cut in the workforce and the $1.2 million would be about 3% of the money budgeted for salary. Now, that doesn’t sound like that much, but I have no idea to be honest. I really have only a general sense of what these kinds of cuts will mean–if they mean anything new at all.
Which got me wondering: does anyone know of any good work and/or reporting being done on the effects of the financial crisis on the practices of policing in American (or other) cities? If not, shouldn’t we be a part of that? What kinds of questions can we fruitfully ask about the situation?
Here’s the outline of one: if nothing else, what we’ve learned from the literature on neoliberalism is that it doesn’t make much sense to call it a “retreat of the state”–everyone from Loic Wacquant to Nikolas Rose & co. to the Cheney/Bush homeland security apparatus has shown us that. Even though that’s very much how the present crisis is being framed (“lack of government funds” etc.), the same truth still seems to hold–wither the stimulus money, for example?
How else to make sense of “financial crisis’” affect on municipal policing?
Wacquant, L. (2008). The Body, the Ghetto and the Penal State Qualitative Sociology, 32 (1), 101-129 DOI: 10.1007/s11133-008-9112-2
Wacquant, L. (2001). The Penalisation of Poverty and the rise of Neo-Liberalism European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 9 (4), 401-412 DOI: 10.1023/A:1013147404519
Rose, N., O’Malley, P., & Valverde, M. (2006). Governmentality Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 2 (1), 83-104 DOI: 10.1146/annurev.lawsocsci.2.081805.105900