DragNet September 8 – 21, 2014

...just wait 'til you see the T-Shirts that were on sale at this year's Urban Shield event.

…just wait ’til you see the T-Shirts that were on sale at this year’s Urban Shield event.

“The claim that outside agitators had been the riot’s ringleaders…reiterated that black people were incapable of acting as political subjects in the defense of their humanity and rights as citizens,” writes Steven Gregory, professor of Anthropology and African American studies at Columbia University. Although applicable to the more recent Ferguson protests, Gregory’s words reference a series of similar events that occurred in 1930s Harlem. His recollection of several white-black, citizen-police fatalities exposes the need for not only institutional -but cultural- change.

Speaking of which, hopefully some of you were able to attend UC Berkeley’s forum, Black lives matter: police violence, prisons and freedom visions” on September 19th. The event featured speakers such as CeCe McDonald, Julia Chinyere Oparah and Ashon Crawley.

What can anthropology contribute to discussions of race, state-condoned brutality and violence? Pem Davidson Buck reflects on this and other questions in her post for Anthropology News, The Violence of the Status Quo.

My award for most disturbing topic of the month goes to Shane Bauer’s coverage of the 2014 Urban Shield event that was held in Oakland, California. Every year members of police and SWAT teams attend the tradeshow, where the latest tactical gadgets (including things like armored vehicles, blindness inducing flashlights and canine mounted cameras) are unveiled. Wait ‘til you see pics of the T Shirts that were on sale at the event…

Coming in at a close second on the creepiness scale is Jaeah Lee’s post, “So Basically Everyone Killed by a Cop is a Criminal, According to the FBI” And yes, it truly is as bad as it sounds. The fact that the FBI –among other things- allows jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction variation in the definition of “felon” is among Lee’s most worrisome findings.

NPR’s Gregory Warner featured an opposing view of police brutality this month. A Kenyan officer charged with the fatal shooting of two men inspired a local protest…in his favor. Find out why this instance of police brutality was “warranted” in the minds of citizens in his jurisdiction.

Police brutality often brings images of Ferguson, militarization and white-black violence to mind. But what about the seldom-mentioned tactic of police seizure of funds from people not charged with a crime (and without a warrant)? An engaging three-part expose about the questionable search and seizure practice is featured in The Washington Post.

Phew, that was a lot of bad news. Now onto the good- the Anthropology of the Good to be precise. In the words of Professor Joel Robbins, “Consensus about what constitutes good and how we separate this from bad is hard to pin down.” Cheer yourself up by reading about Robbins’ research at the University of Cambridge as well as why an Anthropology of the Good is a necessary complement to the already prevalent Anthropology of Suffering.

Also bound to make you happy is AllegraLab’s call for editorial assistants! Find out if you qualify, then send an email to their team at stuff@allegralaboratory.net before September 30th.


Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!


Anthropoliteia In the News 9/8/09

If you’ve  been so caught up in the story of the East Bay kidnapping uncovered by UC Berkeley police (for a cogent analysis, and some myth-busting regarding what parole can accomplish, see Jonathan Simon’s post over at Prawfsblog) that you haven’t had time for anything else, here’s another edition of Anthropoliteia In the News:

«Ceux qui sont fatigués, au revoir!»

Nicolas Sarkozy recently surprised a meeting of the departmental Cheifs of the Police Nationale and Gendarmerie, who thought they were merely meeting with Minister of the Interior Brice Hotrefeux, with an unannounced visit.  The reason for the suprise visit was the recent less-than-spectacular crime statistics, particularly in Loire.   These stats have been a bragging point for sarkozy over the last seven years.  The answer, according to sarkozy?  More work.  “Those of you who are tired, au revoir!”

But don’t be impolite about it.  The President of the Republic also reminded police officers to “respect the basic rules of courtesy” when dealing with youth, and not to immediately revert to using the (impolite and overly-familiar) “tu” form of address.


Several French police unions have denounced as “overly aggressive” and “lying accusations” a televised report, and interview of Interior Minister Hortefeux, by M6 television reporter Mélissa Theuriau.

During a televised interview of Minister Hortefeux, Theuriau presented footage of a group of police officers forcing youth to the ground and suggested that such images “ridicule the police code of conduct.”

For his part Hortefeux suggested that the “presumption of innocence applies to police officers as well.”

In the space of security, police are the opposite of culture?

Or is the metric at play here that of “sublty” ?

Simon Reid-Henry has an interesting review of the new edited volume by geographers Alan Ingram and Klaus Dodds, Spaces of Security and Insecurity: Geographies of the War on Terror in Times Higher Education:

spacesofsecurityWhile some states are being broken up into ever less state-like parts, making intervention an easier task, others are busy hardening their borders through the securitisation of immigration and asylum legislation. This geographical unevenness in the manner and extent to which security is pursued through territorial proxy is sustained by cultural processes that normalise some definitions of security as they disavow others. This book is especially welcome for the way it picks apart this process. In doing so, it shows that if security has become perhaps the dominant paradigm of the War on Terror in Western states, it is based not only upon expanded police powers and identity cards but also on a raft of more subtle cultural practices that respond to and inform actual political events.

Police cars are not green

Over at Cop in the Hood, Peter Moskos doesn’t lament Ford’s decision to stop manufacturing Crown Vic’s, the industry-standard in American cop cars,  by 2011.   The whole affair does lead Moskos to inquire into the cost of operating such cars, and suggest that more green alternatives could be incentivized by offering cops who choose to patrol on foot $20-50 more per shift.

Mass Incarceration News

  • The California state Assembly watered down a bill intended to ease the state’s budget crisis by redusing the prison population. The stripped-down version of the bill will reduce the prison population by 17,000 inmates by next June instead of 27,000.  The saving will go from an estimated $300 million this year instead of the estimated $520 million.
  • Additionally, Jonathan Simon wonders whether more federal stimulus money for police officers will mean more people incarcerated (despite the state’s stated goal).  Simon’s answer? “Of course the law professor’s answer is “it depends.”  It depends on how those police officers view their job.”
  • Despite this, Simon suggests (or perhaps “hopes”) that mass incarceration might be the “new SUV,” meaning that it’s cultural profile could be in the process of “flipping”
  • Which is good news, because Chino prison just had one of the state’s biggest race riots in years.
  • Peter Moskos offers some pretty, if not exactly novel, graphs from the Justice Policy Institute of skyrocketing U.S. incarceration rates

[Insert requisite taser post]

Radley Balko at Reason Magazine offers an indictment of cop-based reality shows, especially TLC’s new Police Women of Broward County:

The most obvious criticism of these shows is their exploitation and general tackiness. Police work is reduced to clownish pranks, adrenalin-inducing raids, and telegenic lady cops edited to invoke S&M fantasies for the shlubs watching at home. No one expects much dignity from cable networks, but you’d think, for example, that the Broward County Sheriff’s Department might object to the sexualization of its female officers, or to a national ad campaign insinuating that they’re sporting itchy Taser fingers….

Cop reality shows glamorize all the wrong aspects of police work. Their trailers depict lots of gun pointing, door-busting, perp-chasing, and handcuffing. Forget the baton-twirling Officer Friendly. To the extent that the shows aid in the recruiting of new police officers, they’re almost certainly pulling people attracted to the wrong parts of the job.

One of the tag lines for TLC’s new show is “There’s always a good time to use a Taser.”

This Week in Anthropoliteia History

25 years ago this week Alec Jeffreys discovered DNA fingerprinting

The South Pacific, Water… and police

In writing an expose about Fiji bottled water for Mother Jones magazine, Anna Lenzer runs in to some trouble with the police

Moments later, a pair of police officers walked in. They headed for a woman at another terminal; I turned to my screen to compose a note about how cops were even showing up in the Internet cafés. Then I saw them coming toward me. “We’re going to take you in for questioning about the emails you’ve been writing,” they said.

What followed, in a windowless room at the main police station, felt like a bad cop movie. “Who are you really?” the bespectacled inspector wearing a khaki uniform and a smug grin asked me over and over, as if my passport, press credentials, and stacks of notes about Fiji Water weren’t sufficient clues to my identity. (My iPod, he surmised tensely, was “good for transmitting information.”) I asked him to call my editors, even a UN official who could vouch for me. “Shut up!” he snapped. He rifled through my bags, read my notebooks and emails. “I’d hate to see a young lady like you go into a jail full of men,” he averred, smiling grimly. “You know what happened to women during the 2000 coup, don’t you?”

Are police human?

I understand that edited pieces, such as special issues of journals, by their very nature can’t be exhaustive in their scope.  However, Daedalus‘s special issue “on being human,” an off-shoot of the National Humanities Center’s project of the same name, offers nothing coming close to a discussion of anthropoliteia, let alone any full-on consideration of police.

There would seem some work for us to do here: to include discussion of policing into STS-dominated discussions of “the human”.  How has the chasm between Aristotle (“man as that human animal with the additional capacity for politics”), or even Montesquieu, and the present moment opened up so wide as to make discussions of the human without politics seem plausible?

Foucault Lectures now on you iPod

Certainly one of the culprits people might point to for that transition is Michel Foucault and his discussion of biopower (“For millennia, man remained what he was for Aristotle: a living animal with the additional capacity for political existence; modern man is an animal whose politics places his existence as a living being in question”).

I don’t necessarily buy that though.  Luckily we can go to the audio to try to resolve it…  Mp3 versions of Foucault’s famous lectures, some of them in English, have been made available via UC Berkeley’s Media Resources Center.  These include such anthropolitiea-related classics as “Sécurité, territoire, population” and “Il faut défendre la société”.

Citations Mentioned

Rose, H., & Rose, S. (2009). The changing face of human nature Daedalus, 138 (3), 7-20 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.7
Gazzaniga, M. (2009). Humans: the party animal Daedalus, 138 (3), 21-34 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.21
Pippin, R. (2009). Natural & normative Daedalus, 138 (3), 35-43 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.35
Hacking, I. (2009). Humans, aliens & autism Daedalus, 138 (3), 44-59 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.44
Darwin, C. (2009). Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals–continued Daedalus, 138 (3), 60-67 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.60
Ritvo, H. (2009). Humans & humanists Daedalus, 138 (3), 68-78 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.68
Harpham, G. (2009). How do we know what we are? The science of language & human self-understanding Daedalus, 138 (3), 79-91 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.79
Appiah, K. (2009). Experimental moral psychology Daedalus, 138 (3), 92-102 DOI: 10.1162/daed.2009.138.3.92