Blotter

L’anthropoliteia In the News (12-février-2012)

That’s right, since I haven’t done one of these in a while, since my stock of saved links has become overwhelming and since a string of news events this week has got my mojo running, I’ve decided to do a Franco-centric version of Anthropoliteia In the News… so here goes:

Pyjama-Gate

A teenage girl was held in police custody for anywhere, from 7 and a half to 11 hours, after being involved in a fight outside her school in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.  Police took her from her home without letting her change out of her pajamas, leading to the media explosion of what I’m calling “pyjama-gate”.

[rant button on]

As could probably be expected from these sort of media affairs, there has been a proliferation of punditry and position taking only tenusously connecting to reality or real political seriousness.  It looks like if there’s any real movement that results from this, it will involve re-examining the use of “garde a vue” detention practices by police officers.

On the other hand,  the obsessive repetition of the detail of the girl’s pajamas in the story seems completely non-random in a country that is going through a parallel obsession over of the burka/veil/hijab/head scarf/any-“ostentatious”-religious-sign.  If I were to try to bring the quickly accumulating scholarship on the veil controversy to bear on this issue, I would say that this is the flip side, or at least another angle on, the contradictions of French republican democracy as played out upon female bodies.

… so color me Joan W. Scott, with an important addendum: in the framing of the voice *against* state intervention, the state is imagined as police.  In the framing *for* state intervention, state as “protector of women” and “guarantor of secular equality” there are many governmental institutions imagined and invoked (school, post-office, bus drivers, banks) but almost never the police.  There’s an important point to be explored there…

[rant button off]

Survey on ethnic and racial composition of French police

As I’ve discussed over at my personal blog, a survey was published suggesting that almost 10% of French police are “issued from immigration” (itself a tricky term in need of significant unpacking). This was big news because, on the one hand, these kind state-run surveys of race & ethnicity are extremely rare and politically contentious in France; and, on the other, not many people thought the numbers would be even that high.

“Welcome to Le Jungle (again), now leave (again)”

First there was the Red Cross center at Sangatte, which housed immigrants looking to make their way from France to the UK.  Then, in 2002 this center was closed down, causing the quasi-organic  growth of a much-criticized quasi-detention center/refugee camp known as “Le Jungle”.  Then,  last September, this was also closed down and bulldozed over.  From this rubble, an organization known as No Border took over a wharehouse where it housed about 100 refugees from Afghanistan.  That is, until now.  The BBC reports that French police created a security perimeter and eventually moved in to expel the remaining activists and refugees.

The spokesman for Sarkozy’s UMP party defended the move by denouncing “the manipulation of migrants by anti-globalization associations…. [who] feed on human misery in order to defend their extreme ideology,” echoing vice-president of the Front nationale Marie Le Pen’s criticism of No Border as “facilitating illegal immigration through illegal and violent actions”.  For his part, former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius suggested that while France couldn’t naturalize everyone, those who couldn’t be accepted should be treated in a “more European” manner.

Quick Hits

  • TF1 News reports that, in the 2010 report of the Cour de Comptes, a sort of  budgetary and auditing office of the French government, the Police Nationale are criticized for its extravagant use of funds, especially around the use of unmarked police vehicles.  In addition to the sheer increase in number of the vehicles (1,469 in September 2008 versus 1,218 in January 2003), the court alleges that these vehicles are often “luxurious” and “over-equipped… to an unjustifiable degree” while at the same time they’re driven overly recklessly (each vehicle being involved in an accident on average every 15 months) and being requisitioned for the personal use not only of police officers, but former Presidents and Prime Ministers (read between the political lines here) as well.
  • On the other hand, the municipal police in Toulouse have been trying out the use of Segway vehicles, or “gyropodes” as they’re called in French.  This gave  Ladepeche.fr the opportunity to publish some killer stats, which include:
    • the total costs of these vehicles amounts to about 5 euros a day, calculating the electricity cost at about 2.50 euros per 1000 kilometers
    • policemen using the vehicle cover 9x the area, deploy 4x faster and have 15x the contact with the population (don’t ask me how the calculate that last one, especially because whatever that contact means it includes interacting with someone standing 20cm about the ground)
  • Even though they don’t directly refer to this specific 20cm, in an interview with Le Monde criminologists Sebastian Roché and Jacques de Maillard (who make frequent appearances in my own dissertation, both as solo acts and as a tag team) decry the increasing distance in France between police and the people they’re supposed to be policing.  The idea behind the police de proximité was not only a move towards preventative policing, but towards a less centralized and hierarchical structure within the police itself.
  • Finally, Claude Bartolone, deputy of the Socialist Party (PS), accused Minister of the Interior Brice Hortefeux of trying to create a  “police without policemen” through his use of video surveillance… Which,  those of us who have read too much Foucault, would say is of course kind of exactly the point

As always, if you have any news you’d like added, let me know in the comments section or contact me

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