DragNet

DragNet, March 2014

♫ Duh duh duh duh ♫  The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to introduce yet another new regular feature: DragNet.  An addition to our “Round Ups” series, DragNet will offer monthly highlights of the English-language academic blogosphere for topics related to policing, security, crime and punishment around the world.  We’re thrilled to have Kristin Castner serving as the Section Editor and lead author for the feature. ♫ Duh duh duh duh DUH ♫

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In the Journals

In the Journals, Winter 2014

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Welcome to In the Journals, a (roughly) quarterly digest of the latest publications dealing critically with issues of crime, security, punishment, surveillance and law & order. 2014 has already seen a number of articles and whole issues grappling with these problems, the following is a selection for you to peruse at your reading leisure.

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Announcements, Call for papers

CFP Anthropoliteia-sponsored panel at the 2014 AAA Meetings

Long-time readers of Anthropoliteia may remember that some of the first “extra-curricular” iterations of the blog were at panels at the 2009 and 2010 Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association.  In my own humble estimation, these were extremely productive conversations, and not only because they resulted in an edited volume that was published by Palgrave Macmillan last year, of which we’re all extremely proud.

In that vein, and to broaden the conversation, we’ve decided to try sponsoring a panel on anthropoliteia-related issues this year.  If the experiment is successful, it may even become an annual thing.  Please read through the following CFP and consider offering an abstract.  Also, please pass this announcement on to anyone else that may be interested.

Call for Papers: Thinking through police, producing anthropological theory

For a session to be submitted to the 2014 Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (Washington DC, December 3–7, 2014).  Dr. Kevin Karpiak (Eastern Michigan University), organizer.

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What's going on in Ukraine?

Some thoughts on Ukraine

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Michael Bobick as part of our developing Forum What’s Going on in Ukraine?

Much of what has been fascinating in Ukraine has been how perceptions of public order have framed interpretations of this conflict. The Maidan protesters certainly wrote another chapter in the ‘how to topple a corrupt government’ handbook that is, from the Russian perspective, far more dangerous than any particular nationalist regime might be. If unrest rises in Russia and a viable protest movement emerges (think motorcycle helmets and molotovs, not signs and chants), they will look to the experience of Maidan. The escalation of the conflict was, from the Russian perspective, something that should never have had to happen. Like in Kazakhstan (google Zhanaozen ) or Uzbekistan (Andijan), autocrats tend to stomp open dissent out before it can morph into something autonomous like Maidan. These suppressions as a rule occur off the books and without further inquiry. Yet it is precisely this idea of accountability that drove Yanukovch from Ukraine (that, along with an awkward telephone call from Putin). 

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Dossiers

The Anthropology of “Robocop:” Finding New Audiences in Popular Media

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Nolan Kline

Spoiler alert! This post reveals details about the new Robocop film.

As a kid, I loved the 1987 Robocop (even though I can’t recall how my parents allowed me to see it given its R rating and violent scenes).  Having grown up in the Detroit area and as a PhD candidate with research interests that all hinge on social inequality, it isn’t hard for me to understand now what I found so fascinating as a child about a film featuring a dystopian capitalist future. When I learned about the 2014 Robocop, admittedly I was excited to see it and interested in discovering whether the new film retained some of its social commentary roots. I was surprised to notice that the new film, more than the original, cut to the core of my current research interests around policing and health. The overlap with my scholarly interests led me to consider how I and other anthropologists might use popular media as a way to discuss anthropology with non-academic audiences.

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Commentary & Forums

Some thoughts on the London “riots”: Foucault’s genealogy of neoliberalism and “police as a public service”

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…)

Even within stories framed in such a manner, however, I’ve noticed an interesting set of dissonances; some contradictions that, if properly attended to, don’t quite fit the dominant framing:

  • 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.

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Announcements, Conferences

Anthropoliteia at the American Anthropological Association Meetings (2010, NOLA version)

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

1:15pm

2:15pm

2:30pm

9:00-9:15pm

Thursday, Nov. 18th

8:00-9:45am

10:15am-12:00pm

1:45-3:30pm

4:30pm

5:05pm

Friday, Nov. 19th

8:00am

2:30-3:00pm

2:45pm

3:45pm

4:30pm

Saturday, Nov. 20th

10:15-10:30am

1:45-3:30

Sunday, Nov. 21st

8:00-9:45am

8:15am

8:30am

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Announcements, Conferences

Panels on Policing & Security at the 2009 American Anthropoligical Association Annual Meetings

I’ve compiled a list of panels and individual papers on security and policing-related issues at the upcoming AAA meetings.  You can see them below.

I’d like to give a special shout-out to the panel THE END/S OF POLICING: ETHNOGRAPHIC PERSPECTIVES ON POLICE POWER (Fri., 8:00-9:45 AM in rm 406) organized by the newest anthropolitician, William Garriott of James Madison University, also featuring myself, Michelle Stewart, Thom Chivens, Eva Harmon and Mindie Lazarus-Black of Temple University.  It should be good times.

Other than that, the following look interesting (panels are in bold):

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Announcements, Conferences

Anthropoliteia at the American Anthropological Association’s 2009 Annual Meetings, pt. 1

As we get closer to this years Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association, I’ll be calling our attention to several of the police & security-related panels and events that will be a part of the “festivities.”

As I’ve already mentioned in the latest edition of Anthropolitieia In the News, one of these events will be a roundtable discussion with several of the authors of Cultural Anthropology‘s recent “virtual issue” on security.  The roundtable, entitled “Thematizing Security,” will be held Friday December 4th at 12:15pm and will discuss the “future of critical, cultural studies of security”.  Discussion participants will include Didier Fassin, Ilana Feldman, Andrew Lakoff, and Joseph Masco

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Blotter

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.

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