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.
Images of police, punishment and crime were central to the thought of several of the key thinkers of the 20th century: the interpolative hail of the policeman for Althusser; the violence of the policeman in the shadow of Law’s excess for Benjamin; the figure of the panopticon and, later, of police as the administration of Man internal to the State for Foucault (to name just a few). Police, crime and punishment were useful to think through broader issues of subjectivity, sovereignty, and text (among other things).
Simultaneously, police and related officials have long been recurrent figures in ethnographic texts, where they often acted not as inconsequential bystanders but as a crucial analytic fulcrum for the text. For example, in Geertz’ famous essay on the Balinese cockfight it is a police raid that allows him to establish the “rapport” central to his vision of anthropology as a project of “reading over the shoulder” of non-Western others; in Tristes Tropiques Levi-Strauss uses an extended anecdote of his encounter with police to reflect on and propel his analysis of modernity; urban ethnographers from Ulf Hannerz to Phillipe Bourgois have used police as a kind of short hand for mechanisms of socio-spatial distributions of power.
However, until recently, it was extremely rare for anthropologists to focus squarely on the practitioners of crime control and punishment—police, security guards, prison employees, etc.—as their main research subjects. This panel asks: if police have been such a productive tool through which to think, how does the emergence of research projects focused squarely on such practitioners stand to change that thought? Pushing this question more broadly, how does studying such subjects “head on” reshape how we think about larger issues that concern anthropologists today? Consequently, what can studies of police, security, and penal authorities contribute to some of the central debates in anthropology today, such as: the “new materialism” and the “ontological turn”, the limits (topographical, conceptual, practical) of biopower, multispecies ethnography, structures & infrastructures, regimes of valuation and commodification, anti-secularism and the challenges to liberalism, the state and globalization, postcoloniality, epistemology and personhood, metaphysics and violence… to name just a few.
As such, our aim is to make studies of police, security, and punition more central to larger conversations in the human sciences. Abstract should be no longer than 250 words in length and should be sent to anthropoliteia [at] gmail [dot] com no later than Friday, April 11th. Feel free to send any inquiries to the above address as well.
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