In the Journals

In the Journals, Winter 2014


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.

The latest issue of the journal Criminology and Criminal Justice includes a section on “Emerging Issues of Crime and Justice in Africa”, with a few articles of particular interest. Alice Hills’ “Partnership Policing: Is it Relevant in Kano, Nigeria?” explores the ways in which African approaches to policing challenge Western preferences for transparent and equitable forms of partnership-based policing. Hills argues that while the need to negotiate with Kano’s semi-state and informal policing providers has not reconfigured the Nigerian police’s authority practices, the city’s relative stability owes much to the political and technical skills with which senior officers manage Kano’s competitive environment.

In the same issue, Andrew Jefferson’s “Conceptualizing confinement: Prisons and poverty in Sierra Leonedevelops an expansive notion of confinement as a lens through which to think about the lives of former prisoners, former fighters and slum dwellers in a post-conflict setting characterized by political volatility, exorbitant poverty and limited opportunities. The argument is that an expansive notion of confinement that attends to space, time, practices, meanings and states of mind is a useful way of thinking about the situated struggles of people living in prison and relative poverty.

Punishment and Society has published a special issue on “Borders, Gender and Punishment”, bringing in a gendered analysis to various perspectives on borders, security and the law. In this issue, Emma Kaufmann writes on “Gender at the Border: Nationalism and the New Logic of Punishmentin which she examines the relationship between three aspects of identity – gender, sexuality, and nationality – in one space of punishment, the British prison. Drawing on interviews with foreign national prisoners in five men’s prisons, she argues that sexism and homophobia work as resources for prisoners who seek to establish themselves as members of the British polity. In the contemporary prison, asserting gender conformity is one way to lay claim to a British national identity.

Also in Punishment and Society, Sharon Pickering’s “Floating Carceral Spaces: Border Enforcement and Gender on the High Seasconsiders the very human(e) interactions that occur in an increasingly depersonalized, technologically remote-driven space: the border. In an effort to ground recent theoretical excursions empirically into the geographical margins of the state, this article examines the narratives of Australian customs agents who undertake maritime border enforcement and are charged with the custody of asylum seekers.

In a similar vein, Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology also has a new special issue on incarceration, “Prison Climates in the Global South”, with a number of critical perspectives on imprisonment globally. Sacha Darke’s “Managing Without Guards in a Brazilian Lockupexplores the roles played by inmates in running one such penal institution, a men’s police lockup in Rio de Janeiro. The lockup appeared to be operating under a relatively stable, if de facto and provisional order, premised in common needs and shared beliefs, and maintained by a hierarchy of prisoner as well as officer authority.

In another article of the same journal, Thomas Max Martin’s “Reasonable Caning and the Embrace of Human Rights in Ugandan Prisonsexamines how Ugandan prison staff both criticize and welcome human rights as a reform agenda that brings about insecurity as well as tangible improvements. The embrace of human rights that unfolds in Ugandan prisons is rather a productive and multifaceted effort by prison officers to get purchase on legal technologies and reconceptualizations of prison management practices that affect their lives.

Finally, Chris Garces article “Ecuador’s “black site”: On prison securitization and its zones of legal silence” examines the development of the first “supermax” prison in Ecuador, suggesting that administrative curtailment of access to these so-called “worst of the worst” prisoners merits legal comparisons with the juridical status of detainees in US “black site” facilities, in terms of prisoner rights.  Such silences, he argues, demand an ethnographic focus on daily conditions of prison life using inconsistencies in administrative rhetoric.  Garces also has an article in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, which has released an issue on “The Global Checkpoint”, examining the checkpoint across different contexts as a barrier, infrastructure and metaphor.  Garces’  “Abstracting the Checkpoint: American Fantasy-lives and Security Nightmares” analyzes how checkpoint technologies require the physical, optical or digital stripping of human bodies – a gatekeeping procedure of sovereign command, intrinsic to the satisfaction of security officials’ professional duties, in which denuding surveillance is rhetorically denied any sexual content. Garces opens up critical discussion about the fantasy worlds of security sexualization as such, pointing attention to necessary filmic “abstractions” of the security state’s imposing homosociality, and the way in which checkpoint surveillance resists being represented at all.

The most recent Theoretical Criminology issue has a number of noteworthy articles ranging from the subjective and spatial experiences of courts and prisons to the position of qualitative research generally in the discipline of criminology. In this issue Dawn Moore and Hideyuki Hirai write on “Outcasts, Performers and True Believers: Responsibilized Subjects of Criminal Justicedrawing on a field study of three drug treatment courts to show that responsibilization strategies create a paradox of bulimic exclusion and empowerment for individual subjects. By theorizing three different subjectivities emerging from our research sites (outcasts, performers and true believers), we show how subjects of intervention actively work to negotiate their own experiences of responsibilization.

In the same issue, Ben Crew, Jason Warr, Peter Bennet and Alan Smith discuss “The Emotional Geography of Prison Lifearguing that these ‘emotion zones’ of prison worlds, which cannot be characterized either as ‘frontstage’ or ‘backstage’ domains, enable the display of a wider range of feelings than elsewhere in the prison. Their existence represents a challenge to depictions of prisons as environments that are unwaveringly sterile, unfailingly aggressive or emotionally undifferentiated.

Also in the journal, Scott Jacque’s “The Quantitative-Qualitative Divide in Criminology: A Theory of Ideas’ Importance, Attractiveness, and Publicationexamines why qualitative research is published in criminology journals at a frequency far smaller than that of quantitative research. Compared to quantitative research-based ideas, qualitative ones are evaluated as less important—and therefore published less often in journals—because they place the subject closer in cultural distance to the source and audience, though for that same reason they are also evaluated as being more attractive. Implications for criminology are discussed.

The latest Current Anthropology includes a piece on the moral economy of violence, crime and security in Philadelphia. George Karandinos, Laurie Kain Hart, Fernando Montero Castrillo and Phillipe Bourgois’ “The Moral Economy of Violence in the US Inner Cityexamines the high levels of US inner-city violence as operating within a moral logic framed by economic scarcity and hostile state relations. A hierarchical, extractive drug economy fills the void left by deindustrialization, although the mobilization of violence organizing this economy also follows ethical norms and obligations that are recognized as legitimate by many local residents.

In the February edition of American Ethnologist, Beatrice Jauregui’s “Provisional Agency in India: Jugaad and Legitimation of Corruption” shows how the contronymic character of jugaad as a particular euphemism for corruption in India emerges from widespread valuation of “provisional agency,” which is both a capability to provide a social good and a temporary means of mobility geared toward a better future. Understanding practices that may be deemed “corrupt” as embodiments of provisional agency breaks down a clear distinction between virtue and vice and works to disaggregate a rigid inverse relationship between morality and power.

Finally, the latest issue of Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews includes an review of Lori Beth Way and Ryan Patten’s “Hunting for ‘Dirtbags’: Why Cops Over-Police the Poor and Racial Minorities.”

As always, we welcome your feedback.  If you have any suggestions for journals we should be keeping tabs on for this feature, or if you want to call our attention to a specific issue or article, send an email to with the words “In the Journals” in the subject header.

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