In the Journals

In the Journals – January 2015

Welcome back to In the Journals, a sweep of recent publications examining security, crime, policing and the law. After a short break we hope you are ready to usher in the new year with just some of the many articles and journal issues released in recent months.

The December issue of Critique of Anthropology features an article by Charles Springwood on ‘Gun Concealment, Display, and Other Magical Habits of the Body’. Here Springwood argues that armed Americans and their weapons are central agents in a network of objects and affects. Guns may not only assert agency on people but, also, firearm–human relations – emergent within the contested legal boundaries that discipline their bodily concealment and revelation – are best seen as an enchanted assemblage of performance, control, omnipotence, pleasure, and fear.

The latest issue of American Anthropologist includes a number of articles of interest to anthropoliteia’s readers, including Kristen Drybread’s ‘Murder and the Making of Man-Subjects in a Brazilian Juvenile Prison’. Here Drybread accounts for discussions and performances of manhood in which unlike the male subjects portrayed in recent anthropological studies of masculinity, these youths did not understand their manhood to be primarily configured in opposition to femininity. Drybread argues that the murders and violent attacks that occurred in the juvenile detention center can be better understood as performative acts through which inmates sought to shore up and affirm their autonomy, accomplishments, and manhood in the face of juvenile justice laws and policies that refused to recognize them as anything but children.

In the same issue is the article by Kristin Doughty entitled ‘“Our Goal is Not to Punish but to Reconcile”: Mediation in Postgenocide Rwanda’. Doughty explores what is at stake in embedding mediation efforts in legal forums backed by force across a wide range of disputes in postgenocide Rwanda as well as what is at stake in participants’ contestation over the terms of unity. Building on Laura Nader’s research to analyze the emphasis on harmony in these forums, Doughty illustrates how mediation served as a technique of governance intended to reshape postgenocide Rwanda into a particular kind of community and how exhortations to unity were linked to broader forms of cultural control. What emerges is not the creation of idealistic state versions of national belonging, nor simply coercive silencing, but, rather, a space in which people contest the terms of community and shape new moral orders.

American Anthropologist has also released online in advance Máximo Badaró’s ‘“One of the Guys”: Military Women, Paradoxical Individuality, and the Transformations of the Argentine Army’. Badaró examines institutional life in the Argentine Army today from the perspective of female soldiers, with particular emphasis on the opportunities for agency available to these women in the army and the possibilities of institutional change they unintentionally produce. Through their practices, ideas, and conceptions of military activity, female soldiers pave the way for discussing a key dimension in the redefining of the relations among the armed forces, the state, and society at large in present-day Argentina: soldiers as citizens. In this way, the experiences of women in the Argentine Army mirror internal changes within the military institution, where they also chart the scope, ambiguity, and contradictions present in the ongoing democratization of Argentine society

Speaking of early views, the journal Area has also published in advance an article by Roza Tchoukaleyska entitled ‘Illicit Mint and Unregulated Vendors: Constructing Illegality in French Public Spaces’. Focusing on street-side vending of fresh mint and herbs in the French city of Montpellier, the author considers the difference between illegal and informal vending, and the regulatory mechanisms deployed by municipal and police actors in the push to eradicate illegality. Thoukaleyska examines the relationship between regularised market stall holders and those selling goods outside assigned vending spaces, with a particular interest in how these two groups interact, and the instances in which police and market officials are called.

In the October issue of the Law and Society Review, Rachel Wahl’s article ‘Justice, Context, and Violence: Law Enforcement Officers on Why They Torture’ conveys findings from 12 months of fieldwork with police in India which complicate previous researchers’ claims that violence workers tend to morally disengage and blame circumstances for their actions. The officers in this study engage in moral reflection on torture, drawing on their beliefs about human nature and justice to explain their support for it. They admit that they use torture more widely than their own conceptions of justice allow, but see this as an imperfect implementation of their principles rather than as a violation of them.

Critical Sociology has also released online Markus Kienscherf’s ‘Beyond Militarization and Repression: Liberal Social Control as Pacification’, which argues that the concepts of repression and militarization are inadequate tools for a radical critique of the targeted and selective application of coercion and consent in efforts to (re)produce a liberal capitalist order. Kienscherf argues that liberal social control is best understood as uneven processes of pacification targeting specific individuals, groups and populations through a combination of coercion and consent. Through this study he contends that the apparently technical distinctions that allow for the targeted application of coercion and/or consent frequently reflect and reinforce existing societal divisions along the lines of race, class and gender.

Once again, the latest Punishment and Society represents a collection of critical and engaged scholarship on issues of law and incarceration. Of particular note is Rob Canton’s ‘Crime, Punishment and the Moral Emotions: Righteous Minds and their Attitudes Towards Punishment’. Canton argues that scholarly debate has been limited by, first, an exaggerated and contrived distinction between emotion and cognition; and, second, an over-general conception of emotion which loses some critical distinctions among different types. Specifically, the emotions of punishment meet the defining criteria of moral emotions. An appreciation of the influences that shape attitudes to crime and punishment is a precondition of trying to change them.

A little further back from the December issue of the same journal is Katja Aas’ ‘Bordered Penality: Precarious Membership and Abnormal Justice’ which brings to attention, and explores, the transformations of criminal justice related to the control of unwanted mobility, looking in particular at recent Norwegian developments. It maps a gradual emergence of a differentiated, two-tier approach to criminal justice and a more exclusionary penal culture directed at non-citizens. Aas suggests that the absence of formal membership is the essential factor contributing towards shifting the nature of penal intervention from reintegration into the society towards deportation and territorial exclusion, and towards the development of a particular form of penality, termed hereby bordered penality.

In the December issue of Security Dialogue, Alexandria Innes’ article ‘Performing Security Absent the State: Encounters with a Failed Asylum Seeker in the UK’ recentres critical security studies to focus on a migrant seeking an alternative form of security after his application for asylum was denied by the state. The encounter with Qasim shows alternative means of seeking security, which illustrates agency on the part of the migrant that exists actively outside of the state. This contests the positioning of migrants as passive victims and recognizes a way of being in the world that by necessity cannot rely on a state-based identity.

In terms of research methods, Bengtsson’s ‘What are Data?: Ethnographic Experiences with Young Offenders’ in the latest Qualitative Research offers an interesting account of a recent field study in a secure care institution for young offenders, and an initial apparent failure to obtain data based on pre-established ideals of what ethnographic data are. Despite much recent constructionist ethnographic literature explicitly dealing with the role of the researcher in data collection, little focus is given to how data are constructed in the research process. Bengtsson’s shift of focus to field interaction and relational experiences rather than the actual written documentation created an understanding of data as situational and relationally constructed. While this new understanding of what data are made possible analyses uncovering why certain meaning structures appear, it also revealed non-verbal experiences as valuable data.

The January issue of Policing and Society includes an article by P.A.J. Waddington, Kate Williams, Martin Wright and Tim Newburn entitled ‘Dissension in Public Evaluations of the Police’. The authors examine the perceptions and interpretations of police actions by 34 diverse focus groups in the ‘Black Country’ region of the West Midlands using a real-life videoed encounter between police officers and a suspected car thief. Various participants drew attention to the same occurrences within the video clip to justify entirely contradictory evaluations. This demonstrates the problematic relationship between action, perception and approval. It poses an enormous practical problem for police officers in winning the trust and confidence of the public whom they encounter in the course of their duties, for there is no simple recipe for winning legitimacy.

Finally, and as always, there are a large number of noteworthy book reviews released in recent months. The International Criminal Justice Review includes Christopher Birkbeck’s assessment of Daniel Goldstein’s Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a Bolivian City; Reuben May takes on Alice Goffmann’s On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City in the December issue of City and Community; and Contemporary Sociology includes a review by Robert Durán of Jamie Fader’s Falling Back: Incarceration and Transitions to Adulthood among Urban Youth.

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 anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “In the Journals” in the subject header.
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