In the Journals

In The Journals – February 2015

Weteye MK116 Mod O Nonpersistent GB Chemical Bomb - March 1964

Welcome back to In the Journals, a now monthly sweep of recent academic publications examining security, crime, policing and the law. As the slow winter months come to a close, we hope you can find some time before Spring to get some reading in. Here are some of the articles of interest to us, that we thought we should share with you.

The latest issue of Security Dialogue features a number of articles no doubt of interest to Anthropoliteia’s readers, including Charlotte Heath-Kelly’s article “Securing through the failure to secure? The ambiguity of resilience at the bombsite”. Resilience discourses, notes Heath-Kelly, resignify uncertainty and insecurity as the means to attain security. When security fails, this failure is resignified as productive and becomes part of the bigger picture about security learning and improvements in anticipatory capability. Therefore, in failure comes progress. This article focuses on the bombing of a packed nightclub in Bali in order to explore the ambiguity of failure in the resilience era. This leads Heath-Kelly to pose the question: If resilience policies suggest that failure and insecurity can be mediated and redeployed in the cause of success, what becomes of the visceral sites where security agents fail to prevent such a terrorist bombing? Heath-Kelly therefore argues that resilience is a chimera with regards to its supposed incorporation of insecurity.

In that same issue, the article “Constructing resilience through security and surveillance: The politics, practices and tensions of security-driven resilience” by Jon Coaffee and Pete Fussey illuminates how, since 9/11, security policy has gradually become central to a range of resilience discourses and practices. Coaffee and Fussey chart the emergence and proliferation of security-driven resilience logics, deployed at different spatial scales, which exist in tension with one another, through a detailed case study of ‘Project Champion’; an attempt in Birmingham, England, to install approximately 200 high-resolution surveillance cameras around neighborhoods with a prominent Muslim population. Here, these practices of security-driven resilience came into conflict with other policy priorities focused on social cohesion. This leads them to argue that security-driven logics of resilience come into conflict with how resilience is operationalized. This in turn produces and reproduces new hierarchical arrangements which may work to subvert resilience logic itself.

Going a little ways back, the October 2013 issue of Transforming Anthropology has an article by Jack Taylor entitled “‘We Are All Oscar Grant’: Police Brutality, Death, and the Work of Mourning”; an article we have also shared on our Twitter feed. The article suggests that the images and memorials that emerged following the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III by BART Police office Johannes Mehserle haunt the public and cultural landscape. Taylor argues that what he calls “necropolitical aesthetic” is connected to “necropolitics” – it is a byproduct of State violence that seeks to write back against the State. This allows for an understanding of how a notion of power is disclosed through death images, and how those images function as works of mourning. Death produced by the State, however, works to generate an economy of its own that is constituted by aesthetic productions, rhetorics of mourning, and the like. An analysis of the production of death therefore allows for the disclosure of the underside of biopolitics and biopower, the dominant form of modern political power, and the aesthetic productions that emerge as a result.

The most recent issue of Policing & Society includes an article by Sara Uhnoo entitled “Within the ‘Tin Bubble’: the police and ethnic minorities in Sweden”. In the article, Uhnoo begins by asking the question: “How can discriminatory treatment along perceived ethnic lines become reproduced within a discursive climate that claims to support diversity and condemn racism?” Through an analysis of interviews with 21 current and former employees of the Swedish Police who identified their background as ‘foreign’, Uhnoo identifies how certain language use can produced and reproduced regardless of the internal and external criticism directed at them. In the article, the interviewees attempt to make sense of and legitimise the derogatory language and joking they encounter at work. This sheds light on how the use of derogatory language, slurs, and degrading humour about ethnic minorities can remain commonplace in a police force despite being considered problematic. In addition, Uhnoo’s analysis shows just to what extent the actions that take place within the police’s own ‘Tin Bubble’, or in the police car, canteen, and lunchroom has the potential to carry over into the police interactions with the public, which in turn adversely affects the workplace satisfaction of those same police employees coming from minority backgrounds.

In the November issue of Social Anthropology, Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria and Ursula Rao’s featured article “Talking back to the state: citizens’ engagement after neoliberal reform in India” proposes a different approach to the study of neoliberalism by focusing specifically on the way citizens engage with neoliberal reform. Despite a burgeoning body of literature on the expansion of civil society, new entrepreneurship and novel governmentalities, Anjaria and Rao note that not enough is known about the way the state is restructured by the social processes that follow on neoliberal reform. This leads them to ask the question: How does the to-and-fro between policy makers, state agents and citizens shape emerging projects and what consequences do citizens’ actions have for state structure? This article uses two different case studies from India: a local governance reform and a new health insurance. Tackling issues of urban governance, health security, and social practice, Anjaria and Rao argue that neoliberalism does not represent a discrete set of state practices or ideologies but a set of ideals operating in a political field that is far in excess of it and creates new contestations about how to structure and improve the relations among the state, markets and citizens.

The February issue of Sociology features an article by Godfrey Maringira entitled “Militarised Minds: The Lives of Ex-combatants in South Africa”. Maringira argues that the demilitarisation of the minds of ex-combatants in a post-conflict society that remains highly unequal and militarised is a complex matter pertaining to identity. Maringira collected sixteen life histories from eleven Azanian People’s Liberation Army ex-combatants and five Zimbabwean army deserters. Through their practices, ideas, and conceptions, the military identity of these sixteen ex-combatants remains a source of status and recognition in their everyday lives, either as ‘defenders of the community’ or for individual gain. Positioning himself against those who argue that no such thing as a military identity exists, and that ex-combatants can be easily integrated back into civilian life, Maringira examines just to what extent these sixteen individuals remained attached to such an identity.

Last but not least, we’ve got a large number of noteworthy book reviews released in the last month or so. The December 2014 issue of the Law & Society Review has a critical assessment by Daniel LaChance of Austin Sarat’s Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty which is sure to become a critical resource for scholars wishing to pursue the theoretical and ethical implications of botched executions; and the Criminal Justice Review has a critical review by Ashley Kilmer of Hans Toch’s Organizational Change Through Individual Empowerment: Applying Social Psychology in Prisons and Policing. Although primarily first-hand accounts of the experience of a social experience in correctional facilities, the book may provide insight into the relations of both humans and humans and humans and space with regards to policing and incarceration.

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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