In the Journals

In the Journals – August 2015


Welcome back to In the Journals, a round-up of recent journal publications on security, crime, law enforcement and the state. After a brief hiatus over the summer, we’re happy to be back with a batch of the most recent articles and reviews for our dear readers.

The latest Security Dialogue is now out, a special issue on ‘Questioning Security Devices: Performativity, Resistance, Politics’. It includes a number of articles of interest for anthropoliteia’s readers, including Mike Bourne, Heather Johnson, and Debbie Lisle’s ‘Laboratizing the Border: The Production, Translation and Anticipation of Security Technologies’. This article critically interrogates how borders are produced by scientists, engineers and security experts in advance of the deployment of technical devices they develop. Drawing on in-depth interviews, observations, and ethnographic research of the EU-funded Handhold project, the authors explore how assumptions about the way security technologies will and should perform at the border shape the development of a portable, integrated device to detect chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) threats at borders.

The same issue contains an article on ‘The Cartographic Ambiguities of HarassMap: Crowdmapping Security and Sexual Violence in Egypt’ by Nicole Sunday Grove. HarassMap was launched as a Cairo-based interactive online mapping interface for reporting and mapping incidents of sexual harassment anonymously and in real time, in Egypt. The project’s use of spatial information technologies for crowdmapping sexual harassment raises important questions about the use of crowdsourced mapping as a technique of global human security governance, as well as the techno-politics of interpreting and representing spaces of gendered security and insecurity in Egypt’s urban streetscape. The author asks to what extent efforts to ‘empower’ women can be pursued at the microlevel without amplifying the similarly imperial techniques of objectifying them as resources used to justify other forms of state violence.

The August issue of Crime, Media, Culture also features many noteworthy articles, among them James P. Walsh’s ‘Border Theatre and Security Spectacles: Surveillance, Mobility and Reality-Based Television’. As Walsh argues, long central to the exercise of sovereignty and symbolic power, border surveillance and policing are not only being amplified in the name of crime control and counter-terrorism, but exist as mass-mediated sources of fascination and entertainment. Interrogating Border Security: Australia’s Front Line as an example of the emergent genre of border-based reality television, this article examines the program’s cultural meanings and political functions. Through media spectacles that construct government authorities as heroic defenders protecting the nation from an array of external threats and fearful others, the program addresses anxieties associated with neoliberal globalization and enrolls citizens as co-producers of national security.

The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute‘s most recent issue includes an article by Carolyn Heitmeyer and Maya Unnithan entitled ‘Bodily Rights and Collective Claims: The Work of Legal Activists in Interpreting Reproductive and Maternal Rights in India’. The article engages with anthropological approaches to the study of global human rights discourses around reproductive and maternal health in India. In focusing on the work of legal activists and the discourses which inform their interventions, Heitmeyer and Unnithan seek to understand how the language of reproductive rights is used in the context of India, not as a `Western import’ which is adapted to local contexts, but rather as one of multiple frameworks of claims-making drawn upon by legal activists emerging from distinct histories of struggle for gender equality and social justice.

The latest issue of Cultural Anthropology contains a new article by Jarrett Zigon, ‘What is a Situation? An Assemblic Ethnography of the Drug War’. In this essay, Zigon offers a new conception of situation through a delineation of the situation named the drug war and the politics that have emerged out of it. Zigon shows that the concept of situation significantly adds to anthropological knowledge because it allows us to consider that which is widely diffused across different global scales as a nontotalizable assemblage, but yet in its occasional and temporary local manifestation allows us to understand how persons and objects that are geographically, socioeconomically, and culturally distributed get caught up in the shared conditions that emerge from the situation. Furthermore, this conception is offered in response to recent concerns within and beyond anthropology that new and creative attempts must be made in the analysis of and engagement with the worlds we study. Zigon argues that by being attuned to hidden potential in the worlds we research, and creatively and speculatively conceptualizing such potential, we can offer a uniquely anthropological contribution and engagement in social and political projects of becoming otherwise.

In the September issue of Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography Sallie Yea interrogate the imaginaries surrounding trafficking victimhood and the implications of classification for temporary labour migrants in Singapore into “trafficked” and “non-trafficked” categories in her article, ‘Trafficked Enough? Missing Bodies, Migrant Labour Expoitation, and the Classification of Trafficking Victims in Singapore’. Yea argues that in the Singaporean context government interest in maintaining the current labour/migration regime is equally as significant as racist and neo-colonial imaginations and intersect with the latter in productive ways to sort vulnerable migrants into categories of trafficked and non-trafficked.

Antipode has also published an early view of the article ‘Spatial Tactics in Criminal Courts and the Politics of Legal Technicalities’ by Marie-Eve Sylvestre, William Damon, Nicholas Blomley, and Céline Bellot. The article documents court-imposed bail and sentencing conditions with spatial dimensions, such as red zones, no contact conditions, curfews and prohibitions to demonstrate, issued in the context of criminal proceedings.As opposed to better publicized forms of spatial regulation such as legislation or policing strategies, these conditional orders are a distinctive form of spatial tactic that rely on ancient and routinized rules of criminal procedure and the practices of the courts. The authors argue that it is necessary to pay attention to the legal rationalities, knowledge and practices that sustain them.

Law & Social Inquiry has also provided an early view of a few articles worthy of your attention, including Maria Akchurin’s ‘Constructing the Rights of Nature: Constitutional Reform, Mobilization, and Environmental Protection in Ecuador’. Here, Akchulrn examines how Ecuador became the first country to grant legal rights to nature, in 2008. While proponents of nature’s rights acted during a key political moment, their efforts were successful due to the presence of environmentalist social movements, and due to the power of indigenous organizations and their call to recognize Ecuador as a “plurinational” polity, demanding respect for indigenous territories and ways of life and incorporating politicized versions of indigenous beliefs about the environment. The study considers the consequences of mobilization for legal innovation and institutional change, and shows the complexity of struggles over the environment in the global South.

Finally, of the many book reviews published in recent months, here are a few hand-picked examples of particular interest to anthropoliteia’s readership. First, the latest Theoretical Criminology includes a review of Jonathan Simon’s new book Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America by Marion Vannier, as well as Sara-Maria Sorentino’s review of Lisa Guenther’s Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews features Lorna Rhodes’ review of Laura Abrams and Ben Anderson-Nathe’s Compassionate Confinement: A Year in the Life of Unit C, as well as Robert Brenneman’s take on Edward Orozco Flores’ God’s Gands: Barrio Ministry, Masculinity and Gang Recovery. Along similar lines, the July issue of the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology contains a review of Kevin Lewis O’Neill’s Secure the Soul: Christian Piety and Gang Prevention in Guatemala by Chris Garces.

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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