In the Journals

In the Journals – November 2015


Welcome back to In the Journals, a look at recent publications in the world of security, law, crime, and governance. November has brought forth a number of engaging and provocative articles that we hope you can work your way through while recovering from your Thanksgiving gluttony.

This latest issue of Champ Pénal is out, this year with a special focus on abolitionism. Each article tackles abolitionism in different contexts and from distinct perspectives; for instance, Mechthild Nagel’s ‘Trafficking with Abolitionism: An Examination of Anti-Slavery Discourses’ analyses the ideological framework of social movements with respect to the rhetorical deployment of abolitionism. After tracing “the new abolitionism” of trafficking and prostitution back to the 19th Century Anglo American temperance movement, this paper addresses the following: How are these social movements impacted by considerations of (social) class, religious fervor, gender, sexuality, citizenship, race, and ethnicity? Who is speaking for whom and why does it matter, politically and ethically? In what ways are today’s opponents of “prostitution” reproducing yesterday’s slogans of “white slavery”? It is argued that there are some fundamental differences between contemporary anti-prison movements and the anti-sex industry movement.

By contrast, Bree Carlton and Emma Russell’s ‘A Gender for Change: Cycles of Women’s Penal Reform and Reconfigurations of Anti-Prison Resistance in Victoria, Australia’ presents an exploratory analysis of the interface between penal reform programs and localized abolitionist and anti-discrimination campaigns focused on women’s imprisonment. Through a genealogical approach, the authors document mutual engagements (and disengagements) arising between state agents and anti-prison activists. They provide an abolitionist critique of penal reform as it interacts with anti-prison activism. This indicates that state attempts to suppress protest and divert system change can actually produce new forms of resistance. Unique histories of abolition politics and penal reform in Victoria reflect a dynamic relationship dependent on a series of shifting political, social, and historical forces.

The November issue of the Political and Legal Anthropology Review also contains a Symposium on Punishment and the State. The symposium contains a number of noteworthy articles, including Margaret E. Doresey and Miguel Días-Barriga’s ‘The Constitution Free Zone in the United States: Law and Live in a State of Carcelment’. This article demonstrates that border residents live in a state of legal exception, in which the modalities characteristic of mass incarceration are extended from prison, where search and seizure is always classified as “reasonable,” into everyday life. The authors introduce the concept “state of carcelment” to describe how these modalities operate on the ground, through mass incarceration and internal checkpoints, to inter, so to speak, an entire region. With the potential diffusion of this “state of carcelment” beyond the border region, anthropologists are poised to critically engage its legal and cultural normalization.

December’s Punishment & Society issue has also been published, and includes an article by Zelia Gallo entitled ‘Punishment, Authority and Political Economy: Italian Challenges of Western Punitiveness’. The argues that Italian penality cannot be understood in terms of unequivocal ‘punitiveness’ or unequivocal ‘moderation’. Italian trends betray a co-existence and alternation of repression and leniency, whose incidence Gallo traces in penal reform and legislation. Gallo argues that Italy is a contested state, whose penal law can be sidelined by the informal norms with which it co-exists. The article argues that political dynamics should likewise be reconsidered by, and integrated into, existing analyses of western punishment.

In the November issue of Theoretical Criminology Anastasia Powell’s article ‘Seeking Rape Justice: Formal and Informal Responses to Sexual Violence through Technosocial Counter-publics’ argues that communications technologies are being used in varying ways to perpetrate and extend the harm of sexual violence and harassment against women and girls. Yet little scholarship has explored the uses of communications technologies, to support reporting, investigation and prosecution of sexual assault, nor indeed less formal mechanisms of justice. In this article, Powell contends that communications technologies are not simply new tools for conventional formal justice, but rather that these technologies are mediating new mechanisms of informal justice outside of the state, in turn challenging meanings of justice in western liberal democracies. In so doing the author employ concepts of technosocial practices operating in counter-public online spaces, to explore the potential (and limits) of communications technologies as mediators of rape justice.

American Anthropologist has also published online two articles of note ahead of their print publication. First, John Borneman and Joseph Masco’s ‘Anthropology and the Security State’ explores the parallels between anthropological fieldwork and espionage.As both groups of experts—anthropologists and agents of state security––negotiate the empirical and ethical boundaries between what is to be revealed and what should remain secret, their projects of observation rival each other, with different effects on the observer and the observed. Taking the example of anthropologist Katherine Verdery and her case files developed over her fieldwork in Ceausescu’s Romania, they argue that anthropologists are often on the front line of new global tensions. Anthropologists are therefore positioned as potential demystifiers of the individual lives of our interlocutors and as objects and observers of several state security apparatus.

Second, Anthropoliteia’s own Paul Mutsaers, Jennie Simpson, and Kevin Karpiak’s ‘The Anthropology of Police as Public Anthropology’ considers the emergence of a body of scholarship that might properly be called an “anthropology of policing” (including within this very blog) at the same time as a series of widely mediatized events have brought the issue of police violence to the forefront of U.S. public conversation. This forum, together with the cumulative élan of the events described above, have provided the opportunity to place discussions of policing squarely within what has become more generally known as “public anthropology.” The authors therefore see the possibility to align a nascent body of anthropological work on policing with parallel calls for it to engage public concerns. In this piece, they first reflect on the anthropology of police as a newly emergent subfield and then present their own recent work in a way that situates an anthropology of police in the context of public anthropology.

Current Anthropology has also published in advance an article by Cristiana Giordano entitled ‘Lying the Truth: Practices of Confession and Recognition’. Giordano describes Italy’s 1998 Immigration Law 40, particularly Article 18, which allows foreign “victims of human trafficking” the right to temporary residence permits on the condition that they participate in a rehabilitation program. The first step of this program is to file criminal charges against exploiters at the police station. In this article, the author shows how, confessional practices continue to play a central role in deciding who is admitted legally. She illustrates how the question of redemption and expiation is not only a crucial issue for Catholic groups involved in aid programs for foreigners but is also central to Italian state integration policies, thus revealing how juridical norms are deeply influenced by the vocabulary of religious morality and vice versa.

It’s also the time of year for a fresh round Annual Reviews issues, including the latest in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science. Within the many interesting review articles found within, Sida Liu and Zhizhou Wang’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Law and Social Science in China’ traces the three waves of law and social science studies in contemporary China and examines the current status of this rapidly differentiating interdisciplinary field. Whereas the first two waves of studies subsided without generating a nationwide law and society movement, the most recent wave is rapidly changing the landscape of Chinese legal scholarship through empirical research. Four emerging subareas of Chinese sociolegal studies are reviewed in detail: (a) law in rural society, (b) the legal profession, (c) courts and dispute resolution, and (d) criminal justice.

As always, recent months have seen a number of important book reviews, of which we can only offer a small sample here. First, Theoretical Criminology has published Rose Broad’s review of Gavin Slade’s Reorganizing Crime: Mafia and Anti-Mafia in Post-Soviet Georgia. Political and Legal Anthropology Review as always has a number of reviews, such as Rachel Hieman’s review of Julian Brash’s Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City. Finally, the Journal of Law and Society has published a review of Mariana Valverde’s Chronotopes of Law: Jurisdiction, Scale and Governance by Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s