In the Journals

In the Journals – December 2015

Entrance of the Cellblock Building - Royal Island, French Guiana

As both the holidays, and the year, draw to a close, we here at In the Journals wish all our readers the best in their endeavors in the coming year. That being said, the month of December has gifted us all with a number of articles perfect for continuing a generative dialogue regarding security, law, crime, and governance.

The upcoming February issue of Crime & Deliquency features an article by Adam Boessen and Elizabeth Cauffman entitled ‘Moving From the Neighborhood to the Cellblock: The Impact of Youth’s Neighborhoods on Prison Misconduct’. The article examines how prior neighborhood characteristics affect youth’s offending when youths move into an incarceration context. Through a sample of 373 recently incarcerated young males in Southern California, the authors explicate that while neighborhood ethnic heterogeneity, residential stability, and disadvantage are often predictive of neighborhood crime, it is often unclear how these neighborhood constructs continue to affect the behavior of given young offenders inside a secure facility. Although disadvantage did not relate to institutional offending, results indicate that youths from racially/ethnically homogenous communities are more likely to offend during the initial weeks of incarceration, whereas youths from residentially stable communities are more likely to offend in the latter weeks.

Another article of note from the same issue is Mindy S. Bradley and Rodney L. Engen’s ‘Leaving Prison: A Multilevel Investigation of Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disproportionality in Correctional Release’. The authors address a gap in the literature regarding correctional release, noting that although the vast majority of people sent to prisons will eventually be released, we know relatively little about factors affecting the aforementioned correctional release. The article considers the roles of race, ethnicity, and gender in correctional release by incorporating state-level predictors, including violent crime rates and sentencing policies. The authors examine variation in length of time served and the proportion of sentence incarcerated across demographics to determine the extent to which differences in time and proportion of sentence served is attributable to demographic and offending differences, as well as difference in sentencing and conditional release. According to the authors, identifying race, ethnic, and gender disparities subsequent to court-ordered sentencing decisions has important implications for the understanding of justice and the salience of legal and extralegal factors across multiple phases of punishment.

Drawing on the literature of prison effects, Esther F. J. C. van Ginneken addresses the focus on negative outcomes often presented in the aforementioned literature. Her article, ‘Making Sense of Imprisonment: Narratives of Posttraumatic Growth Among Female Prisoners’, from the most recent issue of The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, explores the theme of posttraumatic growth by acknowledging individual difference in the narratives of female, first-time prisoners during their imprisonment. The author notes that when researchers examine the impact of prison on people as a group, as they often do in quantitative studies, the differential effects tend to go unnoticed. To counter this, the author argues that the initial shock of incarceration challenged these prisoners’ assumptive worlds, but they managed to overcome this crisis by finding meaning in the prison experience and using it as an opportunity for personal development. The author addresses that there is a danger that even a cautious suggestion of imprisonment as a positive experience for some people in some circumstances will be taken as an argument in favour of incarceration, and that this would be unwarranted and undesirable, given the well-documented harmful effects of separation, isolation, and institutionalisation. By bringing attention to the possibility of posttraumatic growth during imprisonment, this study aims not to promote imprisonment, but to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of adaptation to imprisonment.

Shared online first, the upcoming issue of Antipode includes an article by Mat Coleman and Angela Stuesse ‘The Disappearing State and the Quasi-Event of Immigration Control’. The authors posit that immigration enforcement by sheriffs and police can be characterized as a proliferation of quasi-events which never quite rise to the status of an event. This, Coleman and Stuesse note, poses distinct challenges for feminist-inspired scholarship on the state which seeks to document, ethnographically, how the state goes about its business on the ground. Drawing from their fieldwork experience in North Carolina and Georgia on sheriffs’ and police departments’ use of traffic enforcement and policing roadblocks to scrutinize drivers for their legal status, the authors ask how an ethnographic approach to the problem of state power inevitably stumbles in relation to the ordinariness of these practices. They conclude that feminist scholarship committed to an ethnography of the state could do much more to think through the potentially aporetic quality of that which is our common object of research—the state in practice.

The current issue of the European Journal of Social Theory features Samta P Pandya’s article ‘Governmentality and guru-led movements in India: Some arguments from the field’. In her article, Pandya discusses and develops the governmentality argument with respect to guru-led movements in India by arguing that governmentality, as a concept, moves beyond only the practices of the state and its nuances in a neoliberal frame of reference. Pandya discusses the governmentality of guru-led movements through the political acts and powers of the gurus themselves, the supplementary and complementary efforts to aid the state by the guru-led movements, instances of resistance and taking on the state, and the flipside of governmentality, which manifests as hegemony, Hindutva politics and Hindu nationalism. Through the governmentality argument, Pandya identifies the emerging aspects of surveillance, discipline, control, interactivity and competition in guru-led movements. The article further discusses a post-disciplinary model of governance which devolves power downwards from crumbling state institutions to new agencies of control, in this case, the gurus and their institutions. This devolution, however, is not without its tensions and the article also argues that guru governmentality betrays traces of hybridity and non-linearity.

Although we here at In the Journals try not to repeat the incorporation of journals on a month-to-month basis, Current Anthropology has once again shared an article ahead of print by Sarah Nuttall and Achille Mbembe entitled ‘Secrecy’s Softwares’ that we felt we needed to include. In their article, Nuttall and Mbembe reflect on the many deaths as well as the new lives of secrecy in our political and cultural age. Through five rubrics (statehood, security, finance, urbanity, and selfhood), Nuttall and Mbembe consider the complicated and constantly shifting scales of relation between secrecy, transparency, conspiracy, and intimacy. Together, they explore the paradox of publics and states asking for both transparency and security in an age of heightened suspicion. Moreover, financial processes, often referred to as “offshoring,” give new forms and content to particular sets of secret relations. Secrets, it seems, have become more open and more motile than we have understood them to be. Nuttall and Mbembe briefly consider, in the fourth part of this paper, how aspects of the offshore play out in relation to urban landscapes, drawing on examples from Johannesburg. Finally, they consider the shifting vocabularies of intimacy in relation to the death of the secret as we know it. New struggles over the means and meanings of secrecy and transparency as the lines between these terms shift in substantial ways are the central subject of this essay.

To finish off the year, here is a small sample of important book reviews we thought would be of interest to our readership. First, the upcoming February issue of Law, Culture and the Humanities has published Philipp Kender’s review of Austin Sarat’s A World Without Privacy. What Law Can and Should Do?. The International Criminal Justice Review, among the many stellar reviews included in the current issue, has shared Jeremy Pennington’s review of S.A. Green’s Moscow in movement: Power and opposition in Putin’s Russia. Finally, Urban Studies has published a review of Matt Bowden’s Crime, Disorder and Symbolic Violence: Governing the Urban Periphery by Peter Squires.

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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