In the Journals

In the Journals – February 2016


Operation Unified Response


Welcome back to In the Journals, a look at recent publications in the world of security, law, crime, and governance. 

The February issue of Cultural Anthropology is now out, and includes an article by Kabir Tambar entitled ‘Brotherhood in Dispossession: State Violence and the Ethics of Expectation in Turkey’. Here, Tambar examines comments delivered by a pro-Kurdish political party and a largely Kurdish mothers-of-the-disappeared group during Turkey’s Gezi Park protests of 2013. These moments of public address participated in the broader spirit of state critique on display during those demonstrations. They were noteworthy, however, for recasting the Gezi events as a late occurrence in a longer history of state violence, prefigured by a century of dispossession experienced by those who have been classed as minorities or threatened with that designation. The essay asks how these invocations of history enabled interventions into imagined futures. The commentaries sought to delocalize the judgment vested in the category of minority, to see in that judgment an increasingly generalized economy of state violence, and to view it as prefiguring a political community to come.

In the same issue, Kristina Maria Lyons’ article ‘Decomposition as Life Politics: Soils, Selva, and Small Farmers under the Gun of the U.S.-Colombia War on Drugs’ asks – how is life in a criminalized ecology in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of south-western Colombia? In what way does antinarcotics policy that aims to eradicate la mata que mata (the plant that kills) pursue peace through poison? Since 2000, the U.S.-Colombian War on Drugs has relied on the militarized aerial fumigation of coca plants, coupled with alternative development interventions that aim to forcibly eradicate illicit livelihoods. Through ethnographic engagement with small farmers in the frontier department of Putumayo, the gateway to the country’s Amazon and a region that has been the focus of counternarcotic operations, Lyons explores the different possibilities and foreclosures for life and death that emerge in a tropical forest ecology under military duress.

February‘s Social & Legal Studies incudes an article by Peter Anton Zoettle entitled ‘The (Il)legal Indian: The Tupinambá and the Juridification of Indigenous Rights and Lives in North-Eastern Brazil’. The article traces different aspects of the present-day juridification and judicialization of indigenous lives using the example of the Tupinambá Indians of north-eastern Brazil. In the course of the still ongoing process of the demarcation of the Indigenous Territory Tupinambá de Olivença, indigenous inhabitants are facing a plethora of civil actions, and Tupinambá leaders are being persecuted and criminalized by the police and the judiciary. Zoettle suggests a view of law, law enforcement and law suits as means of social sense making, that is, a public staging, interpretation, imagining and ‘mapping’ of Brazil’s ‘indigenous question’, which has, ultimately, to be legitimized by society at large.

The latest American Ethnologist also includes a number of noteworthy articles, in particular as part of its special forum on ‘The 2015 Refugee Crisis in Europe’. Here Seth Holmes and Heide Castañeda’s ‘Representing the ‘European Refugee Crisis in Germany and Beyond: Deservingness and Difference, Life and Death’ examines how representations of refugees in media and political discourse in relation to Germany participate in a Gramscian “war of position” over symbols, policies, and, ultimately, social and material resources, with potentially fatal consequences. These representations shift blame from historical, political-economic structures to the displaced people themselves. In the same forum, Annastiina Kallius, Daniel Monterescu and Prem Kumar Rajaram in ‘Immobilizing Mobility: Border Ethnography, Illiberal Democracy, and the Politics of the “Refugee Crisis” in Hungary’ examine the dialectic between, on the one hand, depoliticizing narratives of crisis that sought to immobilize the migrants and, on the other, concrete political mobilization that sought to facilitate their mobility. While state institutions and humanitarian volunteer groups framed mobility in terms that emphasized a vertical form of politics, a horizontal counterpolitics arose by the summer’s end, one that challenged hegemonic territorial politics.

The issue also includes a fascinating work by Saiba Varma on Love in the Time of Occupation: Reveries, Longing, and Intoxication in Kashmir’. Here, Varma considers the range of biomedical and penitentiary techniques to which patients at a rehabilitation clinic in Indian-occupied Kashmir were subjected. These techniques included group therapy sessions in which substance users performed narratives of their recovery—a practice that made visible their gratitude to the police, which oversaw the clinic and which, as an arm of the Indian military, many view as an illegal occupying force. While patients publicly pledged to remain sober and technically complied with the clinic’s demands, they privately demonstrated ongoing commitments to nasha (intoxication), which places substance use, romantic love, and the search for divine unity in Sufism on the same phenomenological register.

Law & Social Inquiry has published Yukiko Koga’s article Between the Law: The Unmaking of Empire and Law’s Imperial Amnesia’ in advance. Here, Koga investigates the Asian victims of Japanese imperialism who have filed lawsuits against the Japanese government and corporations since the 1990s, which became prime sites for redress decades after Japan’s defeat in World War II. As Koga demonstrates, this process exposes a legal lacuna within this legal space, with plaintiffs effectively caught between the law, instead of standing before the law. Exploring this absence of law, Koga maps out a post-imperial legal space, created through the erasure of imperial and colonial subjects in the legal framework after empire. She demonstrate how, at the intersection of law and economy, post-imperial reckoning is emerging as a new legal frontier, putting at stake law’s imperial amnesia.

The January issue of Public Culture includes a short piece by John L. Jackson Jr entitled ‘Lights, Camera, Police Action!’, which considers racial violence, policing, and the primacy of the visual in the context of recent videotaped cases of young black men dying at the hands of police officers. Jackson argues that calls for police cameras and videos of police brutality represent a “fetishization” of the image – in their ubiquitous circulation or their purposeful suppression, in their incessant rebroadcasting or their wished-for existence when absent – that speaks to how naive we all continue to be about the empirical self-evidentiality of visual “proof.” The revolution may not be televised, but the state’s maneuvers are subject to more and more freeze-framed examination.

Finally, a look at just some many recent book reviews published, American Ethnologist includes two noteworthy additions; Olufunmilayo Arewa offers a review of Juan Obarrio’s latest ethnography, The Spirit of the Laws in Mozambique, while Lori Allen reviews Ilana Feldman’s Police Encounters: Security and Surveillance in Gaza under Egyptian Rule. In Social & Legal Studies, Chris Dietz offers an overview of Mariana Valverde’s Chronotopes of Law: Jurisdiction, Scale and Governance. The latest Punishment & Society also includes Daniel Macallair’s review of Miroslava Chávez-García’s States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California’s Juvenile Justice System.


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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