In the Journals

In the Journals – January 2017

Surveillance Camera

Welcome back to In the Journals, a monthly review of just a fraction of the most recent academic research on security, crime, policing, and the law. I do apologize for the delay in getting our monthly review to you, therefore, this edition will cover both December 2016 and January 2017. The holidays have come and gone, and as we enter into a new year, we here at Anthropoliteia will continue to bring you the best and most interesting recent publications month to month.

Published online ahead of the upcoming issue of Criminology is an article by Armando Lara-Millán, Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve entitled “Interorganizational Utility of Welfare Stigma in the Criminal Justice System”. This article examines the appropriation of “welfare stigma” or stereotypes about poor people’s overreliance and abuse of public aid in two core criminal justice functions: felony adjudication in a court system and space allocation in a jail. Through a comparative ethnographic study in which an abductive analysis of data (20 months of fieldwork) was used, the authors show that criminal justice gatekeepers utilize welfare stigma to create stricter eligibility criteria for due process in criminal courts and occupancy in jails. Specifically, the number of court appearances, motions, trials, jail beds, food, showers, and medical services is considered by professionals to be the benefits that individuals seek to access and abuse. Professionals view their role as preventing (rather than granting) access to these resources. The comparative nature of the authors’ data reveals that welfare stigma has interorganizational utility by serving two different organizational goals: It streamlines convictions in courts, which pulls defendants through adjudication, and conversely, it expands early release from jails, which pulls inmates out of the custody population. In the context of diminishing social safety nets, the findings of this article have implications for understanding how discretion is exercised in an American criminal justice system increasingly tasked with the distribution of social services to the urban poor.

The most recent issue of American Anthropologist features an article by Kristina Wirtz entitled “Mobilizations of Race, Place, and History in Santiago de Cuba’s Carnivalesque”. In the article, Wirtz offers a model of racialization, the ongoing process of making race meaningful, by proposing the concept of micro-mobilities: people’s movements through immediate lived space. She examines how qualities of movement in an annual carnival procession normalize racialized bodies and places. In Santiago de Cuba’s carnival, neighborhood-based conga societies participate in official competitive displays and grassroots neighborhood activities. The grassroots Invasion evokes Cuba’s wars for independence. Thousands join the Conga de Los Hoyos to process through the “territories” of other congas. Furthermore, she examines the Invasion as a performed diagram of “routes of Blackness” mapped onto a reenactment of Cuba’s national “roots” to argue that it mobilizes the racialization of bodies, cultural forms, and neighborhoods. The articles focuses on bodies in motion to challenge static mappings of identity, place, and history to instead show how Blackness and whiteness are constituted in the relation between race as embodied experience and object of discourse.

The aforementioned issue of American Anthropologist also features a stimulating article by Victoria Bernal entitled “Diaspora and the Afterlife of Violence: Eritrean National Narratives and What Goes Without Saying”. This article explores the legacies of political violence, the workings of state power in mobilizing identities around collective suffering, and the effects of political culture that reside in people even after they have left the time and space of war. Bernal interrogates the silence on Eritrean diaspora websites regarding personal suffering related to the war that produced Eritrea as an independent nation, elevated its current president and ruling party to government leadership, and established the Eritrean diaspora. She argues that national narratives of the Eritrean state that celebrate sacrifice for the nation operate on Eritreans as a secondary form of violence that renders their personal losses unspeakable. Eritrean websites reveal complex communicative terrains where power is constructed and contested in ways that cannot be captured by the opposition between the diaspora and the homeland, between online and offline, or between silence and speech.

Features of electoral systems have been found to have positive effects on evaluations of democracy. The upcoming issue of the European Journal of Political Research has shared an article by Todd Donovan and Jefrey Karp entitled “Electoral rules, corruption, inequality and evaluations of democracy”. This article proposes that there are larger social forces that must be accounted for in such analyses. Using European Social Survey measures of democratic expectations and the ‘satisfaction with democracy’ item, this study tests for effects of electoral rules on perceptions of democracy. It is found that multipartyism/proportionality and preferential ballot structure appear to correspond with positive evaluations of elections and parties, and with greater satisfaction with how democracy is functioning. However, these relationships dissipate when corruption and income inequality are accounted for. This suggests substantial limits to the capacity of electoral reforms to enhance democratic legitimacy. It also suggests that studies of mass perceptions of democratic performance may over-estimate effects of electoral rules if country-level corruption and income inequality are not accounted for.

Junaid Rana’s article “The Racial Infrastructure of the Terror-Industrial Complex” from the December 2016 issue of Social Text draws on ethnographic research in a Pakistani neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, to illuminate how the concepts of becoming and infrastructure reveal insights into racialization and the workings of the counterterror state. Rana discusses the concepts of racial becoming and racial infrastructure in the context of the terror-industrial complex, which implements technologies of policing as part of the state and toward a range of community-based approaches in the nonprofit industry. By drawing attention to the concepts of racial becoming and racial infrastructure, this intervention asks what the assumptions are of the recent theorizations of becoming, potentials, infrastructure, and terror in relationship to racism and white supremacy. In considering terror as a racial formation of becoming and infrastructure, the author argues that much is to be gained in terms of theorizing power, hierarchy, domination, the potential of innovation in everyday life, and the possibility of collective struggle.

The December 2016 issue of Policing also features several articles of potential interest to our readers. One is an article by Jeremy G. Carter and Eric Grommon entitled “Police as Alert Responders? Lessons Learned about Perceived Roles and Responses from Pretrial GPS Supervision of Domestic Violence Defendants”. There is a substantial body of literature that examines police practices, behavioural responses, and victim cooperation when the police respond to intimate partner or domestic violence (IPV/DV) incidents. Less scholarly attention is given to the complex justice system response to IPV/DV incidents in which the police are one of many collaborative actors. A critical time in IPV/DV justice system processing is the period of time after arrest and before court disposition. Increasingly, the supervision of defendants in this pretrial period has been facilitated with the use of technology that creates new roles for the police. This article seeks to explore perceived police roles and responses through an in-depth case study of a city-county municipality employing global positioning system pretrial supervision of IPV/DV defendants. Using interview data from pretrial probation officers, victim advocates, and victims of IPV/DV, this research offers lessons learned and police practice recommendations for working as a unified systems front to curtail IPV/DV crimes and improve communication between multiple justice system stakeholders.

Going back a ways, the February 2016 issue of The British Journal of Criminology features an article by Robert Werth entitled “Individualizing Risk: Moral Judgement, Professional Knowledge and Affect in Parole Evaluations”. Drawing from an ethnographic project within the California (USA) parole system, this article traces how field personnel evaluate individuals and attempt to anticipate future conduct. It troubles claims that risk has replaced dangerousness and deindividualized penal subjects. In this setting, rather than displaying a technocratic character, the evaluation of risk is highly individualizing and impressionistic. Individuals contingently assemble knowledges, devalue actuarial tools and privilege their experiential expertise, affect and the moral judgement of personhood. Even among those classified as ‘serious’ offenders, evaluation operates as a space for judging the potential danger of specific individuals. This is reflective, in part, of field personnel’s efforts to protect their professional standing in the face of the parole agency’s promotion of risk technologies.

Once again, here are a handful of book reviews that have been included in various journals that we feel are of greatest interest to our readers. The aforementioned issue of Policing features Eleanor Neyroud’s review of Rebecca E. Doboash and Russell P. Dobash’s book “When Men Murder Women”. The December 2016 issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute features a review by David O’Kane of Susan Shepler’s “Childhood deployed: remaking child soldiers in Sierra Leone”. Finally, the latest issue of City & Community features a review by Vance Alan Puchalski of Waverly Duck’s book “No Way Out: Precarious Living in the Shadow of Poverty and Drug Dealing”.

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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