In the Journals

In the Journals May, 2019

Welcome back to In the Journals, a brief look at just a few articles that have been published in previous months on policing, law, and governance. These readings cluster around April and May but we did reach back to January for one.

In the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice published an article by Nicholas A. Jones, Rick Ruddell, and Tansi Summerfield in January. The article, named “Community Policing: Perceptions of Officers Policing Indigenous Communities”, considers the perspectives of  Canadian officers have on community policing. The authors compare results from surveys given in 1996, 2007, and 2014, which overall show a growing disapproval of community policing tactics among officers. The context of Canada is peculiar because of the FNPP (First nations Policing Program), a government sponsored program to coordinate and develop police agencies within Indigenous communities. As most policing initiatives, this program has shown a divide between its goals and design and what is actually taking place on the ground and is criticized for its impunity. Since the program’s inception, contract policing among Indigenous communities has become more popular, moving away from community policing practices and values, especially, as the authors’ data show, among non-indigenous police. The article is an important look at the policing of indigenous and minority groups. Even with government funding and program development, as this article makes evident, there are still many deep seated structural, social, and psychological issues that plague policing practices among Indigenous and minority communities.

Political Geography put out an article this month called “’Occupied Enclave’: Policing and the underbelly of humanitarian governance in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya” by Hanno Brankamp. The piece is based on research on policing in a refugee camp in Kenya and suggests a shift in the approach to such cases. Brankamp exemplifies this by conceptualizing the refugee camp as an occupied territory because “the Kenyan state (in liaison with humanitarian agencies) has imposed a spatial system of domination on refugees domestically, rendering camp residents an occupied populace in all but name.” The author makes clear that humanitarian and peace efforts are usually intertwined with various forms of daily violence by going through multiple accounts recorded from interlocutors from Kakuma and other camps. By focusing on “four complementary domains of control which comprise material architecture, bureaucracy, physical force, and resource extraction”, Brankamp makes evident the ease with which one can conceptualize of the camp as an occupied enclave that orders and polices refugees with barbed wire, curfews, paper work, batons, and extortion for aid resources. His article solidly makes the argument that when thinking about refugee camps, one must marry discourses from humanitarian governance and militarized occupation.

Continuing with research carried out in Kenya, Lucy Lowe wrote an article in American Ethnologist this month entitled “Refusing cesarean sections to protect fertile futures: Somali refugees, motherhood, and precarious migration”. Lowe does a beautiful job of laying out the extremely complex context in which some Somali refugees are refusing C-sections. Mostly they are doing so because of the associated risks and limitations of future pregnancy that comes with the procedure. This is important specifically to Somali women in Kenya because of the importance that reproduction and motherhood has in terms of not only identity and social positioning but also in terms of power and socioeconomic ties and connections. In a refugee camp, which now has new generations of people growing up in a gray area that does not allow them to work or even leave in some cases, most aspects of life are controlled and policed. It may come to little surprise (especially after the last article) that the ways life is controlled and policed in these camps can be harsh, dangerous, and even deadly, and do more to limit the agency and lives of its inhabitants than take care of them. As Lowe argues here, giving birth is one of the last instances in which these women can exercise agency and in doing so many believe that they are following God’s path to create stronger and more resilient future generations of Somalis. The article does well to place the act of refusing C-sections beyond the scope of just patriarchal biopower or cultural norms. Rather it shows that the context is incredibly complex with countless factors at play that influence the decisions of these women.

This month in Policing and Society, Naing Ko Ko and John Braithwaite published an article on “vacuums in state services” and how the tend to attract “alternative providers” of security. The article entitled “Baptist policing in Burma: swarming, vigilantism or community self-help?” takes as its focus the relationship between crime-and-policing and Christian churches in the Kachin state in Burma. Developments in the country’s historical politics have created a “cleavage” among ethnic and state groups that has in turn led to a situation in which ethnic outsiders dominate police forces. This situation has led to impunity and a deep distrust of the police. To add to the tangle of factors at play here, there is an immense drug problem among the population (namely heroin and methamphetamines). Despite the issues in the state military forces, Christian groups have organized together and engaged in a set of concerning policing tactics such as “swarming” and arresting drug dealers, criminals, and addicts, and offering treatment to addicts and criminals through religious disciplinary therapy. The authors weave the phenomenon of the Baptist police into a larger context of “Ceasefire Capitalism” that tie illicit markets and governance politics between groups together while leaving much of civil society out of the discussion. This article demonstrates the relevance of this case to others of “ceasefire capitalism” and non-state policing practices.

In Theoretical Criminology, Ana Aliverti had an article published in April that was titled “Patrolling the ‘thin blue line’ in a world in motion: An exploration of the crime-migration nexus in UK policing”. The author looks at the working relationship between state police and immigration enforcement to “shape the boundaries of civility and patrol the margins of citizenship” in a program called Nexus. The author argues that this project highlights the limitations of common policing practices. In turn it also shows how cooperating with immigration enforcement offers a “unifying response and reinforces racialized fears and anxieties about ‘migration’” in a context where the line separating criminality and civility is obfuscated. Aliverti posits this because the growing association with immigration and crime, which has resulted in immigration enforcement practices that have been designed to more easily arrest and deport foreigners. After an analysis of practices and understandings among and about the police in the UK, the author then theorizes the symbolic power of the police and the role this symbolism plays in maintaining and reinforcing ideas of order and crime. The specific nature in this case, the involvement of immigration enforcement with everyday policing practices, is a modification on the symbolic power of police that helps define and differentiate civility and criminality, while also conflating civility with citizenship and criminality with immigration.


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