Announcements

Criminology post at Auckland University of Technology

The Department of Social Sciences at AUT University invites applications for the permanent full-time position of Lecturer in Social Sciences/Criminology.

At present, the Department offers multidisciplinary programmes in social sciences, psychology, criminology and conflict resolution at pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate level. Since its first intake in 2008 the BA major in Criminology has experienced significant growth and an opportunity now exists to contribute to continuing development of criminology and other multidisciplinary programmes offered by the Department of Social Sciences.

Applicants must have a PhD in Criminology or other related relevant social science discipline, together with successful tertiary teaching experience and a strong record of research and scholarly publications.

The successful applicant will be expected to contribute to curriculum development and teaching BA Criminology papers as well as contribute to other multidisciplinary social sciences programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Preferred areas of research interest and expertise include criminal justice, social justice and ethics, social and legal studies, penology, punishment, white collar crime, alternative dispute resolution and comparative criminology in the New Zealand and Asia Pacific contexts. Experience and interest in teaching social science research methods at advanced undergraduate and postgraduate level would be an advantage.

The start date will be 1st February 2011 or by negotiation. The level of appointment and salary will be commensurate with the skills and experience of the successful applicant.

Enquiries of academic nature should be addressed to the Head of Department,
Dr Oksana Opara telephone +64 9 921 9999 ext 5891, or email
oksana.opara@aut.ac.nz

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Announcements

Job Openings at the University of Hong Kong

The sociology department at the University of Hong Kong is hiring three assistant professors on 3-year renewable fixed-term contracts, hoping to find people to start Jan.1 of 2011. One position is in culture & media studies, one in sociology, and one in criminology.

I have been here a year, and find it a good place to work. I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in qualitative studies of policing to consider applying. If you have any questions, drop me a line at jtmartin ‘at’ hku ‘dot’ hk.

The departmental website is here.

The HK Policing Studies Forum is a work in progress, but a “real” website will eventually take shape here.

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Announcements, Conferences

Workshop on British Colonial Policing in Historical Perspective, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The sociology department at the University of Hong Kong is hosting a number of events this June, focusing on the legacies of British colonial policing, both in Hong Kong and globally. On June 22nd, Dr. Georgina Sinclair of the Open University will be giving a lecture on Internationalizing British Policing: 1945-2010. The following day we will hold a workshop on British Colonial Policing in Historical Perspective, which will bring local scholars working on policing in Hong Kong into dialogue around Dr. Sinclair’s comparative project. Prior to these events, in early June, we will be convening an informal group to read and discuss some foundational texts in the study of colonial and post-colonial policing.

The workshop is open to the public. The informal reading group will convene around the schedules of those interested in attending. Anyone interested in participating in it is warmly invited to contact Dr. Jeff Martin at jtmartin@hku.hk at their earliest convenience

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Call for papers

CFP – THE CULTURE CONCEPT IN CONTEMPORARY CIRCULATION

(This CFP seems relevant to this dialogue about the utility of theorizing policing around a concept of culture)

Call For Papers — Proposed Session for AAA 2010
THE CULTURE CONCEPT IN CONTEMPORARY CIRCULATION

Does the culture concept have a place in anthropological understandings of a world increasingly defined and shaped by global circulations? Or, as decades of critique would wish it, can a concept of distinctive logics organizing human relations no longer hold water as the boundaries between the contexts and spaces in which those relations are negotiated become increasingly porous?  This panel will consider, in light of both the history of its critiques, and recent ethnographic work from diverse locations and positions, the continuing relevance of a concept of culture — taken as a distinctive logic organizing social relations, moral and political projects, collective histories and imagined futures — as anthropology responds to the apparent dissolution of spatio-temporal, social and communicative boundaries. To what extent does the culture concept rely on our capacity to identify bounded collectivities, or on the isolation of those collectivities from each other, their ignorance of a world outside their “own” world, or on the difficulty of people associating with more than one of them or moving between them? (To put it another way: must “cultural” context always be relatively presupposed, rather than entailed?)  What do prior theorizations of culture qua both difference and structure bring to our understanding of contemporary negotiations of the semiotic fields in which identity, alterity, and other sorts of projects come (or fail to come) into being?  As it proliferates as a form in circulation beyond anthropological discourse, what force does culture retain or accrue as context or pretext, social text or hypertext?  What pressure does the appearance of culture as a form in circulation place on our uses of culture as analytic frame?

Rather than seeing contemporary difficulties with deploying the concept of cultures as objects coterminous with geographically bounded social entities as an occasion for despair we see it as an opportunity for a productive untangling:  Is difference (especially difference marked by a boundary) essential to the culture concept or simply the context in which it was first noticed?  Need cultural “logics” be largely or partly unconscious to be powerful or is this a misguided analogy with linguistics? Need people have only one culture?  Are unit cultures but one historically specific way in which human semiotic life can be organized (as bands, empires, or states are historically specific ways of organizing human political life)?  Such untangling might let us continue to understand culture as the ground on which both alterity and alliance are negotiated regardless of the size and boundedness of the units involved, a use we see as faithful to its intellectual and political history, as well as one with a promising future on both fronts.  As a platform for — and as a form accompanying— people and projects in circulation, the analytic concept of culture may in fact be of greater importance than ever.

Please address inquiries and submissions, in the form of an abstract of no more than 250 words, as e-mail text or attachment, to session organizers:  Amy McLachlan (University of Chicago) amclachlan@uchicago.edu, or Daniel Rosenblatt (Carleton University) daniel.rosenblatt@gmail.com, by Friday, March 26th.  In addition to an abstract, please also include your full name, contact information and institutional affiliation.

Feel free to circulate this announcement widely!

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Pedagogy

Resolved: Culture is the Center of the Anthropology of Policing

This is the second entry in my series of posts on the question: “What is the curriculum for the anthropology of policing?” As promised, in this post I will share a syllabus I taught last semester, and follow Kevin’s lead in using critical reflection on my teaching experience as a way to think about the challenges of “canon formation” for the anthropology of policing. Before I do this, however, I should put all my cards on the table and say that I am beginning from a particular assumption about the anthropology of policing. My ‘original position’ (apologies to Rawls) is this: (a) the disciplinary core of anthropology is its concern with culture and, therefore, (b) the integrating core of the anthropology of policing is an anthropological concern with culture. Based on this assumption, I expect the answer to the question of my previous post (i.e. overlap in the syllabi for three hypothetical courses on the anthropology of policing pitched to the distinct audiences of (i) practitioners, (ii) undergraduate liberal arts majors, and (iii) anthropology graduate students) to be “Yes.” And not just “Yes,” but “Yes, there is an overlap. And it consists of a particular literature about the culture of policing.”

So, the ultimate purpose of this exercise in public auto-critique is to rise to the challenge of converting the vague prejudices of an American-cultural-anthropologist into a bibliography of canonical ideas about the culture of policing. The job will be finished when we have assembled a bibliography robust enough to answer critiques registered on behalf of any of the three audiences listed above. And if, at the end of this ordeal, my culturalist prejudices have not been crushed under the jackboot of political economy, or scattered to the winds of the policy community, then I will call myself a winner and buy everyone a drink at the November AAAs.

So, on to the syllabus. It is for a course I taught last semester, called Policing: An International Perspective, as an elective in the University of Hong Kong’s masters program in criminology. This is a popular two-year coursework-based degree “designed as a professional qualification for practitioners in criminal justice and related fields (including NGOs), [but also] open for people with an interest in the field of criminology in general.” The program is housed within a sociology department that awards PHDs in sociology, anthropology and criminology. Thus the experience of working here has thus brought me into contact with all three audiences mentioned above. The course itself enrolled 18 students, about half of whom were serving in what is locally known as the “disciplined forces.” I designed the course before I came to Hong Kong, however. And the lack of a practical familiarity with my audience gave a rather free rein to my personal sense of the how the anthropology of policing fit together as a coherent topic of instruction.

So, without further ado, for your apprasial and critique, here is the syllabus.

Where do you think its grand intellectual vision crumbled most dramatically in its confrontation with the realities of the classroom?

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Pedagogy

What is the Curriculum for the Anthropology of Policing?

Hello Anthropolitians,

After surviving baptisms by fire, ice and everything in between (lukewarm beer, mostly) in my new position, I now have recovered enough to aspire to blog. In particular I hope, over the next few months, to write a series of posts musing on the following topic: “What is the curriculum for the anthropology of policing?”

To begin, I would like to start thinking about the different ways in which the anthropology of policing fits into the contemporary markets for higher education. I wonder if we can identity a set of core concerns that effectively translates between these different contexts?

For example, suppose that you are an anthropologist joining a department with a broader social-sciences identity (e.g. sociology/criminology/anthropology). And suppose that this department is – shockingly – rather cohesive as an intellectual community. Your colleagues consider interdisciplinary give-and-take a font of inspiration, and treat the department’s disciplinary fusion as a substantive asset rather than an administrative convenience. And now suppose that, as the newest member of the club, you have been asked to develop a “signature” course in your specialization – policing. Moreover, you are asked to develop it in a way demonstrates the distinctive assets that anthropology brings to the conversation, and do this in a way that harmonizes synergetically with the theoretical interests your sociologically and criminologically trained friends have in the police. How do you design your syllabus?

Now, by contrast to the above syllabus, suppose that you are an anthropologist working for a college that offers degree programs in criminal justice and social work (among other things). You have been invited to develop a course in your specialization – policing – with the purpose of contributing an anthropological (or “cultural”) perspective to these semi-professional degrees. How do you design this syllabus? Just how different is it from the one you designed above?

Now, finally, suppose you have been hired by a department that does nothing but anthropology for anthropology’s sake. And, your only teaching requirement is to lead a graduate seminar designed to establish the anthropology of policing as a viable sub-disciplinary specialization. What is the syllabus for this course? Does it have any overlap with the above two syllabi?

Look forward to any thoughts folks might have. Next, I will post the syllabus from the policing course I taught last semester, providing fodder for more specific points of critique while I work through the lessons I learned while trying to teach it.

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Commentary & Forums, Pedagogy

Steering the Teachable Momentum of the Gates Arrest in an Anthropological Direction.

Public discussion of the Gates arrest is all over the place: people with a stake in race issues insist on speaking about race, analysts of governing technologies attempt to bracket race and focus on procedure, libertarians focus on citizen rights, etc. The aggregate effect has been to generate an argument in which the various sides work on reinforcing their respective positions by talking past each other, seemingly avoiding confrontation over any potentially conclusive point of direct disagreement.

For the purpose of teaching anthropology, I think this public cacophony could be channeled into a good class discussion of the nature of social facts, and some of the ways that “symbolic relays” operate in contemporary American culture to structure the outcome of politically tense situations.

For example, we could take a page from the sociology of policing and start from a theoretical distinction between what the police do and what policing does. This means that we can look at “the police” ethnographically – as individuals acting in real-time contexts – and thereby describe them as engaged in an order of interaction (Goffman’s “interaction order”) which exists at several removes from the larger institutional level in which “policing” functions as an element in the reproduction of macro-historical social order. This distinction is a useful framework for asking questions about how these two levels of phenomena – real-time social action and institutionalized social facts – actually relate to one-another in particular instances. In this case, we have a situation where a central point of dispute is whether or not the social fact of race is relevant to the situation on the ground. To focus discussion of the event onto the cultural dynamics by which larger issues are made relevant to social action, we can usefully borrow Marshall Sahlins’ concept of the “symbolic relay,” i.e. symbols which are deployed to “endow the opposing local parties with collective identities and the opposing collectives with local or interpersonal sentiments. In the occurrence, the small-scale struggles are transformed into abstract and irreconcilable causes-to-die-for, their outcome depending now on the larger correlation of forces” (quoting here from the abstract to his short 2005 paper in Anthropological Theory titled “Structural Work,” (password required) more extensive discussion of the concept can be found in his 2004 monograph Apologies to Thucydides). It is, in other words, cultural work that imbues day-to-day events with larger historical significance.

A classroom exercise could be developed around analyzing how various tropes and categories are mobilized by various commentators and participants in the event as “symbolic relays” to frame the larger historical significance of the event of the arrest itself as being “about” race, common-sense, civility, class, citizenship, police procedure, etc. As cursory examples, consider:

“This isn’t about me; this is about the vulnerability of black men in America,” (Gates).

“[Y]ou probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home,” (Obama)

“Gates, as a citizen, has the right to challenge the authority of the police – all Americans have that right.” (http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/7/25/752126/-Disorderly-Conduct)

“Gates automatically “profiles” white men in uniform as a threat to his outsized ego, even when they are trying to protect his own house!.” (http://www.pr-inside.com/was-barack-obama-crying-in-his-r1407475.htm)

“A good cop respects your rights when you show them their rights. A bad cop tries to convince you to do something stupid so they can put you in jail… They will take advantage of your belligerence, they will take advantage of your anger, they will take advantage of your fears.” (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jNR4dcq5sivgbez2rttRVWtTMXoAD99JQMJG0)

“The report alleges that Gates became belligerent and yelled at the officer that “this is what happens to black men in America.” The report further states that Gates called the officer a racist and declared that the officer had no idea whom he was ‘messing with.’ Assuming the prosecution could establish that those factual allegations are true – which Gates vehemently says it could not – it does not appear the government would have any realistic chance of proving its case in a courtroom.” (http://blogs.masslawyersweekly.com/news/2009/07/22/making-legal-sense-of-the-gates-arrest/)

From the obvious point that people disagree as to what this event is “about,” we could move to a finer-grained discussion of how and why various accounts diverge, what kinds of audiences they might be aiming for, and what kinds of pragmatic purposes they might be intended to serve. Ideally, the discussion would leave students with a deeper appreciation for the complexity of the socio-cultural processes which are involved in forming prevailing interpretations of the larger significance of events, and how the work of cultural mediation (i.e. the deployment of symbolic relays) is embedded in and inflected by political and economic circumstances.

Cited references available online

Sahlins, M. (2005). Structural work: How microhistories become macrohistories and vice versa Anthropological Theory, 5 (1), 5-30 DOI: 10.1177/1463499605050866

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