Papers and Panels of Interest at the #AAA2016 Meeting

2016-aaa-annual-mtg-logo-4c-250x286It’s that time of year again: time for Anthropoliteia’s list of papers and panels pertaining to police, security, crime, law and punishment at the Annual Meeting s of the American Anthropological Association!

As impassioned followers of this blog know, we like to curate a list of sessions and papers of interest to our readers.  We’ve created a Google Calendar, which you can find embedded below and import into your own.  Be sure to keep an eye on @anthropoliteia’s twitter feed as well, where you’ll find coverage of the #AAA2016 hashtag with which several participants will be live-tweeting sessions ad other events.

Beyond that, we’d like to call your attention to two sessions in particular, which are direct offshoots of projects and collaborations on this blog:

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#Ferguson & Elsewhere, Blotter, Secularism & Security after Charlie Hebdo

Anthropoliteia in American Anthropologist’s review of Public Anthropology

In the most recent (September) issue of American Anthropologist, Angelique Haugerud has an excellent review of “Public Anthropology in 2015” which features both our series “#Ferguson & Elsewhere” and “Secularism & Security after Charlie Hebdo” in addition to various pieces by many former contributors (including myself, Orisanmi BurtonPaul MutsaersJennie SimpsonA. Lynn BollesBradley DunseithMichelle StewartDylan KerriganDidier Fassin, and Laurence Ralph)

Unfortunately it’s currently behind a paywall, but those of you with institutional access should check it out!

#Ferguson & Elsewhere, Blotter

So wait, are there racial disparities in US policing or not? (Answer: YES!)

If you’re like me, you may have had two academic articles with seemingly conflicting arguments run through your Facebook feed lately.  The first, an article by Cody T. Ross published via PLOS ONE uses a multi-level Bayesian analysis to conclude that there exists

evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average

The other, written by economist Roland G. Fryer and covered extensively in the New York Times Upshot column, concludes that in the case of “the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.”

How can such diametrically opposed claims be made simultaneously in reputable scientific journals?  While much of these claims seems to rest in a domain of advanced statistics with which anthropologists typically feel less confident, the key to understanding their different claims actually might depend on a more “ethnographic” sense of the data sets they build upon.

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Call for papers

CFP: Police Un/Bound: new ethnographies of policing at #AAA2016

Organizers: Victor Kumar (Johns Hopkins U) and Amrita Ibrahim (Georgetown U)

At a time when many aspects of law enforcement are coming under increased scrutiny, anthropologists have a renewed opportunity to investigate questions around police and policing. What can anthropology bring to an area of research whose terms, methods, and theories have traditionally been set by the disciplines of sociology and criminal justice? What approaches allow us to navigate this contested domain and understand its forms and effects inside and out, from those “on the beat,” to the recipients of police terror, from activists calling for justice to those whose radical alterity renders them “no-bodies” (Silva 2009)? How does an anthropologist’s loyalty to the state (our law-abidingness) affect the ways they take up our positions with respect to policing? One answer suggested by some anthropologists of police (Garriott 2013, Karpiak 2016) is that investigations are directed at the boundaries of police as a field of inquiry. Rather than assuming the police to be a bounded field site, it can be understood instead as a refractive lens that extends beyond policing as an official institution and reverberates in response to broader social phenomena. Others have argued that we should seek to develop new lexicons to describe, denounce, and theorize racialized policing practices and put them in the context of a broader security-knowledge system that informs subjugation at large (James 2006, Alves and Vargas 2015). In this panel, we seek new critical perspectives on longstanding issues involving police: violence, the body, community, citizenship, and rights. We are interested in exploring how issues such as racial and sexualized violence are positioned across the permeable boundaries between the police and subjects of enforcement without discarding critiques coming out of both the popular and scholarly spheres that have identified forms of structural violence in police work. Whether dropping the notion of a clear and fixed boundary (a “thin blue line”) or reanalyzing the police as operating within regimes of domination, ethnography has the potential to show how policing is both continuous and distinct from the broader social contexts in which it is embedded and attend to the diverse forms of life that fall under the heading of police. We argue that such modes of anthropological understanding can ultimately contribute greatly to projects of police reform or abolition.​

Please submit your abstract of 250 words to Amrita Ibrahim at and Victor Kumar at by [UPDATE] April 13, 2016


Fieldnotes on the Gendered Labor of Prison Visitation

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Orisanmi Burton as part of our series of anthropological reports From the Field

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NY DOCCS) operates fifty-four prisons, which confine approximately 53,565 people. This captive population is ninety-six percent male; fifty percent black, twenty-four percent latino and twenty-four percent white. Though half of them were convicted for charges that occurred within New York City, most of them are confined in prisons located in distant, rural parts of New York State.[1]

NY Correctional FacilitiesI entered the visitor waiting room, a trailer that rests on the grounds of the prison. Though I arrived at 7:45am, a full 45 minutes before the start of visiting hours, the inside of the trailer was already full. I signed in at the rear of the space where two Correctional Officers (C.O.s) stood behind a tall wooden desk. I took one of the only available seats, which happened to be right next to them.

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Announcements, In the Journals

Anthropoliteia and the Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR)

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Two bits of news concerning both Anthropoliteia and the journal Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR):

First, we’re all so excited that our own William Garriot, along with friend-of-Anthropoliteia Heath Cabot, have taken over as co-editors of the journal.  We can’t wait to see what a Cabot-Garriot tenure will bring!

Also of note to readers of this blog: PoLAR just recently published an Open Access Virtual Issue on “The Promise and Pathos of Law,” which includes several recent and classic articles on the topic (including my own article “Of Heroes and Polemics: the ‘policeman’ in urban ethnography“) as well as new and original “supplementary” postscripts in which each author reflects on their contribution through the lens of time.  My own essay focuses on the exciting development of “anthropology of policing” since the publication of “Of Heroes…” in 2010.