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.
Hello, Dear Reader, it is that very special time of year again: The American Anthropological Association’s Annual Meeting. This year in Denver Colorado. As impassioned followers of this blog know, we like to curate a list of sessions and papers of interest to our readers. This year 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 #AAA2015 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:
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.
The AAA has decided to feature the “most-discussed” articles (as measured by Altmetrics) from Anthrosource by making them temporarily open-access. Among these are several articles that might be of interest to our readers:
- BONILLA, Y. and ROSA, J. (2015), #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist, 42: 4–17. doi: 10.1111/amet.12112
- Galanek, J. D. (2015), Correctional Officers and the Incarcerated Mentally Ill: Responses to Psychiatric Illness in Prison. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 29: 116–136. doi: 10.1111/maq.12137
and (*ahem* cough, cough)
I was happy to see Illana Feldman’s new book, Police Encounters: Security and Surveillance in Gaza Under Egyptian Rule, make the rounds on our twitter feed last month. In it, my former Anthropology professor at George Washington University discusses the topics of surveillance, control and police violence in Gaza during the period of Egyptian rule. Disclaimer: you’ll want to block off a few hours to tap into this one…it’s addictive from the start!
“I think you have to have a shared collective memory of the past to recognize another human being,” writes Lawrence Jackson for n plus one magazine. His post, On Becoming More Human, examines the recent protests against police violence in Baltimore from his perspective as an African American man. Jackson is a professor of African American Studies and English at Emory University, and is the author of the 2012 memoir, My Father’s Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War. His post undoubtedly earns my vote for “best of the month”- if you have time for one (and only one) read today, this is it.
Those interested in coverage about the tragic police-related death of Freddie Gray shouldn’t miss NPR’s Weekend Edition that we shared late last month. In it, Scott Simon recounts his experience walking among the residents of West Baltimore in the wake of police protests. As the title attests, to many West Baltimoreans, the “largest gang is, in fact, the police.” We also recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post, Nonviolence as Compliance, which was featured via The Atlantic.
What does the concept of “touch” mean, in a policing context? Mark Greif reflects on this question and more in his post, Seeing Through Police. He discusses the “rules” of police-citizen contact (i.e.- they touch you, you keep your hands to yourself), its many functions (intimidation, reassurance, “traffic direction”) and forms (hands vs. batons). What’s perhaps most intriguing about this post is its dual -and rather empathetic- consideration of police as police, and police as people. At the same time, it presents a critical and well-balanced portrait of modern police practices.
Finally, we are pleased to offer continuing coverage of the American Anthropological Association’s developing initiatives regarding police brutality. AAA recently announced they’ll be offering a working group to monitor racialized police brutality and extrajudicial violence. Co-chairs include David Simmons, Marla Frederick and Shalini Shankar. You can view the Working Group charge here.
Did I miss something? No worries- it does happen on occasion. If you have any suggestions for DragNet, or if you want to call attention to a specific blog or article, send an email to email@example.com with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!