The editors of Anthropoliteia are happy to continue an ongoing series The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus Project, which will mobilize anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing and justice. You can see a growing bibliography of resources via our Mendeley feed. In this entry, Anne Galvin discusses how teaching with memoir introduces many voices and points of view in her classroom.
I attended graduate school in the 1990s and, like many anthropologists in training, spent much of my coursework considering questions of “positionality.” At the time, taking stock of anthropology’s relationship to colonial projects, as well as our own sometimes privileged positions and biases, shaped disciplinary debates and new methodologies. Reflexivity – the practice of being transparent about one’s own situation and possible bias – was one way anthropologists responded to the problem of position. It turns out these considerations are far from academic in 2017 as we work to build more effective engagements between anthropologists and movements for racial justice and develop inclusive classroom pedagogies. Continue reading
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)
As a new year quickly approaches, and we reflect on the increasing calls for police accountability and a critical review of excessive use of force, I want to take this time to review the past year of Practicum and pose two questions for anthropologists and police agencies alike: do police agencies need anthropologists? And what might that look like?
Since its debut, Practicum has explored the practice of applied anthropologists working on issues of policing, criminal justice, juvenile justice and corrections. I’ve been remarkably heartened to see that a community of practitioners exists who have successfully applied the lens and research methodologies of anthropology to these issues. These anthropologists have “produced anthropology” (nod to the 2014 AAA Annual Meeting) in practice in juvenile justice, corrections, and policing and raised the profile of how anthropologists- through theoretical orientation, research techniques, analysis, and praxis- can contribute to the improvement of justice systems.
With this in mind, and a new year approaching, I want to propose a bit of radical thinking. Perhaps it won’t be radical to some of you, and perhaps for others, it might be a bit controversial. But with the events of Ferguson, continued fatalities in interactions between police and people with behavioral health disorders, and the tensions that structural violence and inequalities produce, I see a place for anthropologists placed within police departments. In an excellent panel discussion hosted by the Urban Institute and featuring Chief Ron Brown (Ret.), Chief Cathy Lanier, and Dr. Tracie Keesee, which I encourage you to view, I was struck by the progressive vision of policing and law enforcement that was presented. However, recalling my own experience in working with police officers, I know how hard implementation- even of the best vision- can be, especially within a hierarchical organization. While criminologists have made concrete headways into working within police organizations, anthropologists have not made similar strides. While I can speculate that this can be attributed to the discipline’s historical orientation and notions of appropriate subjects of study and practice, with the emergence of a strong contingent of academic and practicing anthropologists focusing on policing, criminal justice, and security, I find this may be the perfect time to consider how anthropologists can work with and within police organizations.
From May 4-7, 2014, a workshop was held at the Institute for Advanced Study on the topic of “Ethnography and Policing.” Below is a short summary of the workshop’s premise and scope, as described by Didier Fassin, who organized the gathering.
In the past half century, there has been a considerable amount of scientific literature in criminology, sociology, political science and legal studies on urban policing, that is, on the practice of law enforcement mostly in the poor neighborhoods of large cities. Part of this work is grounded on some form of participant observation, which complements other techniques such as interviews or questionnaires, and nourishes the analytical and theoretical arguments developed by the authors. However, this ethnography rarely appears as such. It is usually not presented, save occasionally in the form of short vignettes, or discussed, from the perspective of the specific contribution of this method. Significantly, until recently, anthropologists themselves seemed to ignore policing practices.
In the past decade, however, this situation has begun to change, as scholars increasingly and explicitly include ethnographic elements in their study of police work. The objective of the workshop was to bring together social scientists who have conducted research on urban policing in different parts of the world, using ethnography, in order to collectively reflect on the conditions, potentialities and limits of this method, the problems of interpretation and the ethical issues it raises, and the way local findings can be related to larger historical context and sociological issues. The general idea was to take ethnography seriously rather than as a mere background rendered invisible in the process of writing. Considering the importance of public debates on policing in contemporary societies, particularly on the way law is enforced in poor neighborhoods, which raises questions about racial discrimination, display of violence, and reproduction of an unequal social order, the exchange of ethnographic experiences has been rich. The outcome of this workshop will be a collective volume.
Long-time readers of Anthropoliteia may remember that some of the first “extra-curricular” iterations of the blog were at panels at the 2009 and 2010 Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association. In my own humble estimation, these were extremely productive conversations, and not only because they resulted in an edited volume that was published by Palgrave Macmillan last year, of which we’re all extremely proud.
In that vein, and to broaden the conversation, we’ve decided to try sponsoring a panel on anthropoliteia-related issues this year. If the experiment is successful, it may even become an annual thing. Please read through the following CFP and consider offering an abstract. Also, please pass this announcement on to anyone else that may be interested.
Call for Papers: Thinking through police, producing anthropological theory
For a session to be submitted to the 2014 Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (Washington DC, December 3–7, 2014). Dr. Kevin Karpiak (Eastern Michigan University), organizer.
If you haven’t heard the news yet, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss passed away last week. his passing has sparked a considerable amount of reflection and commentary–including a couple of attempts to synthesize, or, on the other hand, separate out a particular aspect of his grand corpus.
One aspect of his thought that most reviewers emphasize is his consistent critique of modernity through a complicated anthropological lens which emphasized both a sensitivity to cultural diversity and universal human structures. One under-remarked element of his work, however, is the way that police and policing, as ethnographic figures, functioned within his critique so as to make it possible.
I think we’re all agreed that it’s one of our shared goals here at Anthropoliteia to point out the centrality of police and policing to the anthropological project, so as a supplement to the various orbituaries and syntheses mentioned above, I thought I’d highlight a passage from Tristes Tropiques which I think illustrates my point. Pay attention to the complicated ways in which police both illustrate and push forward his anthropological critique of modernity:
(The text is quoted, at length, after the break. I know it’s a bit lengthy for a blog post, but there really is no way to edit the twists and turns of his prose, in that the meandering juxtapositions are often the very point. Believe me, by the time you get to “The atmosphere thickens, everywhere” you’ll think every word has been worth it.)