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 Burton, Paul Mutsaers, Jennie Simpson, A. Lynn Bolles, Bradley Dunseith, Michelle Stewart, Dylan Kerrigan, Didier Fassin, and Laurence Ralph)
Unfortunately it’s currently behind a paywall, but those of you with institutional access should check it out!
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.
I 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.
The first thing I noticed when I reached the corner of Gates Avenue and Lewis Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY was the pair of surveillance cameras perched conspicuously overhead (Figure 1). Each was approximately 15 inches long and five inches wide. Their white color contrasted sharply against the red brick of the building next to me, as if they were designed to be noticed. But their gaze was not trained on me. Instead, they were pointed toward opposite ends of the street corner. I then noticed a second pair of cameras about 300 feet from the first. One of them pointed directly at me. The other had an altogether different design, a sphere suspended in the air. I imagined a camera inside of it that could rotate 360 degrees. Thick black cables sprouted from the back of the devices, extending across the length of the building like arteries. Continue reading