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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “DragNet” in the subject header and I’ll get on it!
Monica Eppinger, one of the contributors to our Forum “What’s Going on in Ukraine?“, also happens to be Assistant Professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law, which offers her a unique insight on one of our other recent Forums “#Ferguson and Elsewhere“. Over at her other blog, the Comparative Law Prof Blog, she has some interesting reflections on the two. Here’s just a snippet:
Two commonalities invite comparison between late summer in Ferguson and deep winter in Kyiv. First is the form of public action, street protest. It speaks of an electorate that, despite a polity’s record of holding fair elections, resorts to alternatives to usual democratic processes. The second, and most striking, commonality is the kind of spark that ignited protest, the relationship between citizen death at the hands of police and public assessments of state legitimacy.
A friend sent me an article which quoted a police officer in Ferguson, MO snarling to a crowd, “Bring it. You fucking animals, bring it.” She asked for my thoughts. I’d seen the article earlier, part of the news reporting and blogosphere discussion of people of color killed by on-duty officers and the accompanying demonstrations against police violence. I think that coverage has correctly pointed to 1) entrenched racism, such that black faces are reflexively perceived as suspicious and dangerous, 2) and militarization of the police. But even with these explanations there seems to remain something incomprehensible, and I think that comes from just how differently the police tend to understand what they do.
The editors of Anthropoliteia welcome Johanna Römer with a Dossier in our From the Field section.
“The history of prisons in Spain?” a Catalan prison guard asked me, a man in his mid-forties, his hands resting on a heavy leather belt. “Everything has already been written. Our vocabulary, our forms of punishment – even the word cell itself, all come from Catholic and monastic practices.”
He turned to face the thick glass wall of the bunker.
“I spent years teaching…in law enforcement, in the private sector, and now I just want to be here, with these guys [inmates], where I can have peace and quiet,” he said, nodding towards a small group of men talking softly around a checked tablecloth whose color was imperceptible through the glass.
“Look at that. No one makes problems.”
While monitoring the inmates through the glass, the guard narrated other stories of prison work; but his last seemingly unremarkable comment, “no one makes problems,” stayed with me.