“Police friends,” said the student with a microphone, speaking over the heads of people facing him to the riot troops massing in the street behind them, “We have a chance to make history tonight! Join with us! Show the autocratic Ma government that the people and police are united!”
(Continued from part one)
An emphasis on unity between the police and the people has emerged as a core element in the struggle by Taiwanese protestors to control representations of their movement. Where the Presidential Office has sought to describe them as a “Violent Mob,” they have successfully asserted the peaceful qualities inherent in the sympathetic bond that stretches across the barricades, uniting them with the rank and file policemen called up to contain them.
“We are not enemies. We are allies that stand facing one another” (caption to a picture that is purportedly an expression of police attitudes towards the recent occupation of Taiwan’s legislature)
In the context of a loving relationship between consenting adults, it’s normal for police to get screwed from both sides. Taiwanese democracy is sometimes a strained marriage, however. Tensions are introduced to any enterprise of collective self-determination when the great power next door insists your state does not exist. The existential tensions of Taiwanese democracy are currently being expressed in a constitutional crisis. Last Tuesday night, the unpopular president’s ham-fisted attempt to fudge the procedures involved in his party’s pursuit of economic integration with China blew up in his face. Dissident students (later joined by their professors, constitutional law scholars and, increasingly, the general public) occupied the legislative assembly to physically prevent the conclusion of a process that would have endowed an agreement concluded between legislatively unqualified bodies with the force of statutory law.
Although there’s been quite a bit of rumbling over the AAA’s “open access” policies over the last several years, one positive development IMHO has been to move the association’s newsletter, Anthropology News, to an online and OA format.
And now readers of this blog can benefit. The most recent issue features several articles on the Anthropology of Law in its “In Focus” section, including two articles on the anthropology of policing: one from Anthropoliteia’s own Jeff Martin, entitled “How the Law Matters to the Taiwanese Police” and another by Jennie Simpson, a recent PhD from American University, “Building the Anthropology of Policing” (the latter featuring a short–and unexpected cameo from yours truly).
Personally, I’m super-psyched that the anthropology of policing is beginning to carve out a space in the larger world of anthropology. Not only am I currently brainstorming how to incorporate these blog posts into my course on Policing in Society, but I’m secretly formulating a response to Jeff arguing that his use of my beloved Max Weber is all wrong!