Black Lives Matter Syllabus Project

The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatter Syllabus Project, Week 11: Jaime Alves on “The right and duty to change the world”

The editors of Anthropoliteia are happy to present the latest entry in on 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, Jaime Alves discusses teaching “Cultural Anthropology” with the themes of colonialism, global white supremacy, and racialized police practices.

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Tip of the Cap

Social Control in the Streets and the Suburbs: Understanding the “Code of the Suburb”

By Scott Jacques

PrintCode of the Suburb, which I co-authored with Richard Wright, is based on interviews with 30 adolescents who grew up and sold drugs in middle-class suburbia. Why did they get into drug dealing? How did they procure and distribute their supply? How did they prevent and respond to victimization, legal trouble, and parental problems? Why did they quit? The answers are to be found at the intersection of the dealers’ attempts to be cool while simultaneously pursuing conventional success. This is the book in a nutshell.

Anyone who has read Anderson’s Code of the Street instantly will recognize that he influenced my work. Both codes – street and suburban – are informal rules governing interpersonal behavior, particularly violence. The major difference between them is that the code of the street maintains that violence is a good, or at least an acceptable, way to handle conflict, whereas the code of the suburb holds the opposite to be true.

In my book, the code of the suburb revealed itself in how the sellers responded to being stolen from. The stereotypical understanding of dealers is that they abide by the code of the street and, therefore, their modal response to victimization is violent retaliation. Yet the suburban dealers rarely acted as vigilantes, and even when they did, minor bruises rather than bullet wounds were the result. Instead, they responded to victimization with more peaceful means, such as trying to talk out a resolution with the offender, cutting them off, or doing nothing. When I asked the dealers to explain their nonviolent responses, they often said things like “I don’t want to hurt somebody” and “Better to write stuff like that off.”

Though someone may have uttered it before me, to my knowledge I coined the phrase “code of the 51fN7YSRfnLsuburb.” What I like about it is that people instantly get what it is that I am referring to, so long as they are already familiar with the code of the street. However, what I label the code of the suburb is very similar to what M.P. Baumgartner, author of The Moral Order of a Suburb, calls a “philosophy of moral minimalism.”

Referring to this philosophy, Baumgartner explains that

[T]he most basic component of this system is a strong conviction that conflict is a social contaminant, something to be prevented if at all possible and to be ended quickly once begun.

She goes on to further describe this philosophy, which includes being embarrassed by embroilment in public conflict, a negative attitude toward violence, and positive opinions of toleration and avoidance. A testament to her work, and why I admire it, is that she more or less predicted and described my participants’ orientation to conflict years before they ever took up drug selling.

Works Referenced

Anderson, Elijah. 1999. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Baumgartner, M. P. 1988. The Moral Order of a Suburb. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scott Jacques is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University. His work has been published in journals such as CriminologyCrime & DelinquencyThe International Journal of Drug PolicyThe Journal of Research in Crime and DelinquencyJustice Quarterly, and Theoretical Criminology. His book (co-authored with Richard Wright) is entitled Code of the Suburb: Inside the World of Young Middle-Class Drug Dealers (University of Chicago Press).

Tip of the Cap

Un-silencing the Gang: A Past Retold in the Present that Shapes Possible Futures

We would like to welcome Laurence Ralph in this latest edition of our feature, Tip of the Cap.
I got my start in gang research from working with non-profits. There, I met a sixty-eight year-old gang member named Mr. Otis. At first it surprised me that someone so old would adamantly affiliate with one of Chicago’s most notorious gangs, the Divine Knights. But I soon learned that the idea of “the gang” as a group of violent criminals meant something very different to Mr. Otis. For him, the gang was an organization that could actually improve the community, if given the chance. And he wanted to curate a gang exhibit to prove it. Continue reading

Ethnography and Policing workshop, Institute for Advanced Study


Workshop Participants. Back row, L to R: Julia Hornberger (Wits, South Africa), Jeffrey Martin (Hong Kong U, Taiwan), Daniel Goldstein (Rutgers, Bolivia), Susana Durao (U Campinas, Portugal), Duncan McCargo (Leeds U, Thailand), Didier Fassin (IAS, France), Steven Herbert (U Washington, United States), Clara Han (Johns Hopkins, Chile), Elif Babül (Mount Hollyhoke, Turkey). Front row, L to R: Beatrice Jauregui (U Toronto, India), Helene Maria Kyed (Dansk IIS, Mozambique).

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.

Announcements, Conferences

Anthropoliteia at the American Anthropological Association Meetings (2010, NOLA version)

Since people seemed to find it helpful last year, I’ve decided to try and make A@AAA an annual feature.  So here you go, my annual round-up of police, crime and security events at this year’s American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings.  As always, if you know about a session or paper that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add it to the list.

Wednesday, Nov. 17th





Thursday, Nov. 18th






Friday, Nov. 19th






Saturday, Nov. 20th



Sunday, Nov. 21st






Jeff and I have been talking about ways to include discussions of pedagogy on Anthropoliteia, so I thought I’d give a shout out to a neat little documentary I came across recently (actually it was recommended to me by Gary Handman, the Director of the Media Resources Library here at Berkeley).  The movie is called BookWars.

Gary suggested it once he found out about my class, when i came in to reserve some other movies (The Naked City, The Wire).  One of the over-arching arguments of the course is that most of the anthropological writing about police happens in would-be asides or interludes of urban ethnographies which purport to be about other topics (poverty, etc.) but which draw on larger traditions of writing about police (think: the various genres of detective fiction) as a way to think through issues of power and modernity

Anyway, Bookwars is a nice little documentary for anyone dealing with issues in urban anthropology: race, economics, public space… and it’s a great illustration of my thesis about police in urban ethnography!  You can see a trailer for the movie after the break (but, imho, the trailer doesn’t do the movie justice)

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