By Scott Jacques
Code 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 suburb.” 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.
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 Criminology, Crime & Delinquency, The International Journal of Drug Policy, The Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Justice 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).
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.
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
- STEFAN LE COURANT — Names Written on the Wall: Understanding Graffiti in Alien Detention Places in France as part of the panel MIGRATORY SPACES OF INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION, Studio 3, Second Floor, Marriott
- DANIEL MAHER — Trash Talkin’ and Resurrectin’ Lawmen in Hell on the Border: African American Identity, Performance, and Representation in Fort Smith, Arkansas as part of the panel COUNTER-MEMORIES, Salon H, Third Floor, Marriott
- MEGAN CALLAGHAN (Bard College) — “Bricking the Peelers”: Children’s Challenges to the Police in Northern Ireland as part of the panel CIRCULATIONS OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY, Southdown, Fourth Floor, Sheraton
- JONATHAN PADWE (Yale University) — Remaking Ethnic Attachments by Fleeing the Police in Cambodia: Rethinking the Place of Jarai in Cambodia After the Refugees Have Moved On, as part of the panel ETHNIC LANDSCAPES AND LANDED ETHNICITIES: ATTACHMENTS, STOPPAGES AND CIRCULATIONS. (Salon H, Third Floor, Marriott)
Thursday, Nov. 18th
- BETWEEN GOVERNMENTALITY AND STATE COERCION: GOVERNING BODIES IN SPACE, Organized by YASSER MUNIF
- ILGIN ERDEM — Dis-Ordering the Urban Space: The Case of May Day Protests in Turkey
- YASSER MUNIF — Disciplinary Spaces and “Lawless Zones” in a French Suburb
- SWATI BIRLA — Revisiting Public and Private Space- Prostitution Regulation in Gujarat
- ERIKA MARQUEZ — Social Movements in the Security State: Territorial Struggles in Valle Del Cauca, Colombia
- PANAYIOTIS MANOLAKOS (Sanhati) — Primary Accumulation qua Developmental Terrorism: Meditations on Political Strategy
- INTERROGATING POLICE, Organized by ERIKA ROBB LARKINS (University of Wisconsin-Madison) & R BRIAN FERGUSON (Rutgers the State University of New Jersey-Newark) , Balcony M, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- R BRIAN FERGUSON (Rutgers the State University of New Jersey-Newark) — Killing Bill: Politics, Policing and Street Violence in the Gangs of New York Era
- AVRAM BORNSTEIN (John Jay College, City University of New York) — Policing, Race and “Color-Blindness” in the US
- ALDO CIVICO (Columbia University) — Policing as Cleansing: Gangs, Militias, and Death Squads in Medellin.
- ERIKA ROBB LARKINS (University of Wisconsin-Madison) — Men in Black and the Golden Gun: Maintaining Disorder in Rio’s Hyper Favela
- RIC CURTIS & TRAVIS WENDEL — Call the Policed: The Evolution of Police Tactics as Seen Through the Experience of Drug Distributors and Drug Users in New York City
- DISCUSSANT: NEIL WHITEHEAD (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
- COPS & CANONS: WHAT IS THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF POLICING AND WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?, Organized by KEVIN KARPIAK (Eastern Michigan University) & WILLIAM GARRIOTT (James Madison University), La Galerie 1, Second Floor, Marriott
- MICHELLE STEWART (University of California-Davis) — “Don’t Dare Me”: A Consideration of Interdisciplinarity and Reflexivity in Policing Practice
- JEFFREY MARTIN (University of Hong Kong) — The Culture of Policing
- BEATRICE JAUREGUI (University of Cambridge) — Police Postings as Cultural Politics: Forces and Relations of State Authority in Northern India
- MEG STALCUP (University of California-Berkeley) — The Battle of Algiers on Main Street: Anthropology and the Policing of Terrorism
- WILLIAM GARRIOTT (James Madison University) — Ethical Failure or Ethical Imperative?: “Lumping It” as Method in the Anthropology of Police
- JULIA HORNBERGER — From Free Health Care to the Care of the Criminal Self as part of the panel SHIFTING SOVEREIGNTIES: CIRCUITS AND COUNTER-CIRCUITS OF KNOWLEDGE,La Galerie 4, Second Floor, Marriott
- KARINA BIONDI (Universidad Federal de São Carlos) — The Political Model of a Collective of Prisoners in São Paulo, Brazil as part of the panel NEW DIRECTIONS IN POLITICAL THEORY, Studio 3, Second Floor, Marriott
Friday, Nov. 19th
- JENNIFER AENGST (University of California-Davis) — The Movements of Adolescents: Youth Policing and Secret Dating in Ladakh, India as part of the panel SEXUALITIES IN ‘OUT-OF-THE-WAY’ PLACES: TRACING INTIMACIES ACROSS BOUNDARIES, Salon 817 & 821, Eighth Floor, Sheraton
- BRIAN LANDE (University of California-Berkeley) & KEVIN KARPIAK (Eastern Michigan University) — ‘Taking the Field’: Thinking ‘Police’ Through the Social Sciences, Thinking ‘Society’ Through Policingas part of the panel BUSINESS ENCOUNTERS: FIELDWORK CONVERSATIONSOrganized by TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT (BBDO & Parsons, The New School for Design), BRIAN MOERAN (Copenhagen Business School), Balcony N, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- BJORN BERTELSEN — Chamboco, Lynchings, Death Squads and Prisons. Social Ontologies of Violence, Sovereignty and Conflict in Chimoio, Mozambique as part of the panel CONFLICTS ON THE MOVE,Balcony L, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- ROBERT A RUBINSTEIN (Maxwell School, Syracuse University) — Back to the Future?: Peacekeeping and Imperial Policingas part of the panel CONFLICTS ON THE MOVE,Balcony L, Fourth Floor, Marriott
- JENNIFER GOETT (Michigan State University) — Afro-Descendants and Counternarcotics Policing in Multicultural Nicaragua as part of the panel AFRO-LATINO POLITICS: REASSESSING THE MULTICULTURAL TURN TWO DECADES AFTER REFORM, (Studio 1, Second Floor, Marriott)
Saturday, Nov. 20th
- KEVIN KARPIAK (Eastern Michigan University) — Use and Abuse of the Police in French Theory: Or, Uncanny Encounters With Foucault, Bourdieu and Many Others Among the Police Nationale as part of the panelFOUCAULT ET AL. FROM PARIS TO CALIFORNIA AND BACK AGAIN: THE CREOLISATION OF ‘FRENCH THEORY’organized by STEPHANIE LLOYD (McGill University), BAPTISTE MOUTAUD (INSERM), & LIVIA VELPRY (Cesames, University of Paris-Descartes), Grand Couteau, Fifth Floor, Sheraton
- THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF MASS INCARCERATION: GLOBAL ETHNOGRAPHIC PERSPECTIVES ON PRISONS AND POLICING organized byANDREA MORRELL (City University of New York-Graduate Center), & STEPHANIE CAMPOS,Oak Alley, Fourth Floor, Sheraton
- KAREN WILLIAMS (City University of New York-Graduate Center) — From Social Control to “Caring”?: Imagining a ‘Kinder Gentler’ Prison System Under Neoliberalism
- STEPHANIE CAMPOS — Las Burriers: Incarceration & Gendered Work in Illicit Economies
- HOLLIS MOORE (University of Toronto) — The Permeable Prison and the Production of (Un)relatedness: Household Responses to Imprisonment in Northeast Brazil
- ANDREA MORRELL (City University of New York-Graduate Center) — “A Label Tightly Sewn on the Community”: Race, Justice, and the Making of a Prison Town
- LILIAN NYAMPONG — Micro Interactional Processes State/Human Rights Interventions: Ethnography of Everyday Experiences in Correctional Institutions
- DISCUSSANT: PEM BUCK (Elizabethtown Community and Technical College)
Sunday, Nov. 21st
- CIRCULATING TECHNIQUES OF GOVERNANCE: CRIME, INSECURITY, AND DELINQUENCY IN THE AMERICAS organized by CONNIE MCGUIRE (University of California-Irvine), Salon H, Third Floor, Marriott
- TIM GODDARD (University of California-Irvine) — Managing ‘Risky’ Populations: Crime Control Through Public-Private Partnerships
- CONNIE MCGUIRE (University of California-Irvine) — Transnationalizing Gangs in the Americas: From Local Problems to Regional Solutions
- VIRGINIA RAYMOND (Texas After Violence Project) — Lethal, Legal and Premeditated: U.S. State Homicide and Its Reverberations Throughout the Americas
- NINA SIULC (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) — U.S. Crimmigration Policies, Transnational Insecurities, and ? “Retraining”? Deportees
- WENDY REYES & ANGELA SANGUINETTI — Addressing the Limits of Orthodox Language
- MARIANA MORA — The Effects of Mexican State Security Policies: New Expressions of State Violence, Human Rights and the Production of Subjectivities in the State of Guerrero
- DISCUSSANT: ELANA ZILBERG (University of California-San Diego)
- SANTIAGO GUERRA (University of Texas-Austin) — Los Mafiosos Y La Chota: Drug Trafficking and Policing in the South Texas-Mexico Borderlands
as part of the panel CIRCULATING MILITARISM, CIRCULATING SUBJECTS,Salon 829, Eighth Floor, Sheraton
- TOM HALL (Cardiff University) & ROBIN SMITH — Local Motion, Local Knowledge: Research ‘On the Move’ With Urban Patrols as part of the panel OBSERVERS ON THE MOVE: REVISITING TRADITIONS AND EXPLORING INNOVATIONS IN PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION, Bayside B, Fourth Floor, Sheraton
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)