Next Up: “Electric Burns” at University of Chicago


If anyone’s in the Chicagoland area next week, I’ll be presenting a draft of my upcoming article “Electric Burns: the banlieue riots and the problem of a post-social police in France”  (see details below) so that all the smart people over at the University of Chicago’s  Anthropology of Europe Workshop can comment on it and be otherwise helpful in its development.

Email me or Owen Kohl to get a draft of the article; it will be assumed you’ve read it beforehand.

Electric Burns: the banlieue riots and the problem of a post-social police in France

March 31st, 2009 Haskell 101 (U Chicago) 4:30 pm

In 2003, as head of the French national urban police force, Nicolas Sarkozy declared the programmatic bankruptcy of the socially-oriented style of policing known as the police de proximité.  In its place he announced his intention to develop what he called a “culture of results”.  Many observers have understood this denunciation to mark a dramatic shift in the quotidian practice of urban policing in France; from a policing strategy which recognized crime to be the result of particular social conditions to a criminal justice policy that eschews social considerations in favor of a harsh neoliberal market logic.  However, during almost three years of ethnographic research in a variety of administrative branches of the Direction Générale de la Police Nationale (DGPN) I found that, contrary to such epochal interpretations, neither form of policing was overly convincing to police practitioners.  Rather, this paper will argue that such dualisms as Sarkozy’s are useful primarily in that they help frame a more general problem of police administration: what should be the goals and orientations for state violence once social justifications are no longer seen as comprehensively compelling?  In other words, what would a post-social police look like?  Finally, I hope to illustrate the import of this problematic through a reconsideration of the “banlieue riots” of 2005 and 2008.

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