Category Archives: Commentary

Public Comments presented to Ann Arbor City Council on Civilian Oversight, Dec. 6, 2021

Hello, my name is Dr. Kevin Karpiak. I am a Professor of Criminology at Eastern Michigan University, Director of the SMART research project, and a resident of Ann Arbor. I am calling today to voice my objection to Agenda Item CA-24, “Resolution to Approve the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the City of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor Police Professional Assistants” who are represented by the Police Officers Association of Michigan and whose resources fall within the administrative control of Ann Arbor PD. I object not necessarily to the content of the agreement but because of the process whereby it has come before council, which bypassed ICPOC, the Independent Community Policing Oversight Commission.

ICPOC was created, in part, to be a forum in which members of the community could discuss issues of public safety in order to provide recommendations that can ensure better-informed Council decisions. However, if ICPOC is not systematically included in that process, its potential to achieve its purpose is undermined. It is my understanding of ICPOC’s founding charter that any item City Council votes on, or City Administration plans to make a decision on, that pertains, generally, to public safety, or, specifically, to Ann Arbor PD and its resources, should go before ICPOC. It is my understanding that this was not the case for CA-24, nor for any number of other recent items, such as, on this agenda, CA-23 and CA-10, both of which also directly bear on the allocation of police resources.

If City Council is voting on it, if it pertains to public safety and the allocations of resources therein, ICPOC should be allowed to offer a chance to host a public discussion of it and provide recommendations to Council on it.

On a separate but related issue, I am looking forward to the report on unarmed public safety being prepared by the City Administration. As a member of the Coalition for Re-envisioning our Safety, a diverse coalition of community members who care deeply about transformative justice and building care-based safety in our community, I have witnessed directly the value of a community-led engagement on these issues. This has resulted concretely in our recent proposal for how such a plan might work. To date, over 500 people have endorsed our plan. I am greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm displayed by our community to explore an unarmed non-police service that can connect people to the resources they need, when they need them, without exposing them to additional risks. For that reason, I do hope that ICPOC has been given a substantive role in shaping the City’s recommendations—as the initial resolution says it should– and that it will be brought before ICPOC as part of a public meeting prior to any conclusions about the feasibility of such a program being offered or decisions about how to proceed with a potential program are made.

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On whether Civilian Review Boards “matter”

Came across a new article in @ASR_Journal by @StanfordSoc Prof. Susan Olzak entitled "Does Protest Against Police Violence Matter? Evidence from
U.S. Cities, 1990 through 2019" (/1)

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00031224211056966

Continue reading On whether Civilian Review Boards “matter”

Donna Haraway’s “Critters”

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Still from Fabrizio Terranova’s ‘Donna Haraway: Storytelling for Earthly Survival’ (2016)

I’ve finally been reading bits and pieces of Donna Haraway’s Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, which, I’ve been doing as part of a larger project to imagine the end of policing.

I had been meaning to do this for a while, but I was recently inspired her performance as discussant at a double panel at the American Anthropological Association Meetings I was a part of, honoring Aihwa Ong.  There were many wonderful moments there (one tidbit: Haraway, who became mega-famous for her essay “A Cyborg Manifesto,” declared that “Aihwa taught me more about cyborgs than anyone else.”  She was especially inspired by the complex entanglements of women and machinery in Ong’s first book, Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline) but it was actually one word that she kept using that stuck with me: critter. Continue reading Donna Haraway’s “Critters”

My first novel, now completely Open Access

Sometimes One runs across forgotten things in the nether regions of One’s hard drive.  Today I can across this piece, an “abbreviated adventure novel” I wrote over fifteen years ago. Reading it again now, as I try to put the final touches on my ethnographic monograph, I’m struck by the continued sense of (w)rote formalism and disjointed narrative that constitute my attempts at describing contemporary life.  Anyway here it is in its entirety: my first–still untitled–novel.

I.

He didn’t know, one way or the other, any way of getting there.  Of course there was the usual way, but for that he didn’t have the stomach today.

“Charles, what’s the matter honey?  Don’t you have to go?”  Of course he did.  That was known.  If anything, knowing that was not the problem.

“What time is it?” he stalled.

“Time to go, or you’ll be late.”

Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened.

 

II.

Only later did it make any sense.

“You see, Turkmenistan had always had rather vague borders, let alone after the recent business with the Shah.  How else could One be expected to respond?” he said in the most surprisingly perfect English you’ve ever heard.  And after that, everyone could see the reason for his actions.

A jolly good laugh was had by all.

 

III.

Meanwhile, back on the homefront, Gina had been waiting seventeen years for the #52 bus to come down Balmora Avenue and was beginning to wonder if it ever would.  However, being recently informed of the exploits of Col. Major Thomas Waterpaint IV in the hitherto unexplored regions of the Belgian Congo and the peripheral Asiatic Caucasus, she took it upon herself to summon the intestinal wherewithal to initiate a maneuver of her own accord, on par with anything the above-mentioned hero had yet seen fit to dare.

“Miss Linda,” she called out.  “I don’t think I’m ‘bout to set here and wait for the #52 Balmora Avenue Bus today,” as she ventured her foot, attached to its stout ankle away from her place on the curb.

“But Miss Gina!” Linda called out in the wrong direction, facing not the target towards whom her warning was aimed but down the row, her eyes reflecting the terror of what was appearing over the horizon.

IV.

And so forth.

V.

“However, there is still one thing I do not understand, my dear Col. Major,” he said as he pored exactingly equal portions of an unspecified mixture of liqueurs into an unspecified number of vessels, “and that is how you could have possibly known what the Turk had been planning in the first place.”

“Quite simple, Mr. Harberry” he said venturing a sample from the proffered drinking vessel.  “Once I had heard of the unfortunate occurrences on Balmora Avenue, I knew there was only one possible course of action.”

“Indeed!” slurped Mr. Harberry.

“Yes, indeed” smirked the Countess, her haired pulled back tightly.

 

THE END

The historical event that merges the secularism & ontology debates

I’ve found the historical tidbit that finally merges the ca. 2000s secularism debates and the ca. 2010s ontology/human-animal debates in anthropology. It’s from Eric Hazan’s A History of the Barricade (Verso Books):

Henri III, who had previously been king of Poland, came to the throne of France in 1574 on the death of his brother Charles IX (the king of the St Bartholomew massacre). He was not popular, particularly in Paris, which at that time was very Catholic and traditional. His entourage was lampooned, the famous ‘mignons’ who passed their time in duels and debauchery of various kinds. He was attacked for his fantasies, his cross-dressing, his taste for lapdogs and exotic animals. Pierre de L’Estoile, gentleman usher to the chancellery and quite royalist in his sympathies, related in his diary that on 14 July 1576: 

The king and queen arrived in Paris on return from the land of Normandy, from where they brought a large quantity of monkeys, parrots, and small dogs purchased in Dieppe. Some of these parrots, the majority trained by the Huguenots, gave out all kinds of nonsense and railing against the mass, the pope, and the ceremonies of the Roman church; when some people who had been offended said this to the king, he replied that you don’t interfere with the conscience of parrots.

You heard it here, folks: you don’t interfere with the conscience of a parrot. Fowl mouth and all.

Recent Publications by Kevin Karpiak on the Anthropology of Police (Fall 2016)

Things have been so busy this semester I haven’t even been able to keep up with spreading the word about my own work!  There are three major publications I wanted to let you all know about.  I have been working on some of these for several years now, and I’m very proud of them:

Continue reading Recent Publications by Kevin Karpiak on the Anthropology of Police (Fall 2016)

Far Afield

This book was published in French under the title L’Adieu au voyage. This phrase is an allusion to the last page of Tristes Tropiques, in which Claude Lévi-Strauss invites us to seize the essence of humankind not through geographical or anthropological explorations of the planet (“fond farewell to savages and explorations!”), but through the ephemeral contemplation of the works of nature: a crystal, a perfume, or, famously, the eye of a cat. In my mind, this phrase did not refer to such a project, and even less to some historical moment: the farewell to journeying does not designate some historical realization through which, after explorations and empires, the West would observe with bitterness the end of exoticism or the vanishing of differences (these topoi date back at least to the eighteenth century). It designates rather a moment within ethnography, through which the anthropologist relinquishes any idealized conception of difference. It is thus not only a farewell to some idealized Other, but also a farewell to oneself, in other words the redefinition of the relationship between subject and object. Like in Lévi-Strauss’s original phrasing, the farewell to the journey does not point to any conclusion, or disenchantment, but to the reconfiguration of a relationship, a twofold process of objectivation and subjectivation.

— From the Preface to the English Edition of Vincent Debeane’s Far Afield: French Anthropology Between Science & Literature

New article in American Anthropologist

The AAA Meetings were a wonderful flurry of activity that I’m just now recovering from, however one thing slipped under my radar while it was happening: my new article, co-authored with Paul Mutsaers and Jennie Simpson, on “The Anthropology of Police as Public Anthropology” is now available for early viewing*.  The hard-copy version of the article is set to appear in the December issue of the journal American Anthropologist.  This should be the first in a flurry of exciting things coming in the next semester or so, so keep an eye out!

 

*I’d prefer you download the article via Wiley’s site, if you have access through your home institution or Anthrosource.  If not, however, you an find a copy I’ve uploaded onto Academia.edu

Ian Hacking, “The Looping Effects of Human Kinds” in Downes & Machery (eds.) Arguing About Human Nature

I have no doubt that nature has kinds which we distinguish.  Some seem fairly cosmic: quarks, probably genes, possibly cystic fibrosis.  Others are mundane: mud, the common cold, headlands, sunsets.  The common cold is as real as cystic fibrosis, and sunsets are as real as quarks.  More law-like regularities are known about mud than quarks–known to youths who play football, parents who do family laundry, and to mud engineers on oil rig sites.  The regularities of mud do not have profound consequences for theoreticians.  That does not make mud any the less a natural kind of stuff.”

New Virtual Issue of PoLAR featuring “Of Heroes and Polemics” as well as a new ‘Postscript’

I’m happy to say that my 2010 article “Of Heroes and Polemics: the ‘policeman’ in urban ethnography” has been selected for inclusion in the latest Virtual issue of the Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR) on “The Promise and Pathos of Law“.

All the articles in this issue will be available as Open Access, which means you will not need a University library subscription to access them.  In addition, I’ve written a short new  ‘postscript’ to the piece reflecting on changes since the article’s original publication.

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Fieldworks trinkets, cause for reflection