New Course: Writing Police Power

On Monday I’ll start teaching my last course here at Berkeley.  It’s a reading and composition course–so its main goal is to teach first and second-year undergraduates the skills necessary for reading, writing and doing research at the college level–but within that overall goal individual instructors get a huge amount of leeway in picking the course theme.

My course will be “Writing Police Power” and I’m pretty excited by it.  You can see a copy of the syllabus here.  the basic premise of the course is that writing about police, across a variety of genres (including urban ethnography), is a way of writing about power.  This is also the thesis of an article I’ve written, currently under review by PoLAR, but the main point for the students here is to get how different representational strategies couch within theme theories of power–a skill they’ll need if they’re going to be critical readers of ethnographic texts for upper division courses.

Since this is a super-condensed summer course I decided to cut out more of the examples from critical theory (Althusser on interpollation, Lacan on the Purloined Letter, etc.) than I’d ideally like, but I do hope it goes well.  Any comments would be awesome, however…

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Updates at kevinkarpiak.blogspot.com

I’ve re-arranged the format over at my other blog, kevinkarpiak.blogspot.com.  i was able to include my Twitter feed as well as spruce up the “Blogs I follow” function (neither of which are available through wordpress).

It’s still very much an open question which site I will ultimately stick with… Blogger seems to be more malleable (and free), while wordpress was easier to get started with.

In any case you don’t have to worry too much, Dear Reader, because they’re synchronized so that you get all of the same original content at both…  But you should check it out, in any case.

How many anthropologists work in the Security Industry?

I was checking out this new fancy search engine that everyone’s talking about, and i came across this

Which made me ask myself “WTF??!?!  Why did both the number and salary of U.S. anthropologists shoot up right around 2002/03?” The only thing I could think of is Human Terrain Systems, but could that really be the case?  (By the way, for those of you who don’t know what HTS is, you can get a taste of the hub-bub in anthropology about it here)

So I checked the Bureau of Labor Statistics and, sure enough, in 2008 almost half of all Anthropologists worked for the Federal Executive branch.  What gives?

Well, I think part of the answer is increased employment by anthropologists in the Bush-era federal security apparatus (of which the HTS), but also part of the issue is that most people who I would recognize as “anthropologists” are in fact “Educators” according to the BLS…  So we have a reversal of the traditional American Anthropological Association Meetings status hierarchy: “applied” anthropologists are the “real” ones and Professors are merely postsecondary education specialists in the field…

Maybe this is old news to some people, but it does probably require that we pause for a moment and think about what we mean by an “anthropologist” in the, at times quite heated, debate about the ethical implications of such anthro-security collaborations… or at least the bureaucratic content of the category being mobilized within such collaborations

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.

Continue reading Next Up: “Electric Burns” at University of Chicago

New Community-Police Re-figurations in Oakland

Jonathan Simon, over at Governing Through Crime has some interesting reflections on a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

From the article it appears that the major tactics are more beat cops walking commercial streets and the creation of a new police linked (but not managed) “outreach” initiative aimed at stalling conlicts in Oakland neighborhoods before it turns lethal.

No doubt the beat cops are reassuring, especially to business people like the furniture store owner interviewed by Chip Johnson:

“We had homeless people sleeping in our doorways, people wandering up and down the block, but when he came, that all vanished,” said Ford, 68. “I would say about four out of six days a week, he will stick his head inside the door and say hi. It’s been a great relief.”

Whether a strategy of chasing homeless people away is constitutional or sustainable in the Bay Area (especially when many of our neighbors may soon be joining their ranks) we will leave for another post, let alone whether it has any effect on violent crime.

More intriguing is the outreach initiative which Johnson credits to Mayor Ron Dellums:

Toribio said outreach workers paid for through the city’s Measure Y program have established a “strong working relationship” with some street toughs. The workers regularly target areas with patterns of violence.

“We send them in when we’ve determined there may be trouble brewing, and they work to try and let calmer heads prevail,” Toribio said.

“Most of these guys (outreach workers) grew up in some of these neighborhoods. They recognize guys from the street,” he said. “Some of them have been to prison and battled their demons, and they have a lot of credibility on the street.”

Leave aside the interesting constitutional questions of an apparatus that “work with police”, but “they aren’t agents of the police and don’t share information.” The approach sounds promising to me.

Ironically it underscores some of the problems that shadow the promise of the police. Why do the police lack so much credibility in neighborhoods suffering from violence that they need a parallel apparatus to provide them information as needed to stop or solve violent crimes? When we put more police offices on the streets how might their conduct actually exacerbate violent crime?

via Governing through Crime: The Promise of Police.

It seems, once again, that contemporary re-figurations of police practice revolve around the constellation of concepts that are central to Weber’s definition of the state.  We have new types of human communities operating on different sorts of terrain under the aegis of unique claims to legitimacy.  This is the ensemble of pragmatic political experimentation that I’ve been calling a “post-social police.

Transatlantic Perspectives on the Local Pursuit of Intelligence at UIUC

Here’s the program for a conference on policing immigrant communities that I’ll be participating in at UIUC.  The text here’s via Legal Theory Blog, but you can also find it at ESQ Blog.me:

“Transatlantic Perspectives on the Local Pursuit of Intelligence”

April 2-3, 2009

University of Illinois College of Law

Conference Organizers: Jacqueline Ross, University of Illinois College of Law, and Thierry Delpeuch, Centre National de Recherche Scientifique

Jointly sponsored by the University of Illinois College of Law; the University of Illinois College of Law’s Program in Criminal Law and Procedure; The University of Illinois Police Training Institute; the University of Illinois European Union Center; the United States Embassy in France; the Ministry of the Interior of France (Délégation à la prospective et à la stratégie); the Agence Nationale de Recherche; and France’s Centre National de Recherche Scientifique

Continue reading Transatlantic Perspectives on the Local Pursuit of Intelligence at UIUC

Publications

Some of my research is available for free through various online repositories.   Here is a growing list of available articles, presentations, and working papers

Savage Minds on Michèle Lamont’s new book

i just couldn’t help making this a whole entry for itself, rather than just digg-ing it

Peer Review Revealed: Inside Higher Ed discussed Michèle Lamont’s new book How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgement. In the research for the book, Lamont sat in on multiple peer review panels and interviewed people making decisions. Her findings: that reviewers reward proposals that reminds them of their latest weekend vacation, dislike proposals that doesn’t speak to their own work, form alliances with other reviewers, read moral judgements into statements of purpose, etc. But in the end, Lamont seems to conclude, it’s the worst system except for every other kind.

via Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology — A Group Blog » Savage Minds Around the Web.

Dissonant Soundtracks: what would be on the top 10?

Part of my interest in movie scores, as a few of you will know, is that I think of ethnographic writing, or composition, in terms of movie soundtracks… an insight that only starts the conversation, in that there are so many ways to score a film.

In light of the recent hullabaloo over the use of music in the new The Watchmen movie, and of my own re-discovery of both Wicker Park soundtracks, I’ve been thinking about the ways soundtracks can be sometimes overly dissonant with the movies themselves: there can be bad movies with good soundtracks, bad soundtracks for good movies, and instances where music and movie just don’t “fit”.

Maybe we can use this “bad” examples to think about the ethnographic composition.  So I guess I’m asking: what would be on your top 10 list of “dissonant” movie soundtracks, and why?  What, if anything, can we learn from this “dissonance”?

Center for South Asia Studies: Violence and Creativity Workshop (Update)

An update on the Conference/Workshop I’ll be participating in this Saturday. You can see the full program here.  Or, see the info after the break:

Continue reading Center for South Asia Studies: Violence and Creativity Workshop (Update)

a blog about post-social policing, anthropology, science studies and more

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