#LSANOLA2016 Preview: Languages and Practices of Legality

Thursday, June 2nd 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM
NOLA Marriott Balcony M (4th floor)

The Ethnography Collaborative Research Network within the Law and Society Association is sponsoring several panels and events of interest to anthropologists. APLA is featuring a preview of the panels and papers as a guide to ethnography-oriented events at next week’s meeting in New Orleans.

Chair: Luis Daniel Gascón, University of San Francisco
Discussant: Jessica Cooper, Princeton University
Papers: Masayoshi Koga, Jonathan Gordon, I. India Thusi

Policing Sex: Researching The Policing of Sex Workers in Johannesburg, South Africa
I. India Thusi, University of Witwatersrand and The Opportunity Agenda

Sex work is a common phenomenon of Johannesburg’s everyday city life, and sex workers themselves are often victims of crime. Nonetheless, sex work remains illegal and police are obligated to enforce the laws that prohibit sex work. This raises the question of how the South African Police Service has been coping with the complex task of policing street-based sex work. This legal ethnography explores the policing of sex workers is complex and reflects multiple realities in approaches, assumptions, and practices. These subjectivities include perceptions of beauty, hygiene, and female sexuality; expressions of masculinity; continuities with historical practices regarding the regulation of sex work; the evolution of the police organization; and the expectation that police will play a greater role in regulating private relationships. I spent 16 months conducting participant observation amongst sex workers and police members to explore the perceptions, values, behaviours, and norms that govern the relationship between sex workers and police. There were several ethical challenges in researching this topic. This paper discusses several of the challenges that arise while researching illegal conduct

Neutralizing the Rival: Situated Practice of Violence and Legitimacy in Medellín, Colombia
Jonathan Gordon, New York University

Former paramilitary combatants patrol marginalized zones of Medellín, Colombia and violently punish those who disrupt local public order. As in all nation-states, the national Police and military in Colombia do not monopolize violence. Whether Colombian state institutions monopolize legitimate violence is another question. After decades of endorsing Weber’s political thesis that the state claims a monopoly on legitimate violence, social theorists know little about how violence becomes legitimate. Legitimate violence within Weberian frameworks refers to publicly recognized moral rights of the state to use violence for upholding law and order. Yet “the state” and “morality” are elusive concepts, and measuring legitimacy in Weberian terms requires endless assessments of how the public perceives state institutions’ uses of violence. Alternatively, this article grapples with the legitimacy of violence by examining how state institutions with coercive capacities deploy it to maintain public order and interact in practice with local populations who desire the predictability that public order provides. Public order is a modus vivendi; it imparts space to live life with certain expectations. To protect everyday stability, local populations often depend on coercive state institutions like official police, military, and policy. Nonetheless, in the zone of Medellín under study a legally unsanctioned armed organization also attempts to uphold public order. Given its patrols, violence, and trafficking operations violate Colombian law, one would expect participants to be pursued by the Colombian National Police (hereafter Police) and condemned by residents. Three and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork demonstrate, however, that more than 150 local families in the zone tolerate trafficking and consider the organization their first line of defense against threats to public order like the assailant above. Moreover, the Police afford the organization room for trafficking and seeming impunity for wielding violence against assailants the organization apprehends. Situated practices informally sanction the organization as the primary respondent to threats to public order and legitimize the violence it wields, but delegitimize the organization when it fails to prevent or offer recourse for sources of violence perceived to disrupt public order. I close by discussing how my reconceptualization of the Tillian rival illuminates state institutions’ roles in perpetuating certain forms of community-level violence vis-à-vis processes of legitimation and clarifies how public order is reimagined as achievable through violence rather than peaceful civic action. This paper’s demonstration of how legitimacy is situationally and relationally determined and its novel approach for considering how violence becomes built into everyday practice and legitimized extends our understanding of how certain forms of persistent violence in marginalized communities interconnect with state institutional practices.

Ethnographic Research of Recovery Program for Young Drug User “Proyecto Hombre” in Spain
Masayoshi Koga, Chuo University

I present ethnographic research on “Proyecto Hombre (Human Project)”, a recovery and skills intervention program for young drug users in a “Treatment Community (T.C.)” in Spain. This project is based in the T.C. movement, which started originally as a democratization of mental medical facilities of Britain and U.S. after 1960s. The T.C. in many parts of the world has the following commonalities today: 1) Inclusive intervention and service 2) Community as the main treatment subject and organization 3) The former drug user-staff providing a concrete model of recovery 4) Cooperation of various professions 5) Unique understanding of dependence  recovery.

About Jennifer Curtis

Jennifer Curtis is an Honorary Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh: http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/staff/social_anthropology/curtis_jennifer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: