The New Anthropology of Crime

How do anthropologists approach the study of crime? What is new about current anthropological research on crime and the state?

The May 2009 issue (Volume 32, Issue 2) of the Political and Legal Anthropology Review included articles and interviews related to the anthropology of crime:

From Brazil: an analysis of the changing roles of drug traffickers in Brazilian favelas. Ben Penglase explains how these non-state actors produce a state of “ordered disorder” in which their power grows relative to that of the Brazilian state – and yet how the state actively contributes to this situation.

From India: an examination of the interplay of caste and democratic politics in India. Author Jeffrey Witsoe‘s ethnographic account of Rajput villagers traces the connection between local gangsters or “goondas,” shifts in the caste system, and struggles over democratization.

—The Directions section in this issue contains the first part of an interview which discusses today’s emerging anthropology of crime. Author Ben Penglase interviews Stephanie Kane and Phil Parnell, who co-edited Crime’s Power: Anthropology and the Ethnography of Crime.

Continuing the conversation:

— The second part of Penglase’s interview with Kane and Parnell (only available online)

—Stephanie Kane examines the “five points” proposed in the interview in the context of anthropological ethics and the study of crime, gender/sexuality, and the politics of inclusion/exclusion.

— Phil Parnell asks about the nature of anthropology and danger.

—Jean Comaroff weighs in on today’s “Anthropology of Crime.”