We invite you to a discussion with 2 eminent anthropologists about law enforcement in situations of urban unrest. We will be honoring Didier Fassin's newly translated book -- an account of contemporary urban policing, which shows that instead of enforcing the law, the police are engaged in the task of enforcing an unequal social order in the name of public security.
Most incidents of urban unrest in recent decades have followed lethal interactions between the youth and the police. Usually, these take place in disadvantaged neighborhoods composed of working-class families or immigrant origin or belonging to ethnic minorities. These tragic events have received a great deal of media coverage, but we know very little about the everyday activities of urban policing that lie behind them.
Over the course of 15 months, at the time of the 2005 riots, Didier Fassin carried out an ethnographic study in one of the largest precincts in the Paris region, sharing the life of a police station and cruising with the patrols, in particular the dreaded anti-crime squads. He uncovers the ordinary aspects of law enforcement, characterized by inactivity and boredom, by eventless days and nights where minor infractions give rise to spectacular displays of force and where officers express doubts about the significance and value of their own jobs. Describing the invisible manifestations of violence and unrecognized forms of discrimination against minority youngsters, undocumented immigrants and Roma people, he analyses the conditions that make them possible and tolerable, including entrenched policies of segregation and stigmatization, economic marginalization and racial discrimination.
Didier Fassin is Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. His previous works are, among others, When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa, The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood, and Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Carol Greenhouse is professor and department Chair of Anthropology at Princeton University. Her publications include A Moment's Notice: Time Politics Across Culture, Praying for Justice: Faith, Order and Community in an American Town, and Law and Community in Three American Towns.