How to deal with differences based on culture, ethnicity and race has become a key issue of policing in public debates globally. The public discourse is dominated by shocking news events, many of them happening in the US, but also in Europe. This book looks at everyday, often mundane, interactions between police officers and migrantised actors in European countries and explores how both sides deal with perceived differences. Taking an ethnographic approach, the book contributes to the development of a comparative and distinctly European perspective on policing. The study of the practices, discourses and beliefs of actors themselves is an epistemological positioning, while often ethically challenging, which is unavoidable for a nuanced understanding of policing. By adopting an ethnographic and multi-perspective approach, the contributors to this book study the possible course of action, perspectives and rationalities of both sides in these encounters. The book presents empirically grounded contributions from various European countries, jointly developing a field of study and generating robust concepts in a highly politicised field, bringing together anthropology, criminology, history, sociology and linguistics.
This chapter analyses the configurations of a transnational cooperation police programme for Portuguese-speaking African students in Portugal (PALOP). I show how the policy of Lusophony, which aims to promote the translation of late postcolonial differences, in practice produces spaces of othering and racialisation. In a learning context charged with national and historical references, the African cadets witness another side of the virtuous Lusophony. Based on historical and ethnographic data, I describe how despite the promised solidarity of the cooperation, the imperative colonial past still claims dominance, generating multiple ambiguities in the learning and social environments.
In this chapter, I reflect on the relation of police–minority interactions to the contexts that condition the shape of these encounters and which the encounters, in turn, sustain. These are the context of law (the relation of ‘underground’ categories of race to supposedly race-neutral bureaucratic and legal processes); the context of work (the relation of police race-making to the tragic properties of the police mandate), and the context of inequality (the relation of situated police re-enactments of difference to the already existing structure and cultural representation of racialised injustice). My claim is that police action draws upon a system of racialised categorisation and puts its categories to work situationally, while also re-authorising and putting back into circulation social knowledge about racialised difference, as well as the generic idea that ‘race’ is and should be a relevant category for thinking about crime, ordering and justice.
Centred on the idea that police forces are often a focal point for conflict in today’s societies, this chapter takes an interest in big data policing in Amsterdam as a contested development. Looking at the socio-technical preconditions of such new, algorithmic forms of policing brings to the surface that police forces employ certain grids of legibility upon the input they receive from communities, both by recognising only certain forms of input as legitimate, and by decomposing individuals into their predictive features. Against the background of a grim conflict between police officers and young Moroccan Dutchmen, the authors offer a selected description of three security innovations on the basis of the six months of fieldwork in Amsterdam that were part of larger ethnographic study of the Dutch police (2008–13).
‘Parallel society’ is a term with clear negative connotations, often used as self-evident without further need for explanation. In Northern Europe, the term has been used to describe a danger scenario – an unwillingness to integrate, a growing risk of disintegrated society, crime, ethnic enclaves and Islamic fundamentalism – and it has provided journalists, police and politicians with a ‘scientific’ term to forward anti-migration and anti-multiculturalism discourses. The term ‘parallel society’ (parallellsamhällen) is new to Sweden, but has lately been increasingly used in reports from the police, where it is framed as a force on its way to take over core societal structures in socio-economically vulnerable areas, such as criminal and private law, banking, housing and labour markets. The ambition of this chapter is to examine the content of the term ‘parallel society’ as it is used in reports from the police, and scrutinise this use considering notions of a punitive turn and the practice of categorisation of population groups in Swedish criminal policy and practice. By drawing on examples of a recent police operation in Sweden and the Danish ‘parallel society law’, I argue that the parallel society discourse might have consequences in terms of police work, by affecting how the police understand and thus act upon social problems and social phenomena, and that this is driven by categorising some population groups as the foreign ‘other’. By transforming social phenomena and problems into police questions, they are translated and understood as criminal problems, as are the population groups connected to the phenomena.
Our ethnographic research aimed at exploring the communicative practices of police officers in Germany when encountering speakers of different languages. However, we soon realised that they face similar communicative issues in many other encounters. Therefore, this chapter widens the focus, not only studying communicative practices when different ‘named languages’ are involved, but also exploring encounters involving differing language varieties, styles and registers; these differences are not grounded in nationality or culture but in the citizens’ class, community, state of mind and more. In these encounters, police officers routinely reach a sufficient level of understanding by mixing languages and language varieties, by using gestures, by relying on common-sense sequences of bureaucracy, and ultimately by employing the potential to use violence. Surprisingly, the main challenge – and the main source of misunderstanding – is not translation in a linguistic sense, but the need to translate complex everyday situations according to organisational guidelines and legal norms. Communicative practices are intertwined with ‘doing police’ – the challenge of translating between citizens’ expectations and organisational rationalities of the police.
The Art of the Observer is a personal guide to documentary filmmaking, based on the author’s years of experience as a writer on film and a maker of ethnographic and documentary films. It devotes particular attention to observational filmmaking and the distinctive philosophy and methodology of this approach. Each of its chapters addresses a different aspect of filmmaking practice, offering both practical insights and reflections on what it means, in both intellectual and emotional terms, to attempt to represent the lives of others. The book makes clear that documentary cinema is not simply a matter of recording reality, but also of analytically and artfully organising the filmmaker’s observations in ways that reveal the complex patterns of social life.
In 1988, prior to making the film Photo Wallahs (1991), the filmmakers David and Judith MacDougall had to import their filming equipment into India. This chapter provides a narrative account of the process of clearing the equipment through Indian customs, written immediately after the event. The importation involved numerous documents to be tendered and signed by officials, as well as the inspection of the equipment, carried out in the heat of an Indian summer, all this in competition with other people trying to get similar clearances for their goods. The hero of the piece is the clearing agent, Mr Gandhi, who has been doing this sort of thing for years.
This chapter describes a meeting of filmmaker Robert Gardner with students in a graduate seminar at Harvard University. In a discussion Gardner responded to questions from the students about the making of Forest of Bliss (1985), his film about Hindu rituals of death in Varanasi (formerly Benares), which the students had just seen. He tells how he was inspired by the films of the Italian Neorealist directors, the themes he had in mind in making the film, the convergence in it of poetic elements, and the practical problems he encountered in making it. Other topics covered include overcoming the ethnocentrism of viewers, the role of chance and circumstance in documentary filmmaking, and why he is attracted to making films in other cultures as a way of addressing universal aspects of human experience.
This chapter discusses the varied historical and epistemological conceptions of ethnographic film, from the idea of films conceived as museum collections, to so-called ‘illustrated lectures’, to films made as visual equivalents of written ethnographies, and films that explore the performative, emotional and underlying cultural patterns of human societies. The pros and cons of several approaches are considered, along with their different methodologies. Among these are the various forms of observational cinema, ranging from films focusing on the filmmaker’s immediate observations, to those using narrative methods, to those creating more multi-level structures. The chapter describes how some films extend existing filmic possibilities in the temporal and sensory realms, in their uses of narrative, in emphasising thematic elements, and in combining several of these approaches in the same film. The author concludes that if ethnographic filmmaking is to develop its full potential, no single approach can be held up as the only legitimate one.