Writing the World of PolicingThe Difference Ethnography Makes

Writing the World of PolicingThe Difference Ethnography Makes

Didier Fassin

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780226497501

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Although the abundant scientific literature in criminology, sociology, political science, and legal studies on urban policing relies in part on participant observation, ethnography rarely appears as such, except occasionally in the form of short vignettes, and the specific contribution of this method is generally not discussed. Moreover, until recently, anthropologists themselves seem to have been little interested in policing practices. Yet, during the past decade, this situation has begun to change. A renewed interest in fieldwork research has emerged, criminologists have acknowledged the need for qualitative in-depth work, and anthropologists have conducted studies of law enforcement in various parts of the world. The present volume addresses the ethnography of policing from a dual perspective. On the one hand, it explores how ethnography can illuminate the work and role of the police in society; on the other hand, it analyzes how the study of law enforcement sheds light on important questions regarding the practice of ethnography in general. This collective volume is therefore intended to be a contribution to both criminology and anthropology. The case studies presented span five continents (North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe), therefore contributing to a global exploration of policing. Given the growing questioning of law enforcement and its deviances in contemporary societies, especially for what regards the poor and the minorities, this collective endeavor is also a contribution to a much-needed public debate.