Introduction

Anthropological criminology 2.0

in Focaal
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  • 1 University of Copenhagen dbs@anthro.ku.dk
  • 2 University of Copenhagen hv@anthro.ku.dk

Abstract

This introduction seeks to outline a contemporary anthropological approach to crime and criminalization, an “anthropological criminology 2.0.” This anthropological criminology distances the subfield from its social Darwinist connotations and instead etches itself clearly onto a social and political anthropological tradition. In doing so, the introduction moves from Malinowski's initial functionalist and localist approach to present-day political and global orientations. It offers five distinct propositions for anthropological criminology to engage with in the future, which we believe are essential for future anthropological studies of crime and criminalization. With these as guidelines, we hope to fully revive a much-needed dialogue between criminology and anthropology. As we shall see, anthropological and ethnographic insights are currently in demand as global, yet poorly understood, forms of crime are developing alongside ever cruder and more amplified reactions to them.

We [should] pursue two lines of anthropological inquirya … One is the study of criminalization … The other is ethnographic attention to illegal predation … Taken together, [this] enables us to provid[e] reflection[s] on global crime … an issue that urgently awaits anthropology's contribution. (Schneider and Schneider 2008: 352)

This Focaal theme section seeks to revise and rejuvenate anthropological criminology. It proposes an “anthropological criminology 2.0”1 by clarifying the potential of a social anthropological approach to crime and criminalization and distancing the subfield from the social Darwinist connotations with which it is conventionally associated. Demonstrating how another genealogy exists—one that builds on the insights of Bronisław Malinowski rather than Cesare Lombroso—and revisiting and retelling the history of social anthropological engagements with crime and criminalization, we move from earlier functionalist and localist approaches to anthropological criminology's present-day political and global orientations. Finally, we offer five distinct propositions for anthropological criminology to engage with in the future.

In doing this, we follow in the wake of the renewed attention that anthropological criminology has been receiving. In relation to an increased focus on transnational crime and illegalized dimensions of globalization, several anthropologists have begun to approach global forms of crime and criminalization ethnographically. In the process, they have uncovered a field that not only urgently awaits our disciplinary engagement, as Jane and Peter Schneider (2008) among others have argued (cf. Jeroslow 2011; Penglase et al. 2009), but one that is a matter of primary concern for many international policy makers and pundits. As the United Nations Office on Drugs Crime stressed in its report The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment, contemporary issues of criminal activity, and the policing and prevention thereof, are increasingly attuned to problems and processes that are related to global dynamics (UNODC 2010). Illegal cross-border activities such as various forms of trafficking, smuggling, property theft, cybercrime, financial crime, environmental crime, and terrorism have become governmental worries and causes of societal fears. They are seen, in Manuel Castell's (1998) words, as “the perverse connections” of a growingly global order: an interconnected state of affairs, where the increasing movements of people, goods, capital, and information facilitate not just legal but also illegal flows.

Yet, despite the widespread anxiety, little is still known about these matters. Quantitative studies indicate the scale of the problem. In 2009, cross-border or transnational organized crime was, for example, estimated to generate $870 billion a year, equaling 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product. To put it in perspective, this is more than six times the amount of official development assistance at the time (UNODC 2011). Looking to the future, pundits have even predicted “illicit trade may reach anywhere from 1 to 3 trillion dollars in value … [approximating] seven times the rate of growth of legal trade” (Heine and Thakur 2011: 50). Still, while quantitative analyses have been useful in identifying its vast dimensions, its underlying sociocultural logics and practices remain under-researched and partially understood to the point where it can be claimed that no “valid empirical overview exists” (Bruinsma 2015: 3). Or, as the UN concludes, “despite the gravity of the threat it remains insufficiently understood” (UNODC 2010: ii).

In this dearth of knowledge lies an invitation for anthropological engagement—first, as an enticement to shed ethnographic light on a dramatically developing yet relatively unknown global phenomenon. This is a bidding that suits anthropology particularly well. Unlike traditional criminologists, who are, by their own admission, too-often hindered by methodological nationalism and, perhaps therefore, theoretical ethnocentrism (Aas 2013), anthropologists often “follow and stay with the movements” of the people and phenomena we study (Marcus 1995: 106)—and increasingly do so across scale. Anthropologists, in other words, aim to prevent local, national, or other sociopolitical borders and boundaries artificially cutting our investigations short. The discipline is thus well suited to answer the prevalent yet rarely answered criminological call for an ethnographic criminology “that travels” both in methodological and theoretical terms (Aas 2011). In doing so—that is, in traveling with contemporary forms of crime and criminalization—anthropological criminology may not only respond to a request for more qualitative knowledge; it may also be able to provide detailed pushback against the alarmist and fear-mongering tendencies of contemporary politics, which currently seem set on singling out migrants in ways that criminalize them.

Anthropological criminology: From worlds within to the worldwide

While the subdiscipline of anthropological criminology has different theoretical tenets, it is perhaps best known for its relation to the late nineteenth-century Italian school of criminology led by the charismatic Cesare Lombroso. Building on early connections between evolutionism, phrenology, and physical anthropology, the field of anthropological criminology (or criminal anthropology, as it was interchangeably termed at the time) used phrenological methods and the analyses of “mug shots” to set forth the theory of “the born criminal” (Lombroso 1911). Instead of locating the causes of crime in will and rational choice, Lombroso and his colleagues argued criminality was primarily a manifestation of biological “atavism.” Criminals were primitive throwbacks in our civilized midst, literally “off track” or “falling short”2 in relation to the evolutionary progress of the rest of the Western population. Unsurprisingly, the people labeled as archaic and deviant Others were often religious or cultural minorities such as indigenous populations or stateless people, for example, the Sami, Jew, or Roma (cf. Stewart 2013).

Anthropological criminology quickly gained ground, not just in academia but also in political and public life, and came to inform a range of policies and ideologies from the middle of the nineteenth century onward. It laid the ground for politicized eugenics and was widely celebrated as offering both scientifically sound and enlightening ways of maintaining and purifying national populations by both the conservative and the progressive, the conformist and the bohemian. Although Lombroso's work now seems to be a fleeting image of an erroneous science belonging to a time long gone, the impact of his ideas endured and was noticeable in public policies in the early to mid-twentieth century. In Denmark, the perspective was, for example, central to the “social reform” drafted by the Social Democratic politician K. K. Steincke and implemented by the Danish state in 1933. This was and is a reform understood as the very foundation of the globally renowned Danish welfare state, yet it contained two laws that granted the Danish state the right to sterilize “degenerates” as a way of maintaining a physically and morally “healthy” population. The two laws were not officially revoked until 1975 and were explicitly argued for and legitimated in crime prevention terms.

Alternative tenets

However, at the same time as Lombroso was studying the “internal others” of the Occident, his social anthropological contemporaries had begun studying law and crime focusing on “external others” instead (cf. Vigh and Sausdal 2018) Obviously, early social anthropology carried with it many of the same problems as Lombroso's positivist school of criminology. It too was based on evolutionist, ethnocentric, and colonial ideas of the world. Yet, while Lombroso's thoughts were politically and scientifically acknowledged, social anthropology had begun distancing itself from the “original sin” of its early social evolutionist leanings (Kuper 2010). The move from abstract “armchair anthropology” to long-term ethnography resulted in the discipline becoming unceasingly focused on expanding our understanding of what it means to be human and attuning the academic gaze to the contextual social and political factors behind social and cultural differences. Work carried out by foundational figures such as Malinowski (1926) and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1935) provide, as such, a more reasonable point of departure for an updated and sociopolitically attuned anthropological criminology.

In fact, many early social anthropologists were particularly interested in criminality. Crime and reactions to crime interested them as they were seen as an expression of “the central struggle of social principles.” This was brilliantly demonstrated by Malinowski (1926) in his ethnographic exploration of Crime and Custom in Savage Society. Drawing on the structural-functionalist work of Durkheim, Malinowski proposed an anthropological criminology that treated crime as a social, and not a biological, fact. Yet, contrary to Durkheim, he did so with attention to the way crime was socially negotiated and evoked. The famous example he offered was that of clan incest: according to local Trobriand customs (i.e., unwritten laws) built on the rules of exogamy, a young Trobriand man was in apparent violation of the rules as he had taken the daughter of his mother's sister as his lover. Yet, to Malinowki's surprise, although most of the village's inhabitants knew of this illegitimate incestuous interaction, no one seemed to react. The “crime” was largely disregarded and bracketed by society. This, however, changed when the young man's rival publicly accused him of incest. Now, ridden with shame, the young man had no choice but to kill himself. To Malinowski, this evocative example clarified that criminality is not a phenomenon in or unto itself but contingent on the social world that surrounds and interprets the (criminal) act. Following Durkheim's ([1893] 2014) contention that it is the act of condemnation that makes the crime and not vice versa, Malinowski showed the young couple's offense was unobtrusive before it got criminalized.

Furthermore, Malinowski's observation dem-onstrates crime and criminalization cannot simply be read as a tautological dialectic. His work on the issue showed how kinship structures, succession, sexuality, rivalry, morality, and, not least, economic structures were negotiated and lived rather than blindly followed in Trobriand society. In criminology, Malinowski's anthropological insights had a profound effect. This is especially evident in the work of the Chicago School, where Malinowski's ethnographic and constructivist approach to the issue has been an explicit or implicit basis for the school's many celebrated studies of street corners and criminal subcultures (cf. Cohen and Short 1958; Whyte 2012). It was equally foundational for labeling theory and critical criminology, as Malinowski's work demonstrated how criminality should not be understood as an a priori matter but, rather, as something that comes into being through a politicized process (Becker 2008).

The powers beyond

Malinowski took anthropological criminology away from its focus on inner, genetic dispositions and reinstalled it into the social world, making it a subdiscipline of social anthropology. We are, of course, not the first to notice this (Jeroslow 2011; Schneider and Schneider 2008). Social anthropological interest in crime and criminalization did not come to a halt after Malinowski's seminal study. It progressed not only beyond biologism but also beyond localism and early anthropological particularity. This development had begun already in the 1960s and 1970s with Anton Blok's (1974) study of the Sicilian Mafia as a prime example. Instead of analyzing organized crime as an insular expression of the immediate community, Blok argued the Mafia rose to power not merely because it was an influential local organization but also because of the gaps in governance that occurred in the early establishment of the Italian state. In carrying out such analysis, he was heavily inspired by Eric Wolf's (2010) neo-Marxist argument that “criminal peasant communities” should be understood as parts of a larger political and economic order—or a “world system.” In this theoretical framework, criminal groups and communities came into being and became embedded within wider social structures, a point Blok thought to be further evidenced by the way the Mafia's presence and power dwindled when the Italian state became much more repressive during Mussolini's fascist regime.

Blok thus successfully drew anthropological criminology away from its particularist and localist traditions and into the wider power structures of the state. Simultaneously, he securely inscribed the subdiscipline into the realm of political anthropology. Subsequently, the torch has been taken up by a few insightful anthropological studies. An example is Philippe Bourgois's (2003) study of drug dealers and street life in East Harlem. Here, he beautifully shows how the selling and use of crack relates to significant changes occurring in the US economy as the country moved from being an industrial society to one based on the service sector. Selling, smoking, snorting, and shooting drugs are thus signs not only of a criminal subculture but, equally, of the strains experienced by minorities and marginalized people through global capitalism. Another example of a globally and politically attuned anthropological criminology, par excellence, is Jean and John Comaroff's (2008) anthology on Law and Disorder in the Postcolony, in which the editors critically asses the widely shared Western notion that the global South is a place inherently haunted by violence, crime, and corruption. The problem with this idea is twofold, they hold. First, it constitutes a redistribution of culpability. Many of the criminal and social issues of the Global South, it is argued, stem not simply from flawed local customs and politics. Rather, they are direct expressions of the colonial and postcolonial neoliberalism brought to bear on these societies. Second, the notion of an inherently felonious Global South should be understood more as a political technology than a description of actual reality. It is a symbolic means by which postcolonial stakeholders keep a hold on their former colonies by presenting themselves as those who can and will counter crime and reestablish order—as the saviors rather than the malefactors. Obviously, using the notion and fear of crime as both a means of political concealment and control is not confined to postcolonial societies. As the Comaroffs remind us, then,

everywhere these days, criminal violence has become an imaginative vehicle, a hieroglyph almost, for thinking about the nightmares that threaten the nation and for posing “more law and order” as the appropriate means of dealing with them. And everywhere the discourse of crime displaces attention away from the material and social effects of neoliberalism, blaming its darker undersides on the evils of the underworld (2008: 148).

Similarly, an insistence that acts of crime and criminalization need to be understood in relation to larger economic and political powers underscores most state-of-the-art anthropology on the matter. It is, for example, part and parcel of Nancy Scheper-Hughes's (2005) work on global organ trafficking, just as it is the very baseline of Henrik Vigh's (2016a, 2016b, 2017, 2018) study of cocaine trafficking and dealing from Guinea Bissau and into Europe. International politics and economic policies are also primary push-and-pull factors in “illegal” migration (Andersson 2014), including the trafficking and smuggling of human beings (Sanchez 2014). And the question of global forms of crime and control is at the very heart of some of the recently published anthropological work on present-day policing (cf. Karpiak and Garriott 2018). What unites these more globally attuned anthropological studies is that they all tackle the question of contemporary crime and criminalization by methodologically and theoretically following various flows and formations from their local manifestations to their wider foundations, just as they demonstrate how crime and criminalization “constitute[s] and reconstitute[s] the local within transnational contexts” (Kane in Penglase et al. 2009: 107).

A new family tree

In sum, what we have revealed is that two genealogies of anthropological criminology can be drawn: one that thankfully got lost in the wake of the catastrophic consequences of social Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific racism, and another that countered the evolutionism and biologism of the positivist school in criminology and develops along social anthropological lines. In this historical readjustment of anthropological criminology, we have thus gone from a focus on worlds within to the worldwide—that is, from locating the causes of crime in inner human dispositions to an anthropology attuned to the social and political dynamics defining it and, increasingly, to the global connections that currently influence its development. In many ways, anthropological criminology is still, as Malinowski conceptualized it, a study of the central struggles of social principles (1926: 122). However, this is no longer merely related to a local community's judgments and struggles with illegality as a window to the social principles that define and divide it. It is increasingly a study of how these judgments and struggles relate to and reverberate with governing principles of the wider world that surrounds them. Framing, as Carolyn Nordstrom has argued in her work on Global Outlaws, an anthropological criminological study as such is the only way we can analytically “catch the powerful confluence of the extra-legal and the twenty-first century globalization” (2007: xix).

Five propositions for an anthropological criminology 2.0

The question remains how best to grasp anthropologically this “confluence of the extra-legal and the twenty-first century globalization.” In what follows, we have singled out and elaborated five distinct propositions we believe represent some of the most important aspects of a present-day anthropological criminology. Building on contemporary insights, they represent a programmatic condensation of the procedures and learnings found in much of the aforementioned work on crime and criminalization and, as always, ethnography forms part of the answer.

Proposition 1: Ethnographic engagement

While traditional forms of crime in many parts of the world have been reduced to an all-time low, global forms of crime are experiencing a rapid growth—not only in size but in complexity (Van Dijk et al. 2012). An ethnographic approach is uniquely suited to investigating such developments. The embedded and long-term fieldwork approach not only provides firsthand witnessing of crime and criminalization but equally enables us to chart the way such processes depart from social formations and environments, as well as how they become socially embedded and incorporated. Through the ethnographer's long-term engagement with interlocutors and their lives, we get a unique glimpse beneath the discursive veneer which often guides the average understanding of social and cultural phenomena (cf. Parnell and Kane 2003). This glimpse—or “unveiling,” as Didier Fassin (2017b: 5) also calls it—repeatedly uncovers a discrepancy between how things are officially portrayed and their everyday reality. This difference is both a matter of deception and ignorance. It is a matter of deception insofar as certain societal actors willfully curate their front-stage appearances and hide their backstage actualities. It is a matter of ignorance insofar as all humans are unable to fully grasp the richness of their everyday lives. This was what Malinowski (2002) termed “the imponderabilia of everyday life,” namely the fact that much of what we do has become so routinized and habituated that it has faded into the unconscious. Pondering what is imponderable in social and cultural life is a classic raison d'être of ethnography. The reflexive move into a social space that is foreign to us enables us to make the ordinary stand out and, hence, provides a view to the social relations, imaginaries and practices that constitute the environments in question.

In terms of crime and criminalization, extensive ethnographic engagements enable us not only to penetrate the “smokescreen,” as John Van Maanen (1973) has called it, of the police or the policed but also to see the way social life comes to incorporate crime and criminalization. Methodologically capturing such concealment, routinization, and revelation demands not only short and serendipitous ethnographic encounters but also a lengthy engagement. Time is necessary for trust to be built, insights achieved, and the consequences of change noticed.

Proposition 2: Methodological mobility

As a consequence of global changes, anthropologists have strived (and struggled) to formulate a sound, mobile methodology that allows us to follow those we study in an ever more interconnected world. Some have proposed to call such itinerant ethnographic approaches “multi-sited,” in the spirit of George Marcus (1995), while others to refer to it as “transnational” (Schiller et al. 1992) or “nonlocal” (Feldman 2011). While researchers disagree on the term, there seems to be general agreement that certain issues increasingly need to be charted beyond their immediate locality.

This of course also goes for global forms of crime and criminalization where, for example, a limited study of local migrant drug dealers would run the risk of missing out on the very reason they are pushing cocaine on a given street corner. The same can be said of present-day policing, where both research and reality have shown that many policing policies and practices are not only increasingly directed at cross-border criminality issues but also tied into and formed by international bodies and policies (Bowling and Sheptycki 2012). Though the ethnographer cannot cover entire networks or spectrums across time and space, including mobility as an ethnographic practice makes it possible to trace connections and their impact across time and space in order for the empirical data collection and subsequent analysis not to fall short. This is why leading criminologists are currently calling for further ethnographic criminology as “an antidote to the abstract nature of many theoretical claims about globalization and its impact” (Aas 2013: 175), as well as a “criminology that travels” (Aas 2011). Such methodological mobility is needed as contemporary knowledge of crime and criminalization is often obstructed by methodological nationalism.

Proposition 3: Cross-cultural comparison

Cross-cultural comparison comes almost automatically as anthropological criminologists 2.0 move with their study subjects across borders and boundaries. As those we study are subjected to a new sociocultural reality, so is the ethnographer. However, cross-cultural comparison should not only be a matter of happenchance when studying crime and criminalization; it should also be integral to the analysis made. Where criminological thought has a tendency toward Occidentalism, anthropological engagements carry the promise of breaking with such parochialisms (cf. Manning 2018). Most obviously, this once again feeds back into the ethnographic tradition and the fact that anthropologists, more than those in other criminologically interested subjects, conduct field studies in, for example, the Global South. Such studies often demonstrate that several of the most customary criminological concepts and notions are culturally specific rather than universal (Carrington et al. 2016). For example, the very notion that crime or violence are exceptional events may be seen to rest on ethnocentrism. Where they will often be seen as exceptional from a Western middle-class perspective, they are, in many places around the world regarded as part and parcel of daily life—not a critical event but a critical continuity (Vigh 2008). Such everydayness, rather than exceptionality, of crime alters the way it is and should be understood. The same can be said in relation to policing and the prevalent Northern idea that the state is a provider of (criminal) justice. In many societies, the state is seen in a much less positive and democratic light, and as a force of injustice rather than impartiality and reasonableness.

Cross-cultural comparison is indeed integral to the training of any anthropologist. It was the very reason Malinowski set out to study matters of crime and criminalization in Melanesia. He wanted to understand how they differed from European notions in order both to gauge the cultural specificity of it and to carve out a generalizable anthropological theory. Today, cross-cultural comparison is similarly often undertaken as a means by which anthropological theories about crime and criminalization can simultaneously appreciate the particularity of certain forms of law breaking, making, and enforcing while understanding these as representations and contrivances of grander societal questions.

Proposition 4: Discovering the ordinary

As Fassin (2013) recently contemplated, the most striking finding of his ethnography of Parisian police officers was “the paradoxical discovery of the obvious” (Fassin 2017a). Like many other ethnographies of, for example, armed forces and security providers (Grassiani 2015; Sausdal 2018; Vigh 2006), Fassin “depicted the everyday life of squads, the eventless nights of patrolling, the tedious routine of stops and frisks, the wearisome arrests of undocumented immigrants and marijuana smokers, the repetitive questioning of youths in the housing projects and of Roma people on country roads” (2013: 632). Instead of adhering to the sensationalism of much journalism (as well as some criminology and sociology on the matter), Fassin's most “‘spectacular discovery’ was the inaction characterizing police work in these disadvantaged neighbourhoods and the profound boredom exuded by the long hours of roaming through the city”—a boredom which often became the very fuel which led the Parisian police officers to (over)react in relation to even the slightest hint of criminal activity.

The unremarkable and humdrum, boredom and waiting, are common aspects of such everyday realities and constitute the unspectacular background to much crime and policing. Anthropological criminologists should therefore remember not only to search for the extraordinary but also to dwell holistically on the many ordinary and everyday aspects of the things we study. We should not—in any case—enter the field with presupposed ideas about what matters about crime or policing. Though it is indeed difficult to take boredom and other ordinary aspects of crime and criminalization seriously when also witnessing evocative displays of violence, conflict, struggle, and suffering, it is an important part of the picture if we want to understand what is going on. Although an anthropological criminology certainly cannot comprise all the different nuances and matters of such a scalar continuum, it should nevertheless try to depict the ordinary as well as the governing overhead forces and, importantly, how they interrelate.

Proposition 5: Grounded critiques

An anthropological criminology 2.0 should pro-vide critical analysis, as well as constructive cri-tiques. The aim is not to form a revolutionary “militant anthropology” (Scheper-Hughes 1995), whose “ethical primacy” is to politicize, but rather to formulate the means by which anthropological analyses can be a reformist ground of dialogue and change. In recent years, anthropologists have been increasingly discussing how to make our ethnographic insights available to the public and thus to political life. This of course includes a discussion of who and what “the public” is. For the sake of clarity, we here follow Fassin's simple definition of the public as “publics beyond academic circles” where the task of the anthropologist is to allow for his/her findings to be “apprehended, appropriated, debated, contested, and used [so that] a circulation of knowledge … [may] contribute to a transformation of the way the world is represented and experienced” (2013: 626). This may be obtained as follows. First, anthropologists can present their analysis in the form of a “critical tale.” This entails a form of representation where descriptions of everyday scenes and situations are inscribed into the social structure and the historical context (Fassin 2013: 628). The coupling of ethnographic situations with the societal and historical context allows for a dialectic tale or narrative that takes advantage of the didactic powers of the example. Second, anthropologists should move beyond the question of good and evil (Fassin 2008). This relates to Jared Zigon's (2007) anthropology of moralities in which he argues for an examinatory approach to morality rather than a depreciatory one. In short, ethnography should take place before normative conclusions. Anthropologists should, as Kevin Karpiak (2016) has discussed in relation to the anthropology of policing, treat what it means to be human as an open research question rather than a closed analytical category. While we might not agree with our criminalized or/and criminalizing interlocutors, the task is to explore how they perceive the world as something that is, to them, meaningful.

This directly relates to Fassin's (2013, 2017b) third contention. Rather than championing “the primacy of the ethical,” he champions the primacy of ethnography. In this view, anthropology's critical potential lies firmly within our discipline's ethnographic endeavor. Instead of committing oneself to a critical anthropology (which has and furthers an a priori understanding of right and wrong) or an anthropology of critique (which “merely” explores people's own critical outlooks as a matter of cultural relativism), ethnography should move between the two in an informed manner, making intelligible both inside and outside perspectives—including how they compare, contrast, and maybe even connect. There is, of course, nothing novel in this. Arguing that ethnography has a critical, mediating potential has been acknowledged since Boas and has been most directly stated in Wolf's famous work on “brokerage.” Nevertheless, it seems worthwhile once again highlighting ethnography's critical potential as a method that offers grounded rather than abstract critique.

Cross-border pollution, smuggling and policing

With these five rules of anthropological engagement fresh in our minds, let us turn to how this theme section's four articles have sought to apply them. What will be most evident is that they all deal with the way people engage in cross-border criminality through in situ ethnographic research. In Vigh's article, we gain insights into the inner workings of one of the “ant trails,” that is, moving small quantities of cocaine along the western smuggling corridor from West Africa into Southern Europe. The article focuses on the way cocaine is smuggled from the cartels in South America to Guinea Bissau, repackaged, and smuggled by Bissauan men into Europe. The business of smuggling from Africa into Europe is also the focus of Line Richter's article. However, here the “goods” in question are humans rather than narcotics. We are presented with a case where Malian nationals help smuggle fellow compatriots into the EU. In the article by Lindsay Ofrias and Gordon Roecker, we are ethnographically transported from local lives within a polluted Ecuadorian rainforest to the large-scale environmental criminal dispute involving the multinational American energy and oil giant Chevron. In this manner, we get to follow what has been named “the trial of the century,” that is, the court proceedings between Chevron and plaintiffs representing tens of thousands of smallholder farmers and indigenous people affected by oil pollution of their homes and livelihood. In the final article of the theme section, David Sausdal takes an ethnographic look at contemporary police surveillance, or what is also referred to as “policing at a distance.” By following the daily surveillance work of several Danish detectives and their efforts to monitor different forms of cross-border crime, he discloses how such police work—with little if any actual human interaction—runs the risk of kindling police cynicism and contempt for the people they police.

What also unites the articles is the use of mobility as a methodological approach. By following and staying with the movements of a particular group of people, or a particular phenomenon, the contributors to this theme section track and trace human practices beyond the confines of one specific locality. Vigh has followed and stayed with the cocaine smuggling network from Bissau to Lisbon to Paris and beyond. Richter has done much the same, following Malian migrant smugglers all the way from Mali through the Maghreb up into Europe. In their ethnography of the trial against Chevron, Ofrias and Roecker move from research conducted among local communities affected by and responding to the disaster in the Amazon into courtroom proceedings in the United States and Canada. And Sausdal provides examples from greater Copenhagen area police stations and streets from where detectives surveil suspected movements across district, national, and international borders, including insights from international missions.

Where a methodological mobility ensures the theme section's studies are not cut empirically or analytically short by obstructive sociopolitical borders, cross-cultural comparison acts as a necessary and complementary antidote to ethnocentrism. Obviously, cross-cultural com-parison automatically enters as a reflective perspective in a study of cross-border crimes and criminalization, as these enter and, hence, inevitably, involve different sociocultural spheres. Moreover, the fact that the theme section involves ethnography from four continents (Africa, South America, North America, and Europe) provides the reader with a rare multi-national and multicultural insight into the similar and different ways crime is constituted, carried out, and controlled, depending on the specific context it involves. Vigh and Richter, for example, offer understandings of criminal activity, intention, and perceptions that largely differ from conventional Euro-American notions. Ofrias and Roecker can be said to describe not only differences in how criminality is perceived but also how these very differences clash in legal terms. And Sausdal illustrates how a perceived cultural and contextual distance between the police and their suspects fosters police contempt—but also how an ostensible bridging of this distance might appease Danish police officers, as well as colleagues worldwide.

The articles also all look at both the ordinary and the larger structures at play—looking not just at overt manifestations of crime and criminalization but also at the way matters of both minor and macro scale impact our interlocutors’ practices and perceptions. In Vigh's analysis, this becomes evident as he affords the reader an understanding of drug trafficking as something much more than just an unscrupulous illegal enterprise. In and out of Bissau, smuggling and dealing drugs is (also) an activity formed and furthered by the prominence of a collapsed state, problematic international relations, opportunistic, and threatening cartels and Bissauan politicians, substantial poverty, family relations, migratory yearnings, ideas about masculinity, respect and social becoming, and, ultimately, an attempt to gain a better future. Dealing drugs, in short, has only little to do with dealing drugs and much to do with dealing with life in both everyday and more general terms. Much the same can be said about Richter's description and analysis of human smuggling. In the bizness (the emic termed used) of smuggling migrants, her study of Malian smugglers reveals how very ordinary and mundane matters lie at the heart of both the would-be smuggled migrant and the smuggler. This is, in other words, a far cry from the discursive depiction of human smugglers as criminal masterminds with an iniquitous yet entrepreneurial gift for finding the gaps in European border control and for exploiting poor and desperate migrants. In the trial against Chevron, Ofrias and Roecker also shed light on the everyday effects of the environmental disaster and the struggle for justice. Yet, they also expertly demonstrate how the very laws that have been passed to protect people against criminal organizations are now being used to criminalize them. What was a supposed to be a Scottian “weapon of the weak” has now been appropriated by the powerful and turned against the plaintiffs. In discussing this, Ofrias and Roecker not only succeed in critically assessing one of the world's largest cases of environmental crime but also analytically step outside the courtroom proceedings as they remind the reader of their wider effects—namely that Chevron might have succeeded not only in devastating the rainforest but in crippling and even criminalizing marginalized people's means of lawfare. Here, as in the other studies, the particular cases of criminal activity are thus analyzed for their immediate effects but also in terms of their effects and relation to the wider aspects of everyday life, as well as to the surrounding politics and economies. It becomes an analysis that doesn't confine itself to a simple and strict crime-criminalization or police-policing binary but holistically explores both the more ordinary and that which looms overhead. To be sure, this is also palpable in Sausdal's article, where he invests much time in understanding how Danish detectives’ aggressive yet also somewhat apathetic surveillance of cross-border criminals has much to do with both international tendencies in policing and politics, as well as with the less debated and less obvious workaday vocational partialities of police investigators.

Lastly, all the articles seek to develop a form of grounded critique—a critique that takes seriously the perspectives and practices of our interlocutors as expressions of, to them, meaningful, albeit criminal(izing), human activity. Vigh explains how our critiques of transnational, cross-border drug smuggling and dealing need to include the fact that this is not only a moral enterprise (when seen from within), a criminal one (when seen from the outside), but, for many of the people involved, also turns out to be a corrosive one. While cocaine trafficking offers them a rare migratory way out of Bissau, it simultaneously catches them and creates a crippling drug dependency that stretches from individual to international abuse—a caustic yet difficult to escape criminal circle. In Richter's article, we are afforded a critical, ethnographic look at the actual everyday reality of human smuggling. Though often posited as a lucrative and evil business, we here get to understand how very mundane it most often is: indeed, its lucrativeness can be said to depend on a mastering of the mundane rather than malicious criminal innovation. Ofrias and Roecker also provide a form of grounded critique. In following the struggles of the Ecuadorian smallholder farmers and indigenous people affected by the environmental disaster, we are presented with substantiated extralegal insights that stretch beyond the often confounding and dichotomizing legalism of the courtroom and political and media representations. Finally, as Sausdal engages critically with police surveillance, he shows how a group of Danish detectives are—perhaps surprisingly—similarly apprehensive and skeptical. They too, like Sausdal and other police anthropologists and criminologists, find an increasing use of surveillance and information technologies worldwide is hindering “good police work,” albeit for slightly different reasons than those suggested by the critical scholar.

Conclusion

In this introduction, we have presented an anthropological criminology 2.0. This is an updated anthropological approach to current issues of crime and criminalization that leaves the subdiscipline's evolutionist past behind and insists on its social and political anchoring and relevance. To create a workable template for future engagements, we have, furthermore, offered five distinct propositions for fellow-minded colleagues to ponder—five propositions we believe to be key ingredients if we are to make this sub-discipline flourish and matter. These propositions are, of course, neither in themselves nor together exhaustive and all-encompassing. Other and perhaps even contrasting approaches may exist or emerge as the world around us changes.

Indeed, as we have highlighted with the help of the work of other contemporary colleagues of anthropological criminology, global forms of crime and criminalization urgently await anthropological scrutiny. At the moment, global forms of crime (such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, human smuggling, organized property thefts, cybercrime, environmental crime, financial crime, and terrorism) are at the very heart of societal fears and spur increasingly harsh, exclusionary, and Orwellian forms of governance. Yet, these forms of cross-border criminality and control remain only rarely studied. Most knowledge stems from statistical guesstimates, policy briefs, and sweeping sociological and criminological appraisals. The anthropological criminologists here offer qualifying ethnographic depictions—depictions that will aid in bettering our knowledge about the workings and effects of contemporary crime and criminalization and nuance the often stereotypical and politicized representations of the phenomenon. Yet, the aim of an anthropological criminology 2.0 is not just to be the conveyor of necessary empirical insights but to take the lead in a global criminology able to explain how and why crime and criminalization stretches across space and scale from the local to the global. In following crime and criminalization as it travels across space and scale, we envision a subdiscipline able to provide both productive anthropological contributions, as well as a critical impact beyond academia.

Acknowledgments

Authors Henrik Vigh, David Sausdal, and Line Richter would like to acknowledge that research for this edited special section is supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement #725194).

Notes

1

Our use of “2.0” to distinguish our anthropological approach to crime and criminalization is not directly intended to bring forth connotations of cyberspace, software updates, or other digital or technological developments. We simply use the term to denote a difference from the most commonly anthropological criminology, namely the Lombrosian approach. That said, it is obvious that crimes committed in and through cyberspace present themselves as particularly important research subjects for anthropologists interested in contemporary forms of crime and criminalization. Unfortunately, this theme section doesn't include such a study, but it is a focus of the University of Copenhagen's Centre for Global Criminology, which is home to several of the theme section's contributors.

2

De + via stemming from the Latin “off way” and de + linquo from “depart from.”

References

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    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Schiller, Nina Glick, Linda Basch, and Cristina Blanc-Szanton. 1992. “Transnationalism: A new analytic framework for understanding migration.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 645: 124.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schneider, Jane, and Peter Schneider. 2008. “The anthropology of crime and criminalization.” Annual Review of Anthropology 37: 351373.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stewart, Martyn. 2013. “Roma and Gypsy ‘ethnicity’ as a subject of anthropological inquiry.” Annual Review of Anthropology 42: 415432.

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    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Van Dijk, Jan, Andromachi Tseloni, and Graham Farrell. 2012. The international crime drop: New directions in research. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vigh, Henrik. 2018. “Lives opposed: Perceptivity and tacticality in conflict and crime.” Social Anthropology—Anthropologie Sociale 26 (4): 487501.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vigh Henrik, and David Sausdal. 2018. “The anthropology of crime.” In Handbook of political anthropology, ed. Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen, 441461. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
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Contributor Notes

David Sausdal is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology and Centre for Global Criminology at the University of Copenhagen. His overall research interest includes a wish to further develop a productive connection between anthropology and criminology. Presently, he is trying to achieve this through ethnographic studies of the policing of cross-border crimes in Europe—something that he, alongside more general theoretical discussions, has written about in leading anthropological and criminological journals such as Theoretical Criminology, Policing and Society, and Anthropological Theory. Email: dbs@anthro.ku.dk

Henrik Vigh is Professor of Anthropology and Head of the Centre for Global Criminology at the University of Copenhagen. He is the author of Navigating Terrains of War (2006) and has written extensively on conflict, crisis, and crime. He has researched issues of youth and conflict in both Europe and Africa and is currently researching the intersection between war and crime focusing on the criminalized movement of people, goods and drugs from Africa into Europe. Email: hv@anthro.ku.dk

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

  • Aas, Katja Franko. 2011. “Visions of global control: Cosmopolitan aspirations in a world of friction.” In What is criminology? ed. Mary Bosworth and Carolyn Hoyle, 406419. Oxford: University of Oxford Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aas, Katja Franko. 2013. Globalization and crime. London: Sage.

  • Andersson, Ruben. 2014. Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine migration and the business of bordering Europe. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Becker, Howard. 2008. Outsiders. New York: Free Press.

  • Blok, Anton. 1974. The Mafia of a Sicilian village, 1860–1960: A study of violent peasant entrepreneurs. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Bourgois. Philippe. 2003. In search of respect: Selling crack in El Barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Bowling. Ben, and James Sheptycki. 2012. Global policing. London: Sage.

  • Bruinsma, Gerben. 2015. Histories of transnational crime. New York: Springer.

  • Carrington, Kerry, Russel Hogg, and Máximo Sozzo M. 2016. “Southern criminology.” British Journal of Criminology 56 (1): 120.

  • Castells, Manuel. 1998. “The perverse connection: The global criminal economy.” In End of millennium, vol. 3, 171214. Oxford: Blackwell.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cohen, Albert, and James F. Short 1958. “Research in delinquent subcultures.” Journal of Social Issues 14 (3): 2037.

  • Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. 2008. Law and disorder in the postcolony. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Durkheim, Émile. (1893) 2014. The division of labor in society. New York: Free Press.

  • Fassin. Didier 2008. “Beyond good and evil? Questioning the anthropological discomfort with morals.” Anthropological Theory 8 (4): 333344.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fassin, Didier. 2013. Enforcing order: An ethnography of urban policing. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Fassin. Didier. 2017a. “Boredom: Accounting for the ordinary in the work of policing (France).” I: Writing the world of policing: The difference ethnography makes, ed. Didier Fassin, 269292. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fassin, Didier, eds. 2017b. Writing the world of policing: The difference ethnography makes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Feldman, Gregory. 2011. The migration apparatus: Security, labor, and policymaking in the European Union. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  • Grassiani. Erella. 2015. “Moral othering at the checkpoint: The case of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians.” Critique of Anthropology 35 (4): 373388.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Heine, Jorge, and Ramesh Thakur. 2011. “Introduction: Globalization and transnational uncivil society.” In The dark side of globalization, ed. Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur, 116. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jeroslow, Phyllis. 2011. “Anthropological theories of crime and delinquency.” Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 21 (3): 255269.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Karpiak, Kevin. 2016. “The anthropology of police.” In The SAGE Handbook of Global Policing, ed. Ben Bradford, Beatrice Jauregui, and Ian Loader, 103121. London: Sage.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Karpiak, Kevin, and William Garriott, eds. 2018. The anthropology of police. London: Routledge.

  • Kuper, Adam. 2010. “The original sin of anthropology.” Paideuma: 123144.

  • Lombroso, Gina. 1911. Criminal man according to the classification of Cesare Lombroso: Briefly summarised by his daughter Gina Lombroso Ferrero. New York: Putnam's Sons.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Malinowski, Bronisław. 1926. Crime and custom in savage society. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

  • Malinowski, Bronisław. 2002. Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An account of native enterprise and adventure in the archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea. London: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Manning, Peter. 2018. “An anthropology of policing.” In The anthropology of police, ed. Kevin Karpiak and William Garriott, 2333. London: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marcus, George. 1995. “Ethnography in/of the world system: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography.” Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 95117.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nordstrom, Carolyn. 2007. Global outlaws: Crime, money, and power in the contemporary world. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Parnell, Philip and Stephanie C. Kane, eds. 2003. Crime's power: Anthropologists and the ethnography of crime. New York: Springer.

  • Penglase, Benjamin, Stephanie C. Kane, and Philip Parnell. 2009. “Interview: The ‘new anthropology of crime.’PoLAR 32 (1): 105123.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Radcliffe-Brown, Alfred. 1935. “Primitive law.” Man 35: 4748.

  • Sanchez, Gabriella. 2014. Human smuggling and border crossings. London: Routledge.

  • Sausdal, David. 2018. “Everyday deficiencies of police surveillance: A quotidian approach to surveillance studies.” Policing and Society. Published online 13 December. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2018.1557659.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1995. “The primacy of the ethical: Propositions for a militant anthropology.” Current Anthropology 36 (3): 409440.

  • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2005. “The last commodity: Post-human ethics and the global traffic in ‘fresh’ organs.” In Global assemblages: Technology, politics, and ethics as anthropological problems, ed. Aihwa Ong and Stephen Collier, 145168. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schiller, Nina Glick, Linda Basch, and Cristina Blanc-Szanton. 1992. “Transnationalism: A new analytic framework for understanding migration.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 645: 124.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schneider, Jane, and Peter Schneider. 2008. “The anthropology of crime and criminalization.” Annual Review of Anthropology 37: 351373.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stewart, Martyn. 2013. “Roma and Gypsy ‘ethnicity’ as a subject of anthropological inquiry.” Annual Review of Anthropology 42: 415432.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs Crime). 2010. The globalization of crime: A transnational organized crime threat assessment. New York: UNODC.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs Crime). 2011. “Transnational organized crime: The globalized illegal economy.” https://www.unodc.org/toc/en/crimes/organized-crime.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Van Dijk, Jan, Andromachi Tseloni, and Graham Farrell. 2012. The international crime drop: New directions in research. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Van Maanen, John. 1973. “Working the street; A developmental view of police behavior.” Working paper (Sloan School of Management).

  • Whyte, William Foote. 2012. Street corner society: The social structure of an Italian slum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Wolf, Eric. 2010. Europe and the people without history. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Vigh, Henrik. 2006. Navigating terrains of war: Youth and soldiering in Guinea-Bissau. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

  • Vigh, Henrik. 2008. “Crisis and chronicity: Anthropological perspectives on continuous conflict and decline.” Ethnos 73 (1): 524.

  • Vigh, Henrik. 2016a. “Life's trampoline: On nullification and cocaine migration in Bissau.” In Affective circuits and African migration, ed. J. Cole and C. Groes, 223244. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vigh, Henrik. 2016b. “From warlord to drug lord: The life of Joao Bernardo ‘Nino’ Vieira. In Warlord democrats in Africa: Ex-military leaders and electoral politics, 156176. London: Zed Books.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vigh, Henrik. 2017. “Caring through crime: Ethical ambivalence and the cocaine trade in Bissau.” Africa, International African Institute 87 (3): 479495.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vigh, Henrik. 2018. “Lives opposed: Perceptivity and tacticality in conflict and crime.” Social Anthropology—Anthropologie Sociale 26 (4): 487501.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vigh Henrik, and David Sausdal. 2018. “The anthropology of crime.” In Handbook of political anthropology, ed. Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen, 441461. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Zigon, Jared. 2007. “Moral breakdown and the ethical demand a theoretical framework for an anthropology of moralities.” Anthropological Theory 7: 131150.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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