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Introduction

Ethnographies of Private Security

Erella Grassiani and Tessa Diphoorn

This introduction emphasizes the value of an anthropological lens within the research on private security. Although much scholarly work has been conducted on private security throughout the past decades, anthropological attention for this subject was somewhat delayed. Yet, the works that have emerged from this discipline through ethnographic fieldwork have provided new and different types of insights, namely bottom-up understandings that explore the daily practices and performances of security and the experiences of the security actors themselves, that other disciplines can unquestionably draw from. As the introductory piece of this section, it also familiarizes the four articles that constitute various “ethnographies of private security.”

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"Eyes, Ears, and Wheels"

Policing Partnerships in Nairobi, Kenya

Francesco Colona and Tessa Diphoorn

Research on policing in Africa has provided tremendous insight into how non-state actors, such as gangs, vigilantes, private security companies, and community initiatives, increasingly provide security for urban dwellers across the continent. Consequently, the state has been categorized as one order among many whose authority is co-constituted through relations with other actors. Drawing on our ethnographic fieldwork in the past two years, we highlight how the state police dominates security arrangements in Nairobi and asserts itself not just as one order among many. We show how, in various policing partnerships between police, private security companies, and residents’ associations, the state police acts as a coagulating agent of such practices. In order to elucidate this relationship, we utilize the “junior partner” model from the criminology literature and expand based on the community policing initiatives that in Nairobi act as the “eyes, ears, and wheels” of the police.