Indonesia’s New Order was among the most repressive and violent states of the twentieth century. During Suharto’s period of rule (1966–1998), the state was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of as many as a million or more of its own citizens and the incarceration of many more. While the worst of this violence occurred during the pogroms against communists in 1965–1966 and during the long occupation of East Timor, the whole New Order system of rule was constructed on what Benedict Anderson (2001a: 13) has described as a “vast machine of state violence.” This machine left behind a dangerous legacy that must be better understood if it is to be overcome in the years ahead (J. Bertrand 2002; Colombijn and Lindblad 2002).
Bioculturalist approach can be fruitfully employed to explain why fictional violence is such an integral part of both our art and entertainment. In any cultural context aggression related biological traits are controlled and shaped in order to ensure both the internal order and the security of a community. William Flesch has argued that his process is guided by the tendency to admire altruistic punishers, who without self-interest assume the task of punishing evildoers. Spectators of such actions tend to react to it emotionally, both spontaneously and via reflection, thus giving the experience both an emotional and a meta-emotional aspect. This plays an important role in relating to the ways in which resorting to violence is justified in mainstream films. This scenario has a strong emotional appeal, even if the spectator would deplore such means in real life contexts. This discrepancy emerges even more strongly in the revenge scenario, which in a fictional context can appear satisfying and empowering despite the moral qualms the spectator might have concerning the ethics of revenge. Because of the deeply ingrained cult of individuality and doubts about the efficacy of government in maintaining law and order, these narrative patterns have developed especially strongly within American popular culture. However, judging by the worldwide success of such films, their appeal is nonetheless quite universal.
Thomas G. Kirsch and Tilo Gratz, eds. 2010. Domesticating vigilantism in Africa. Woodbridge and Rochester: James Currey. 170 pages.
David Pratten and Atreyee Sen, eds. 2008. Global vigilantes. New York: Columbia University Press. 448 pages.
The Metaphysics of Police Vigilantism in India
This article describes and explains “police vigilantism” as a mode of authoritative extralegal coercion performed by public police officials conceived as doing their duty to realize justice in the world. Based on ethnographic observations, interviews, and content analysis of news and entertainment media as well as official government reports, this essay examines a specific form of police vigilantism in contemporary India known as “encounter killings”. Demonstrating that encounter killings are widely constituted as a form of ritual purification and social defense by self-sacrificing police, it theorizes a metaphysics of police vigilantism in India that combines generalized experiences of insecurity with shared cosmologies of just war. Comparing this metaphysics with justifications of state violence in other Global South contexts, this study sheds light on how such violence may be legitimated through the conceptual inextricability of law and war as embodied in a uniquely constituted human figure: the police vigilante.
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.
Daniel M. Goldstein, Gloria Achá, Eric Hinojosa and Theo Roncken
Vigilante violence has become a common practice of creating 'security' in the marginal barrios that surround the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Surprisingly, this violence and the human rights violations it entails are appearing simultaneously with the expansion of civil society in Bolivia. This apparent contradiction, it is argued here, suggests that analysts must expand their definition of 'civil society' to include violent social groups and actors as well as peaceful ones. This article suggests that a fuller understanding of the nature of civil society in Bolivia and other Latin American countries requires us to broaden our understanding of what civil society includes, and so recognize that some acts originating in civil society may restrict rather than deepen and expand individual rights in neo-liberal democracies.
Linda Woodhead, James T. Richardson, Martyn Percy, Catherine Wessinger and Eileen Barker
. Bromley 1980 . The New Vigilantes: Deprogrammers, Anti-Cultists, and the New Religions . Beverly Hills, CA : Sage . Stanislavski , Constantin. 1937 . An Actor Prepares . Trans. Elizabeth R. Hapgood London : Geoffrey Bles . Weber , Max