This article is about the controversial educational practice of corporal punishment – known as taibatsu in Japan – which challenged me to reflect upon my anthropological heart and find my anthropological identity. Corporal punishment is a practice around which many ideas and discourses about education, social order, human rights and even power swirl, and it is therefore an inherently sociocultural practice wherever it takes place. Like other forms of violence, it also poses a personal challenge to anthropologists who observe it in practice and have to decide whether to remain an observing bystander. At one time, I made that choice. In this article, I explain why I no longer do.
One Path to Positive Anthropological Activism
Aaron L. Miller
Dirck Coornhert's Boeven-tucht and the Rise of Discipline
Dirck Coornhert (1522-90) was a Dutch humanist whose seminal 1587 book, Boeven-tucht, redefined issues of poverty, charity, development and crime. A transitionary document, Boeven-tucht lies on the cusp of what Michel Foucault called the 'great confinement', which took place between about 1600 and 1750 and which was the common response by local and national authorities to the social disorder concomitant upon population expansion, a widening gap between rich and poor, religious discord and war. Inspired by Boeventucht, the Amsterdam Rasphuis and Spinhuis were the European prototypes of houses of correction which sprang up all over Europe, intended to apply 'a punishment more bitter than death' to all 'criminal idlers'. This introduction to the first-ever English translation of Boeven-tucht situates Coornhert's text in the space between unmediated absolutist sovereignty and full-blown modern discipline, when disciplinary techniques were as yet only gradually emerging from the monasteries and lay fraternities in which they had been incubated, and before they spread into all facets of modern society.
Two Heldt Prize Winners
Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild
Judith Pallot and Laura Piacentini, with the assistance of Dominique Moran, Gender, Geography, and Punishment: The Experience of Women in Carceral Russia, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, 290 pp., $99.00 (hb), ISBN 978-0-19965-861-9.
Karen Petrone, The Great War in Russian Memory, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011, 385 pp., $39.95 (hb), ISBN 978-0-25335-617-8.
Responding to Dirty Hands in Politics
How should citizens respond to dirty-hands acts? This issue has been neglected in the theoretical literature, which has focused on the dilemma facing the politician and not on the appropriate responses of citizens. Nevertheless, dirty-hands scenarios pose a serious dilemma for the democratic citizens as well: we cannot simply condone the dirtyhanded act but should instead express our moral condemnation and disapproval. One way of doing this is through blame and punishment. However, this proposal is unsatisfactory, as dirty-hands agents commit wrongdoing through no fault of their own. I argue that we ought to make conceptual space for an idea of no-fault responsibility – and a corresponding notion of no-fault forgiveness – according to which we can hold agents to obligations without blaming them.
Un análisis de equilibrio general
Sandra Edith Medellín Mendoza and Joana Cecilia Chapa Cantú
*Full article is in Spanish
English abstract: There exists few studies on Mexico related to research of the factors involved in the decision-making process of individuals when choosing whether to be a law-abiding citizen or a criminal. From the perspective of members of criminal markets—i.e., victims, felons, and the government—this work explains under a general equilibrium model how the delinquency rate for felonies, such as theft, in the various Mexican states function as structural parameters for wages, taxes, police reliability, and legal penalties. The results suggest that, in an environment of low accusation and punishment, the only variable in this model which has a real effect in reducing crime are monetary penalties, due to the fact that the felon must face this kind of penalty once accused, captured, and jailed.
Spanish abstract: Existen pocos estudios para el caso mexicano donde se investiga cuáles son los factores que intervienen en la toma de decisiones de los individuos al elegir entre ser criminal o no. Desde la perspectiva de los integrantes del mercado del crimen, esto es, víctimas, delincuentes y gobierno, este trabajo explica bajo un modelo de equilibrio general, cómo responde la tasa de delincuencia para delitos como el robo de las entidades federativas mexicanas ante cambios en los parámetros estructurales como salarios, impuestos, productividad de la policía y las penas consideradas en el marco legal. Los resultados encontrados sugieren que en un contexto de bajas tasas de denuncia y castigo, la única variable de política que en el marco de este modelo tiene efecto para reducir el crimen son las penas monetarias, ya que estas las enfrenta el criminal una vez que es denunciado, capturado y encarcelado.
French abstract: Rares sont les études au Mexique qui s'interrogent sur les facteurs liés au processus de prise de décision chez les individus concernant leur choix de devenir ou non des criminels. Fondé sur les opinions des agents du crime organisé, dont les victimes, les criminels et le gouvernement, cet article analyse sur la base d'un modèle d'équilibre général, la manière dont le taux de délinquance, à l'instar des détournements des fonds publics dans des régions mexicaines, réagit aux changement des paramètres structurels tels que les salaires, les impôts, l'efficience de la police et la fiabilité des sanctions dans le cadre juridique. Les résultats suggèrent que dans un contexte pareil marqué par un faible taux de plaintes et de sanctions, la seule variable de politiques susceptibles de réduire efficacement la criminalité, sont les sanctions pécuniaires, auxquelles les criminels seraient systématiquement confrontés en cas de dénonciation, d'arrestation ou d'emprisonnement.
Russia and Steven Pinker’s Thesis
Nancy Shields Kollmann
This article finds Steven Pinker’s argument for a decline of violence too Eurocentric and generalizing to fit all cases. Study of the early modern Russian criminal law, and society in general, shows that different states can develop radically different approaches to violence when influenced by some of the same factors (in this case Enlightenment values). The centralized Muscovite autocracy in many ways relied less on official violence and exerted better control over social violence than did early modern Europe, while at the same time it supported violence in institutions such as serfdom, exile, and aspects of imperial governance. Violence in the form of capital punishment declined but many aspects of social and official violence endured. Such a differentiated approach is explained by the state’s need to mobilize scarce human and material resources to survive and expand.
Racialized Girlhood, Behavioral Diagnosis, and California's Foster Care System
Isabella C. Restrepo
Scholars of the welfare system have explored the racialized criminalization of mothers of color who are punished by the foster care system, through control of their children, when they are unable to meet the ideals of middle-class motherhood but have yet to fully articulate a language to understand the ways in which this criminalization and punishment extends to youth once they are placed in the foster care system. Using ethnographic interviews with agents of the care system, I explore the ways in which the system pathologizes Latinas’ quotidian acts of resistance and survival like their use of silences through the behavioral diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). I argue that California’s foster care system is an arm of the transcarceral continuum, marking girls of color and their strategies of resistance as pathological, thereby criminalizing them through the diagnosis of behavioral disorders.
The Construction of Boyhood through Corporal Punishment and Educational Discipline in Taare Zameen Par
In this article I examine boyhood as presented through the figure of an eight year- old boy, Ishaan, in the Hindi film Taare Zameen Par (2007). In the current era of India’s globalization, how does the particular politics of hegemonic masculinity inform the very foundations underlying the family and school as punitive structures? By positing the analytical perspectives of childhood studies and the performativity of identity against Foucauldian inflected terminology, I argue that Ishaan enacts the dual role of both victim and agent in a film that mediates between two forms of harsh regulatory practices—corporal punishment and educational discipline. The climactic reorientation of an ideal boyhood gradually unfolds against the backdrop of the performances of other contrasting masculinities installed through the figures of the boy’s father, brother, fellow-students, and school-teachers. By drawing such interconnections, I see the film as contesting the ways in which domestic and academic institutions affect contemporary masculine subject formation.
New Scholarship on Exile in the Late Russian Empire
Jeffrey S. Hardy
This essay reviews new books by Sarah Badcock, Daniel Beer, and Andrew Gentes on Siberian exile in the long nineteenth century. Based on a wealth of memoirs and archival documents, all three studies shed new light on the aims, practices, and lived experience of exile, with Beer providing a broad overview and Gentes and Badcock focusing on specific episodes. Meticulously researched and well written, the books demonstrate the chaotic nature of exile, with corruption, violence, and the nature of the exiles themselves contributing to the system’s failures to achieve its often-conflicting goals. More context in terms of Siberian development and the Russian penal system and greater theoretical and comparative perspective would have further strengthened these important new books.
Pinker’s (Mis)Representation of the Enlightenment and Violence
In Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, there is a before and an after. Before the Enlightenment, the world was superstitious, cruel, and violent; after the Enlightenment, the world was rational and more peaceful. Pinker thus reduces violence to a fairly simplistic concept: all violence can be equated with irrationality, unreason, and ignorance. History is never as straightforward as Pinker would have his readers believe, and violence is a much more complex notion that is often driven not by superstition or unreason, but perfectly “rational” motives. This article argues that there is little causal connection between Enlightenment values and the decline in violence and that changes came about as a result of a complex series of reasons, some of them less than edifying. It raises the interesting question of whether ideas drive history, or whether they are simply the “ideological” bedrock on which change is grounded.