Conference Theme and Panels

Conference General Theme

Inextricably connected in current governmental regimes across the globe, crime and security have attained new characteristics under neo-liberal global conditions. Since the 1980s, globalisation has created new flows of goods, capital, and people, often blurring the line between legitimate entrepreneurs and criminals. Nevertheless, not much has changed since the early days of criminal anthropology, as the public talk of crime today rarely stigmatises white-collar workers or affluent entrepreneurs. Often, people pushed to the margins of society (physically and symbolically) are blamed for their own exclusion. Their presence is abused to construct new moral and societal boundaries, enabling repressive policies at the expense of social interventions. A security apparatus that challenges the boundaries between the public and the private, the local and the international, affects everyone, whether victims of criminalisation or consumers of old and new safety forms and technologies. However, despite widespread alarmism, relatively little is known about these local and interconnected forms of crime and their actual lived experiences and trajectories. Statistical data tend to combine completely different social phenomena (such as mafia, organised crime, traffickers, or street gangs) and their political, economic and historical roots in an indistinct moral panic. Yet, claiming objectivity and neutrality, security experts develop intricate technologies used to prevent, pre-empt, and predict crime, moving towards an acclaimed ‘pre-crime society’ where safety and crime risks are brought to negligible levels. Such technologies, already used by police in many urban contexts, give birth to a plethora of ethical and political issues. Through their integration into “smart” lifestyles, security and surveillance systems permeate and colonise the most intimate realms of everyday life, eventually exposed to cybercrime.

Different public and academic sectors call for new methodological approaches (transnational, multi-sited, ethnographic) that offer ways to follow, chart and analyse movements of people, capital and goods that are often represented in superficial ways in media and political circles. In exploring and analysing the lived experiences of actors otherwise described as perverse criminals or passive enforcers of the state’s will, social and cultural anthropology have much to offer. However, there is also a solid need to reinvigorate anthropology’s theoretical perspectives on crime and security and to address the challenges that ethnographic methodology faces when working on these issues (for instance, by integrating criminology, STS, or other disciplines into an interdisciplinary framework).



Detailed Panels List


P1. History of the present: Figurations of crime and criminals.

Chair: Juulia Kela (PhD candidate, Helsinki university),

Justyna Struzik (Assistant Professor, Jagiellonian University, Kraków),

Jérémy Geeraert (Post-doc Researcher, University Paris-Saclay).

In countries such as the US, France, and South Africa, scholars have documented a growing trend towards criminalisation - i.e. an expanding call for and application of criminal laws and crime control measures in various areas of social life. Intrinsically intertwined with the production of social imaginaries around crime and criminality, this governance strategy rests on the construction of groups and practices as threats to, and victims or protectors of, existing moral and social orders. Identified through terms including "criminals", "victims", "saviors", "crime-fighters", "concerned bystanders" or "threats", these figures are embedded in moral economies that extend beyond (or against) legal and official discourses and perform a specific perception of the social. Nonetheless, contemporary, observable figurations of crime are immersed in genealogical trajectories, historically complex governing processes that form the very conditions of their possibilities. Building on our ongoing work in the fields of sea rescue, infectious diseases, drug use, hate speech, etc. as part of the research project "CrimScapes: Navigating citizenship through European landscapes of criminalisation", this panel offers an in-depth discussion on contemporary figures of crime through the lens of their genealogies. In particular, we ask:

*How do different historical trajectories lead to the emergence of an understanding of criminalisation, and its attendant figures, as a way of governing society? How does the genealogical approach contribute to the discussion of figurations of crime and criminals? *How do legal and crime-control policies, and political debates, imaginaries and practices, frame criminalized spaces and re-shape particular figures of crime and criminality? 

*Which moral economies, socio-political paradigms and imaginations of threat, protector and crime coalesce in the production of figures of crime so as to justify or contest criminalisation as a legitimate or necessitated mode of governance?

We welcome empirical and theoretical contributions from researchers representing various disciplines and research fields interested in the genealogical formation of what is marked and governed as crime and criminal, and the affiliated production of condensed figures of threat or protector.


P2. Critical Resistance, Contentious Reforms: Global Perspectives on Policing, Securitization, and Mobilization.

Chair: Tessa Diphoorn (Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University),

Zoha Waseem (Assistant Professor of Criminology, University of Warwick),

Deniz Yonucu (Lecturer, Newcastle University).

How do social movements and civil society mobilisation impact policing and police reform? Conversely, what do state responses to civil society mobilisation indicate about the social and political legacies of policing? This panel brings together international perspectives on the interplay between mobilisation and policing. In the aftermath of the recent protests around the world (e.g., Black Lives Matter and EndSARS), we are seeing renewed debates on the policing of civil society organisations, vigilantism, and dissent. On the one hand, we are learning more about the nuanced and elusive techniques of surveillance, suppression, and criminalisation of civil society mobilisation through various forms of ‘lawfare’, not necessarily limited to the state police (as seen in Hong Kong, Turkey, and South Asia). On the other hand, we have seen the prominent role that civil society activism and grassroots mobilisation has played in demanding police reform and public accountability (as in Nigeria, Colombia, and other parts of Latin America). Therefore, this panel welcomes critical and international perspectives on the relationship between mobilisation, securitisation, and policing, in terms of (i) state-driven policing and control of activism and dissent, (ii) social resistance to policing practices and strategies, and (iii) public participation in transformative policing calls. This panel invites ethnographic perspectives on this policing-mobilization dynamic not just through anthropological lenses, but also with outlooks from sociology, criminology, politics, and law, to generate a multidisciplinary critical conversation on policing, security, and society.


P3. Negotiated criminality: control, agency, and moral ambivalences in criminalised markets.

Chair: Louis Vuilleumier (PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland),

Loïc Pignolo (PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Geneva).

Criminalised markets are a global economic phenomenon. While some individuals in precarious conditions manage to make a living by selling illegalised goods or services, those economic activities also raise moral controversies and lead to considerable policing efforts. However, law enforcement does not merely represent a top-down implementation of policies. The gap between political decisions and their concretisation can be explained by the internal tensions and conflictual ambiguity of policies, the discretionary power of street-level bureaucrats, but also the capacity of individuals to bypass detection and control. Navigating in an asymmetrical power regime, people wishing to make a living in criminalised economic activities develop a range of strategies to avoid technologies and practices of control. Offenders, moreover, are not isolated but embedded in urban communities which have different attitudes towards illegalized markets, ranging from tolerance and support to indignation and contestation. Therefore, criminality in illegalized markets is better understood as a negotiated process between multiple actors, including offenders, state representatives, and urban communities. This panel seeks to take a closer look at those negotiation practices. We are looking for ethnographic or theoretical contributions that focus on negotiation practices, including but not limited to: embodied, relational and spatio-temporal strategies to cope with socio-legal constrains, relations and coexistence between offenders and urban communities, technologies and practices policing illegalised markets, or moral struggles surrounding those economies. Focusing our attention on concrete practices of negotiation will enable us to explore the nexus between criminalisation and autonomy, security and lived experiences of offenders, illegality and morality. This panel welcomes contributions on a wide range of practices in or related to criminalised markets, in different geographical locations and social contexts. We are also interested in contributions that focus on methodological or ethical issues related to these topics.


P4. Complex Crimes in Borderland: organised crime, corruption and trafficking in border areas and communities.

Chair: Anna Sergi (Professor of Criminology, University of Essex).

Borders are intended as geographical and political boundaries, with physical barriers and/or gated entry/exit points. Borderlands are areas, in proximity of borders, where the affirmation of identity and culture requires empowerment of border stakeholders, recognition of plural approaches, effective scaling of the border relationship, humanised security and acknowledgement of diversity. Complex criminality, such as organised crime, mafia, corruption, illicit trafficking and/or drug trade, is also affected by borders. Borderlands shape identities, including criminal identities, of criminal groups and force criminal networks and activities to hybridisation, integration and osmosis, while facilitating organisational isomorphism. 

For the purposes of this panel, borderlands are described as follows:

- normative: territories that are subordinated to a certain national regime and are therefore subject to the norms of its specific political system;

- economic: usually peripheral and marginal areas, from the economic viewpoint, which easily bring about welfare problems; an economic borderland is located far away from the core of the country and its economic base may be underdeveloped and one-sided. 

- cultural: zones of cultural overlap characterized by a mixing of cultural styles; these are liminal spaces, not just at the edges of the nation-state, but anywhere cultures meet.

This panel seeks to bring together papers which address the challenges of researching, understanding and countering complex crimes in borderland, with a specific focus on the relationship between the borders, the territories and communities they exist in. 

Ideally, papers must fit within one or more of the following perspectives on crimes in borderland:

– ethnographic accounts of complex criminality in borderlands (e.g. border zones - normative-economic-cultural, or ports, airports, etc.);

– institutional perspectives on complex criminality in borderlands (e.g. law enforcement responses cross-border; welfare state responses to economic disparity in borderland)

– perceptions and responses by borderland communities to complex criminality and security in their borderland (e.g. civil society's responses and active citizenship examples);

– reflections on the nature of complex criminal groups and networks when it comes to their activities in borderland (e.g. hybridisation of ethnic criminal networks);

– Victims of crimes in borderlands (e.g. victimisation in people's smuggling/trafficking; crimmigration; community harm);

– Ethnic enclaves, entrepreneurialism and integration of migrant communities with other communities (e.g. the role of migrant groups in exacerbating dubious connections within migrants and crime at borders; ethnic minorities and perceptions of crimes)

– Occasional, systemic and endemic corruption in borderlands (e.g. from an economic perspective as much as an anthropological and cultural one).

– securitisation of borders and securitisation of responses to criminal activities in borderland, and their effects on borderland communities, practices and cultures. 

Topics beyond these are welcome provided that they address the broader topic of complex crimes in borderlands. Papers are welcome from a variety of disciplines including but not limited to criminology, sociology, anthropology, geography, political sciences, law, and sub-fields such as migration studies, organised crime studies, mafia studies, urban studies, socio-legal studies, ethnography, security studies and so on.


P5. Gangs, Gangsters & Ganglands (GANGS): Towards a Global Comparative Ethnography.

Chair: Dennis Rodgers (Research Professor, Anthropology and Sociology, IHEID - Graduate Institute),

Lene Swetzer (PhD candidate, Anthropology and Sociology, IHEID - Graduate Institute).

The proposed panel aims at bringing together scholars working on the topic of “gangs”, “gangsters” and “ganglands” to discuss theoretical and methodological approaches within and beyond anthropology. The panel proposal emanates from the ERC-funded GANGS project led by Dennis Rodgers (IHEID).

Depicted as a major source of crime, groups and individuals that are considered, and/or consider themselves to be gangs, are particularly targeted by security measures. Urban spaces across the world that are rightfully or not associated with gang activity suffer from negative mediatic and political attention. More generally, in normative thinking, “gangs” and their territories are often considered to be a security issue exogenous to their own societal realm. Yet because gangs are bound by a range of fundamental human activities, such as the exercise of power, capital accumulation, identity formation, territoriality, mobility, resistance, and/or the articulation of gender relations they present a critical lens through which to understand the world in its broader context. Departing from “gangs”, “gangsters” and “ganglands” as issues of security in global imaginaries, this panel aims to deepen the discussion and explore the intricacies of these phenomena, and the way they both endogenously and exogenously construct perceptions of security, as well as how to methodologically address these. Presentations will focus on the following topics: moral economy; gender; urban geopolitics; educational institutions & youth trajectories; security and rumours; the comparative ethnography of gangs/ganglands. 


P6. Intersecting Crime and Security: Exploring Vigilantism beyond the State

Chair: Ana Ivasiuc (Lecturer in the Anthropology of Crime and Security, Anthropology Department of Maynooth University), 

Martijn Oosterbaan (Associate Professor, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University).

In recent decades, grassroots security practices that seek to complement state protection against those perceived as (potential) criminals have multiplied across various geographic and political contexts. Such practices range from neighbourhood watch programmes to border and neighbourhood patrols, and from civilian defence groups to political or religious vigilantism, in their most violent form. 

Explanatory frameworks for the proliferation of informal policing generally center on the state and the perception that its institutions have failed in fulfilling their role of protection of the citizenry. Yet, the state can often be a placeholder for a number of phenomena that affect people’s perception and experience of insecurity. From the ravages of neoliberal policies and the precarisation of large swathes of populations to regime changes and the social turmoil that often accompanies them, such dynamics are mediated through materialities and socialities of everyday lives. 

Our panel seeks to interrogate theoretical frameworks of vigilantism and other forms of informal policing that have hitherto focused on the state. We aim at pushing the reflection beyond the state, through the minutiae of the everyday that people who engage in such practices experience. We ask, among others: 

– How do groups engaged in informal policing – border, citizen or neighbourhood patrols, civilian defense groups or religious vigilantes – legitimate and make sense of their initiatives beyond the idea of state failure? 

– Which kinds of urban materialities participate in the multiplication of informal policing practices? 

– What economic, religious, social, or political practices are intertwined with practices of informal policing?

– Which kinds of moralities and social orders played out in the everyday become implicated in practices of informal policing? 

We seek to explore such and other related questions by means of ethnographically informed accounts of informal policing and vigilantism in different contexts both from the so-called ‘global South’ and the ‘global North’.


P7. Immigrant Communities and Crime: Challenging Populistic Responses.

Chair: Clara Rigoni (Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law).

Although the discourse around crime and immigration is not new, in the last two decades, the European public debate on so-called parallel societies has focused increasingly on cultural and religious aspects (instead of socio-economic ones) linked to crime within immigrant communities. Among the communities at the centre of this debate are especially those characterised by extended family structures with patriarchal and hierarchical traits, codes of conduct inspired by collective conceptions of honour and shame, high levels of group solidarity and loyalty expectations, coupled with high levels of negative social control, as well as isolation from the larger society. Next to the largely debated issue of religious terrorism, some of these groups come to the attention of the authorities because they are active in organised crime but also for the high levels of inter- and intra-family violence. The responses of European countries, often driven by populistic demands, have been overly punitive and have included zero-tolerance policies and ad hoc (symbolic) legislation against these forms of family-based (organised) crime. These measures have had the result of targeting, sometimes disproportionately, entire communities, thereby hindering integration of their members into the wider society. At the same time, investigative and enforcement procedures as well as support mechanisms for victims, witnesses and (former or potential) offenders have not adequately been (re)shaped. As a result, within these communities, levels of cooperation with the authorities and access to justice remain very low. Through an analysis of case studies, the panel will address the major consequences of such criminal policies and try to sketch alternative approaches.


P8. Navigating Criminalisation.

Chair: Agata Chełstowska (Post-Doc Jagiellonian University),

Agata Dziuban (Professor at the Institute of Sociology of Jagiellonian University),

Carmen Grimm (Research Assistant, Europäische Ethnologie at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin).

Writing on youth in the context of the war in Guinea-Bissau, Henrik Vigh coined the term navigation to capture agency and everyday practices in contexts of change, turbulence and instability. Navigation grasps individual actions as ‘motion within motion’ - i.e. movement in a moving environment. A focus on interactivity allows accounting for the complex and dynamic interplay between social forces shaping individual practices, and, most importantly, how those practices themselves contribute to or intervene into the unfolding of environments as livable, unstable or turbulent.

The concept of navigation is particularly useful in grasping agency under conditions of criminalisation. We understand criminalisation broadly to include the application of criminal law, crime control measures and imaginaries of (il)legality. Furthermore, building on extensive literature on the ‘penal turn’ in contemporary democratic governance, we understand criminalisation as both responses to, and sources of, the politics of threat and uncertainty currently dominating social and political life. Increased criminalisation, designed to control practices, identities and ways of being has contributed to prolonged “chronic” conditions of crisis defined by insecurity, instability and social opacity for the implicated actors. For example, research in the fields of migration, drug use or sex work policy has shown that increased reliance on criminalisation translates into experiences of hardship as social actors are compelled to create and reconfigure their overviews of their own positions, changing environment, and possible strategies of action.

In this panel we invite papers that examine the ways in which differently situated actors — criminalised subjects and their social networks, official and unofficial law enforcement agencies, and other persons and institutions directly and indirectly implicated through criminal law — are affected by, act upon and interact with the effects of criminalisation that constitute their lived realities. We welcome both empirically oriented studies examining navigational strategies in the context of criminalisation, as well as theoretical presentations critically engaging with the concept of navigation in reference to criminal law and law enforcement.


P9. Crimes of the powerful: state and corporate crimes, patrimonialism, clientelism, corruption and white-collar crimes / LUXCORE panel.

Chair: Rano Turaeva (Ludwig Maximillian University of Munich and Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle),

Aleksandr Kupatatdze (Senior Lecturer of criminology at Kings College London),

Petr Kupka (Researcher, Department of Anthropology, University of West Bohemia).

This panel will bring together scholars who investigate power, crime, and their intersections with corruption both in the Global South and the Global North. As we examine state and non-state actors’ involvement in illicit activities, like corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, societal and environmental harms, our goal is to question the concept of the state and that of legitimacy, legal or moral. By challenging existing analytical bias, we seek to complicate simplistic definitions of crime within state and non-state actors, as well as the division of the political, administrative, judicial, and business arenas. In fact, while it is possible to make a distinction, for example, between organized crime and corruption, this distinction may not be relevant in many instances. The complexity of contemporary corruption involves widespread interactions between state officials and organized crime, as well as individuals and groups brokering across both public and private spheres, rerouting financial flows in ways rarely legally recognized as corrupt while still affecting society. Researchers are often faced with different methodological challenges when attempting to understand the crimes of the powerful, and must therefore develop original approaches and analyses in order to do so. We are interested in papers that offer an analysis of:  

– The overlaps between organized crime, corruption, state, and corporate crime. 

– Corruption, clientelism, patrimonialism analyses from within state networks as well as the private and corporate sectors. 

– Moral economy of fraud and corruption, but also trickery and deviance from recognized social norms. 

– Comparative analyses of criminal networks comprising representatives of the “underworld” and the “upperworld”.

This panel will also be part of the LUXCORE workshop Elites, Corruption, and Conspicuous Consumption, project 313004 funded by The Research Council of Norway, taking place in Bologna from May 19-20, 2022.


P10. Security and policing beyond the human.

Chair: Pablo Holwitt (Lecturer at the Institute of Anthropology at Heidelberg University), 

Rivke Jaffe (Professor of Urban Geography, University of Amsterdam)

In recent years, humans have increasingly outsourced the task of producing security and fighting crime to non-human entities. CCTV cameras observe public spaces in cities worldwide; predictive policing algorithms calculate where crimes are likely to occur; and members of the affluent classes enrol various technological devices and animals to protect themselves from the ‘dangers’ of poverty. These moves are often justified through references to non-human entities’ alleged efficiency, objectivity or rationality, in comparison to humans. Eliminating the human factor from security measures is thus legitimised as a step towards a regime of safety that is free from human bias, prejudice and discrimination. At the same time, it is precisely this (apparent) elimination of the human factor in contemporary security measures that generates concern regarding the ethical implications of investing non-human entities with the responsibility to uphold justice and punish crime. These concerns draw on popular dystopian visions of a security apparatus that entirely escapes human control.

This panel seeks to complicate such binary narratives and starts from the assumption that the introduction of non-human entities into securityscapes does not imply the displacement of human beings. Rather, we argue that securityscapes are increasingly shaped by entanglements between human and non-human entities, leading to more-than-human mediations of security. It is precisely the lived realities and political implications of these entanglements and mediations that this panel seeks to understand: How do different non-human entities – from electronic alarm systems and algorithms to firearms and security dogs – mediate security practices in everyday life? How do they shape understandings of causality, responsibility and culpability in relation to crime and insecurity? What practical and ethical fault lines emerge through such mediations? How effective are they in generating a sense of safety or leading to actual changes in crime patterns? How are they challenged? The panel invites contributions that engage with these questions by drawing on ethnographic research that highlights how humans and non-humans interact in various security and crime-control initiatives.


P11. Mixed panel on crime, criminalization and security.

This is a special panel devoted specifically to papers that address crime, criminalization and security in a way that does not fit into other existing panels. The papers will be selected by the AnthroCrime network and the chairs from among those who submitted contributions.