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Accepted Paper:

(Un)Making the state: Informal policing in Europe  
Ana Ivasiuc

Paper short abstract:

The state engages ambivalently with practices of informal policing in Europe. Using ethnographic data on a neighborhood patrol in Italy and data on German Bürgerwehren and on Dutch burgerwachten, I analyze the state-(un)making practices of informal policing.

Paper long abstract:

Informal policing is on the rise in Europe: ‘concerned citizens’ mobilize increasingly for the protection of their spaces – neighborhood or border areas, or abstract spaces like the country or imagined communities. Informal policing ranges from the unobtrusive observation of a space through neighborhood watch schemes, where residents linked through social media alert each other and the police on suspicious presence, to more organized forms of patrolling. Some of the groups involved in such activities border on vigilantism. Many of the groups patrolling urban spaces or borderlands in different countries display political orientations towards the extreme right spectrum. The spatial scales at which ‘security formations’ of vigilant citizens operate are crucial for the anthropological study of security and of the state. I follow Abrams (1988) in analytically separating the state into its idea and its institutions, and examine how practices of informal policing are productive on both dimensions. While these groups propagate narratives of a failed state and the need for citizens to ‘take things in their own hands’, state institutions respond ambivalently to the proliferation of such practices. Often, the state response to such practices entails a strengthening of the state’s control through support given to forms of informal policing that are less threatening to its own monopoly of violence, such as neighborhood watch programs. By using ethnographic data gathered on a neighborhood patrol in Italy and data on German Bürgerwehren and on Dutch burgerwachten, I analyze how practices of informal policing are simultaneously and ambivalently state-(un)making practices.

Panel P166a
(In)Security - What's the State Got to Do with it? [ASN]
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -