Thursday Common Hour: Divine Detection - Crime, Super Cops, and the Problem of Dis/order by John Comaroff

Thursday, March 06, 2014
12:15 PM - 1:30 PM
Mather Hall Rittenberg Lounge
Event Type
Beth E. Notar

Sponsored by Anthropology, Center for Urban and Global Studies, International Studies, Phi Beta Kappa, Political Science, Urban Studies
The critical theorist, Walter Benjamin, famously insisted that modern police wield a "ghostly," all-pervasive violence, called upon at points where the state is unable to govern by ordinary legal means. In contemporary South Africa – as elsewhere in both the global south and the global north – many nations are haunted by a different specter: that policing is ineffective in the face of rising crime and that the authority of the state is itself ambiguous, all the more difficult to grasp as government is outsourced increasingly to the private sector – with the corollary that many citizens feel insecure, even abandoned. In these circumstances, a new sort of supercop has emerged: the diviner-detective, part policeman, part shaman. These "uncanny" cops fight new kinds of crime by new means. And, as they do, they enter into public awareness as the last defense against a rising "metaphysic of disorder," the fear that the world is falling apart. But what is the implication of the burgeoning popularity of these lawmen? What does it tell us about life, and about governance, in the nation-state of today? This lecture addresses these questions, based on an account of a number of African diviner detectives.

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