Anthropology of Crime
European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) network
Syllabus for a 16-week seminar style upper-level undergraduate course centered around discussing ethnographies on crime and criminalization. Designed by Alex Nelson, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC USA.
Reading materials were selected for their high accessibility, diverse writing styles, and digital full text availability through university library databases.
This course investigates the construction of lines between legality and illegality, how these lines are navigated by individuals, families, organizations, and states, and how the creation of these lines shapes human behavior. Specifically, the course explores accounts of smuggling, illicit drug use and dealing, war profiteering, bribery, undocumented migration, violence, torture, incarceration, money laundering, and commercial sex, grounded in ethnographic research. The course also examines cultures of law enforcement, and officers’ own negotiations with lines of legality and illegality, specifically in regards to racial and ethnic profiling and the consequences of their law enforcement decisions. Students will also discuss the ethical challenges of conducting ethnographic research on criminalized populations and strategies for balancing needs for objectivity, engaged writing, protecting informant anonymity, and writing for non-academic audiences. Students will leave this course with a richer understanding of why people cross legal boundaries, the intended and unintended effects of laws and law enforcement strategies, and of possible solutions to addressing these effects.
Dewey, S. & Kelley, P. (Eds). (2011). Policing Pleasure: Sex Work, Policy, and the State in Global Perspective. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Bourgois, P. & Schonberg, J. (2009). Righteous Dopefiend. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Muehlmann, S. (2014). When I Wear My Alligator Boots: Narco-Culture in the US-Mexico Borderlands. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Nordstrom, C. (2007). Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Holmes, S. (2013). Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Fassin, D. (2013). Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Ralph, L. (2020). The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Fassin, D. (2017). Prison Worlds: An Ethnography of the Carceral Condition. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Dewey, S. et al. (2019). Outlaw Women: Prison, Rural Violence, and Poverty in the American West. New York, NY: New York University Press.
Osburg, J. (2013). Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality among China's New Rich. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
|1 1/19-1/24||Theme: Syllabus and Introduction |
|Class 1/19 |
Discussion Leader Sign-up
|2 1/25-1/31||Theme: Sex Work (Part 1) |
Policing Pleasure (Chapters 1-4 & 7) 71 pages
|3 2/1-2/7||Theme: Sex Work (Part 2) |
Policing Pleasure (Chapters 9, 10, 11, 13 & 14) 73 pages
|4 2/8-2/14||Theme: Drugs, Vagrancy and Petty Theft (Part 1) |
Righteous Dopefiend (Intro & Chapters 3 & 5) 98 pages
|5 2/15-2/21||Theme: Drugs, Vagrancy and Petty Theft (Part 2) Righteous Dopefiend (Chapters 8, 9, & Conclusion) 80 pages||Class 2/16|
|6 2/22-2/28||Theme: Smuggling and the Drug Trade (Part 1) |
When I Wear my Alligator Boots (Intro – Chapter 2) 85 pages
|7 3/1-3/7||Theme: Smuggling and the Drug Trade (Part 2) |
When I Wear my Alligator Boots (Chapters 3 – conclusion) 107 pages
|8 3/8-3/14||Theme: Commodity Smuggling and Midterm Exam |
Global Outlaws (Chapters 11-16) 62 pages
In-Class Midterm Exam
In-Class Midterm Exam
|9 3/15-3/21||Theme: Undocumented Im/migration (Part 1) |
Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies (Chapters 2-4) 81 pages
|10 3/22-3/28||Theme: Undocumented Im/migration (Part 2) |
Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies (Chapter 5-7) 88 pages
|11 3/29-4/4||Theme: Law Enforcement, Discrimination and Torture Enforcing Order (Chapters 2 & 5) 56 pages |
The Torture Letters (Chapter 4) 35 pages
|12 4/5-4/11||Theme: Prison and Probation (Part 1) |
Prison Worlds (Intro. & Chapters 1, 2 & 4) 79 pages
|13 4/12-4/18||Theme: Prison and Probation (Part 2) |
Outlaw Women (Chapters 1 & 4) 83 pages
|14 4/19-4/25||Theme: Corruption and Bribery |
Anxious Wealth (Chapters 2-3) 77 pages
Submit Final Paper Draft Due by 4/25 @ Midnight
|Class 4/20 |
Final Paper Draft Due 4/25
|15 4/26-5/2||Peer Review and Reflection |
Read Peer Paper Drafts and prepare comments and questions for class. Will discuss in class.
Submit Peer Reviews by 4/27 @ Midnight
|Class 4/27 |
Peer-Review Ready for in-class discussion
|16 5/3-5/9||Finals Week |
Submit Revised Final Paper Due by 5/4 @ 3:30PM
|Final Paper 5/4 |
You may download the full syllabus as a PDF below: