Authority, Confinement, Solidarity, and Dissent

Emergent Conversation 8

A Discussion with Catherine Besteman, Karina Biondi, and Orisanmi Burton

Moderated by Jennifer Curtis and Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot

Embed from Getty Images

Riot police agents group and approach to negotiate with an inmate’s delegate (R) during a rebellion at the Alcacuz Penitentiary Center near Natal, Rio Grande do Norte state, northeastern Brazil on January 16, 2017. Similar violence at other jails in Brazil left around 100 inmates dead in early January. ANDRESSA ANHOLETE/AFP/Getty Images

This summer, APLA President Emeritus Catherine Besteman, 2017 APLA Book Prize winner Karina Biondi, and Orisanmi Burton, American University Assistant Professor of Anthropology, took part in a virtual discussion that is PoLAR’s latest Emergent Conversation, number 8. This discussion was moderated by PoLAR Associate Editor Jennifer Curtis and PoLAR Digital Editorial Fellow Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot. The discussion will be published in three installments. It continues and complements the Speaking Justice to Power series’ focus on contemporary authoritarianism, and what it means for the political anthropology of authority, dissent, and freedom. The latest APLA/PoLAR Speaking Justice to Power series focuses on confinement and authoritarianism in the Americas. We are expanding the formats for discussion with Emergent Conversations, and welcome proposals for both series.


Part I: Solidarity and the Caprice of Empathy



Part II: Dissent and Politics As Struggle



Part III: Colonial Histories of Authority, Captivity, and War in the Americas



Catherine Besteman is the Francis F. Bartlett and Ruth K. Bartlett Professor of Anthropology at Colby College. A past President of APLA and 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, her books include Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine(2016), Transforming Cape Town (2008), Unraveling Somalia (1999), and, with Hugh Gusterson, the edited volumes The Insecure American (2009) and Why America’s Top Pundits are Wrong (2005).


Karina Biondi holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from University of Sao Paulo (USP) and a master’s and doctoral degree in Social Anthropology from Federal University of Sao Carlos (UFSCar). She is currently professor at the State University of Maranhão (UEMA), where she coordinates the Laboratory of Studies in Political Anthropology – LEAP. Karina is currently researching the technologies of mapping crime through the perspective of science studies. She wrote Junto e Misturado: uma etnografia do PCC, which had its English version published by the University of North Carolina Press under the title Sharing This Walk: An Ethnography of Prison Life and the PCC in Brazil.

Orisanmi Burton is Assistant Professor of anthropology at American University. His work has been published in North American DialogCultural Anthropology online, and The Black Scholar (forthcoming). He is an active member of the Critical Prison Studies Caucus of the American Studies Association and the Abolition Collective and is hard at work on a book manuscript, tentatively entitled The Tip of the Spear: Black Radicalism and Prison Struggle in the Empire State, which analyzes the historical development of the radical movement in men prisons throughout New York State from the 1960s to the present.

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