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Around the world, protests about racial injustice, violence, and corruption are challenging the authority of police and forcing societies to rethink how they provide security. Suddenly, it seems, there is a demand to redraw the “thin blue line” in more equitable, less violent, and more responsible ways. But anthropologists have long argued that neither crime nor “the police” are stable categories. Ethnographies of crime and policing show the variability and contingent qualities of these social forms. In this course, we look at some of the most interesting insights available in ethnographies of crime and policing, from early writing about criminal “tribes” and professional masters of disguise to contemporary studies of transnational gangs, and from violent customary justice to the role of elite special forces and secretive intelligence units. Ethnography will illuminate the institutional "backstage" of policing and highlight some radical, alternative possibilities. Throughout the course, policing practitioners will give guest talks to ground student knowledge in matters such as the use of force and the progress of reform. Along the way, students will learn about ethnographic research and writing, its limitations, and the rich insights that it may provide.