Thursday, January 3, 2013

How Law Matters to the Taiwanese Police

How social forces are channeled into legal institutions? In the article  How Law Matters to the Taiwanese Police on Anthropology News. Jeffrey T Martin illustrates a cultural approach to this question with his ethnographic study on Taiwanese policing. Two years ago, he gave a related talk in our department on the historical formation of modern policing in Taiwan under Japanese colonial and Chinese authoritarian governments, exploring how this policing system has adapted to the island's democratic transition.

"When the police patrolmen I knew in Taiwan reflected on their experience working as agents of law enforcement, they frequently invoked a cultural ideal of balance between three primordial qualities of human sociality: qing (sentiment), li (reason) and fa (law). It was a defining idiom of their job, an idiom pedigreed by a thousand-year-old jurisprudential tradition and expressed in modern form through textbook techniques taught in the police college. "

Police propaganda billboard advertising goals for building a “Peaceful and Healthy Society.” This photograph was taken in Taiwan in the early 2000s. Photo courtesy Jeffrey T Martin

* Jeffrey T Martin is a cultural anthropologist working in the sociology department at the University of Hong Kong. He runs a policing seminar in Hong Kong that aspires, among other things, to contribute to the development of a comparative anthropology of policing (see

1 comment:

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