Anthropology Magazine

Teaching SAPIENS Unit Template

Teaching SAPIENS Unit Template

Below is a template for a teaching unit, based on our current Policing Unit. Use this format to develop your own unit. To submit or ask questions, please reach out to Eshe Lewis at eshe{@}sapiens.org.

Cultural Anthropology [Anthropology Sub-Discipline]

Policing [Title]

Summary [Write a paragraph that includes a brief introduction to the subject and the key points students will learn]:

Governments task police forces and other security units with the responsibility of maintaining order and control over civilian populations. In this unit, students will learn about policing in different countries around the world and observe the differences and similarities in law enforcements’ approaches and methods. They will also gain an understanding of how policing affects different communities and become familiar with how power, violence, and control are embodied and meted out by the institution and by individual officers. Students will study critiques of policing put forth by various scholars.

SAPIENS Articles [Choose 2-3 SAPIENS articles that are related to your topic. Write the name of the articles in quotations and add a hyperlink to the words.]:

Keywords [Include 3-4 keywords that can be used to find more SAPIENS articles with related content. You can get an idea for strong keywords by scrolling to the bottom of the articles you selected and looking at the keywords we used. You can also try different keywords using the search bar on our page to determine which words yield the best results. Add a hyperlink to the search yield page to the keywords of your choice.] :

Professor Talking Points [Offer major talking points on your subject that professors and instructors can use to shape their lessons and guide their students. Use full sentences.]:

  • Police forces exist in countries around the world and hold differing levels of power depending upon the type of government that presides over them.
  • As an institution, the police are expected to protect, serve, and maintain order among civilian populations. Because of their mandate, any violence they use to achieve order is generally viewed as legitimate and supported by the state.
  • Anthropologists study police and policing through a cultural lens, and focus on a number of salient topics: for example, power dynamics within police forces and between the police and the people they protect; the police as an arm of the state; population control; the historical roots of policing that are often linked to European colonialism and plantation slavery; and the role of class, race, sexuality, mental health, and gender as they affect police officers, and influence which communities are likely to be targets of policing.
  • Anthropologists have also played important roles in ongoing conversations around police violence and solutions to it. Their research reveals that other approaches can be used to ensure safety and that the style of policing as currently conducted in many countries has not always existed. These scholars support different strategies and tactics to achieve security and safe societies: for example, community policing, building trust between civilians and the police, legal change, police reform, and abolition of police forces.

Academic Articles [Include 2-3 articles from academic journals using Current Anthropology’s style, as below]:

  • Beliso-De Jesús, Aisha. 2020. “The Jungle Academy: Molding White Supremacy in American Police Recruits.” American Anthropologist 122 (1): 143–156.
  • Martin, Jeffrey T. 2018. “Police and Policing.” Annual Review of Anthropology47 (1): 133–148.

Student Discussion Questions [Generate a list of 4-6 questions that can guide classroom discussion. Try to include questions that can lead to collective reflection and that touch on content from the articles you listed above.]:

  1. What social factors contribute to differing opinions about the police?
  2. What similarities and differences do you see, if any, across accounts of policing in different parts of the world?
  3. Does the concept of coerced harmony discussed in Lau’s SAPIENS article apply to other readings? If so, how?
  4. What does Smith say in the interview with SAPIENS about the results people can expect from diversifying the police force and how we might think of individual officers as opposed to the police as an institution? How does Smith’s perspective on these two issues differ from Gusterson’s argument in his SAPIENS column post?
  5. Why is it important to learn about the culture of police academies and training? Can this information give clues to how to improve policing?
  6. What alternatives to current forms of policing are mentioned in these articles? Which of them resonate with you and why?

Activities [Come up with 1-3 activities that students can do individually or in a group in the classroom or as a small homework assignment. These can be creative and critical, and they can involve the unit readings or closely related resources.]:

  • Have students write an op-ed about policing that responds to key arguments of the unit readings.

Additional Resources [Add a list of resources students and professors might incorporate into their lesson plan for this unit. These can be books, magazine articles, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, documentaries, online exhibits, websites of organizations or institutions that are involved in the subject matter. Etc. Write the medium of the resources first (book, article, podcast) in alphabetical order, then include the author or platform name followed by the title in quotations or in italics with no quotations for books. Hyperlink to the resource.]:

Unit by Eshe Lewis [Your name]