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Beyond the Ghetto: Police Power, Methamphetamine and the Rural War on Drugs

Abstract

Viewing police as important cultural producers, we ask how police power fashions structures of feeling and social imaginaries of the “war on drugs” in small towns of the rural Midwest. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and a collection of interviews focusing on police officers’ beliefs about the causes of crime and drug use, we locate a narrative of rural decline attributed to the producers and users of methamphetamine. We argue this narrative supports punitive and authoritarian sensibilities and broader narcopolitical projects more generally and ignores long-standing social inequalities observed in rural communities. As such, the cultural work of rural police provides important insight to the shape and direction of late-modern crime control beyond the familiar terrains of the city and its “ghetto.”

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Notes

  1. Google Scholar returns over 4,000 hits on the keywords “Mayberry Policing.”

  2. And more recently the disparate rural geographies detailed in Hogg and Carrington’s (2006) Policing the Rural Crisis.

  3. Charles Taylor’s “social imaginaries” bears close resemblance to Raymond Williams’ “structures of feeling” and Bourdieu’s “habitus” (Loader and Walker 2007:44).

  4. Fieldwork occurred in 2010.

  5. See: http://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs40/40391/overview.htm.

  6. Explaining this, Weisheit and Wells (2010) suggest more racially diverse large cities are also able to support more diverse drug markets, hence the cultural script that “white culture has moved more towards the meth” and “black culture seems like they stay with crack cocaine.”

  7. Trademarked slogan of the largest anti-meth group The Meth Project.org.

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Correspondence to Travis Linnemann.

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Linnemann, T., Kurtz, D.L. Beyond the Ghetto: Police Power, Methamphetamine and the Rural War on Drugs. Crit Crim 22, 339–355 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-013-9218-z

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Keywords

  • Methamphetamine
  • Small Town
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Police Work
  • Police Power