fbpx "We Live Amongst Each Other": Small-Town Policing and Acquainted Marginality (3/29/23) | Harvard Kennedy School

David Showalter, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Sociology Department

Wednesday, March 29
4:30pm Eastern
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In rural and remote places, law enforcement officers often live in close proximity to the people they police and may be personally acquainted with them. In their current research, David Showalter adapts Erving Goffman’s analysis of face-to-face interaction to conceptualize this condition as "acquainted marginality," which helps law enforcement gather information about potential suspects through everyday interactions and overlapping social networks. Showalter illustrates how acquainted marginality influenced the behavior of law enforcement as well as people who used illicit drugs using interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in a small and remote California town. Despite limited organizational capacity, acquainted marginality helped law enforcement investigate and arrest several members of the drug scene, which interrupted some people's attempts to use drugs more safely. These findings show how acquainted marginality can be a resource for law enforcement but also an obstacle to public health efforts.

David ShowalterDavid Showalter is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Harvard Sociology Department and beginning in July 2023 will be Assistant Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. David uses ethnographic and qualitative methods to investigate how place, social networks, and organizations influence health, criminalization, and marginality, particularly with respect to drug use and drug policy. David’s first book project is a multisite ethnographic study of opioid use and opioid-related services in backcountry California. Their research has been published in Social Science & Medicine, Theory & Society, International Journal of Drug Policy, Mobilization, and elsewhere. David holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.

This event will be moderated by Sandra Susan Smith, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice and Faculty Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.