17/07/2015 Political Science Sociology
DOI: 10.1086/655887 SemanticScholar ID: 141854954 MAG: 1259850578

Child Rearing in China, Japan, and the United States: Videos, Narrations, and Diachronic Comparison

Publication Summary

forces that attended the formation of a “homeland security” presence in the greater Boston area. What, precisely, constitutes a “fieldwork site” in such cacophony? At one early meeting about security in Boston Harbor, she is surprised to hear a presentation from a member of the Lobster Cooperative offering the services of his fellow lobstermen to monitor activity along the shore. For Fosher, this underscores the emergence of homeland security as a new set of institutional arrangements, in which organizations that previously had no affiliation with security were able to align themselves with new national imperatives: until this point, “there was no preexisting organization or policy that could encompass federal agents and lobstermen” (p. 67). Fosher’s task, she realizes, is to document this emergence. The second section of Under Construction puts more emphasis on the people and practices comprising homeland security in the communities that Fosher studied. Four chapters describe how a diverse array of professions, people, and agencies collectively organized themselves to identify, produce, and pursue a set of “homeland security” institutions, roles, and practices. Fosher does an excellent and thorough job describing the bureaucratic churn that accompanied the federal government’s effort to reconfigure itself for the post-9/11 world. As part of this reconfiguration, state and local agencies were suddenly responsible for implementing national security and providing civil defense in their own backyards. In this new world, Fosher’s informants must become creative, flexible, and responsive sense-makers who can read the bureaucratic tea leaves and figure out novel arrangements of resources and responsibility, largely in the absence of sustained federal leadership. Of particular importance in this world are informal affiliations, friendships, and professional networks, which serve as critical channels for both information and resources at a time when neither federal nor state agencies were providing clear leadership to the myriad agencies implicated in the homeland security project. Perhaps not surprisingly, Fosher herself becomes as much of a participant in as an observer of the Boston security community. She is a unique resource for the people she is studying because she is one of the few who has both time and resources—and a charter—to make sense of the nascent homeland security community in Massachusetts. As Fosher’s role evolves from observer to participant, she finds herself taking notes at meetings, sharing her insights with her informantcolleagues, providing information to planners about goingson in other agencies, helping local bureaucrats and agency representatives create some kind of structure from the organizational chaos around them, and developing friendships with the people she is studying. Fosher is deeply self-conscious about whether this active positioning compromised her impartiality as a researcher; indeed, she spends a great deal of the first section of the book reflecting on the dilemmas of doing fieldwork in a security context. Yet by the end of the book, she seems to have made peace with her role as insideradvocate, even arguing that ethnographic studies of local agencies can contribute to the formation and maintenance of effective and humane government institutions. There is one significant problem with Under Construction: as an ethnography, it minimally foregrounds the people and places that Fosher studied; instead, much of the book is about Fosher’s experience of studying them. This is despite the author’s multiple assertions that homeland security is a local project, comprising the sense-making activities of hundreds of thousands of regular people across a multitude of institutions. Fosher warns us in the beginning of the book that she felt the need to protect the identities of the individuals she studied, given that they were working in an area of national security. While this is understandable, the book did not give me a sense of what this construction process meant for the people engaged in it. The events of 9/11 must have been massively disconcerting for the people whom Fosher studied, considering that all four planes took off from Logan International Airport. I wanted to know how these first responders working in Boston were making sense of this horrific experience, incorporating it into their work-lives and transforming state and local agencies in the process. Unfortunately, colorful stories such as the lobsterman’s appearance at an interagency task force meeting are rare. Instead, Under Construction reminded me of a fish-eye lens: in the center are Fosher’s often eloquent thoughts about homeland security and her fieldwork experience, but the people she studied are pushed into a blurry periphery. We are left with a strong sense that Fosher struggled to reconcile what she saw as the ethical contradiction of being an anthropologist who moved from studying to actively consulting with the people building the homeland security apparatus in Boston. Would that she had set that aside and focused on their struggles instead.

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Michalis Kontopodis

Prof. Michalis Kontopodis

University of Leeds - Chair in Global Childhood and Youth Studies

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