The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Geography’ Category

The Spatial Situation of Crime and Criminal Law

Posted by Adam Benforado on May 13, 2010

No pressure (except for you, grandma — loyal reader number 1), but I have a new article out in the most recent issue of the Cardozo Law Review.  The abstract for The Geography of Criminal Law is below.

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When Westerners explain the causes of actions or outcomes in the criminal law context, they demonstrate a strong tendency to overestimate the importance of dispositional factors, like thinking, preferring, and willing, and underestimate the impact of interior and exterior situational factors, including environmental, historical, and social forces, as well as affective states, knowledge structures, motives, and other unseen aspects of our cognitive frameworks and processes. One of the situational factors that we are particularly likely to overlook is physical space—that is, landscapes, places, natures, boundaries, and spatialities. Our shortsightedness comes at a great cost. Spatial concerns shape legal structures, order interactions, and influence behavior.

To understand these dynamics, this Article establishes the foundation for a new spatial analysis of criminal law. By casting a wide net and capturing data across a diverse set of fields, this Article uncovers unappreciated but vital parallels, connections, and patterns concerning the ways in which physical space—and the meanings that we attach to spatial elements—affect (1) the proximate decision to commit a crime, (2) the likelihood a given person will become a criminal, (3) the experience of victimization, (4) the way in which policing is conducted, (5) what a crime is and how it is prosecuted, and (6) the consequences of being convicted.

As the first Article in a broader project, this systematic spatial analysis provides the basis for future work dedicated to understanding the origins of our criminal system and assessing whether our current legal structures—from the laws on the books to the practices of police officers to our approaches to punishment—align with our societal needs and values, and, thus, whether the structures we have in place ought to be changed. Instead of building its normative conclusions on geographical analysis alone, the project employs the lens of the mind sciences—including social psychology, social cognition, evolutionary psychology, and related fields—to investigate and explain identified spatial dynamics. This research offers the best hope for unlocking, among other concerns, why our justice system has focused on physically isolating criminals from society; why laws are frequently structured around protecting the physical boundaries of the body, home, and community; why more police shootings occur in certain areas than others; and why we have spatially-embedded laws that become inoperative when an individual leaves a jurisdiction.

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Click here for the full article on SSRN.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Looting,” “The Situation of Suspicion,” The Legal Situation of the Underclass,” Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Policing Racial Bias” – Video,”Clarence Darrow on the Situation of Crime and Criminals,” Why Criminals Obey the Law – Abstract,” and “The Situation of Criminality – Abstract.”

Posted in Abstracts, Geography, Law, Legal Theory, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

“Flow” and the Situation of Water

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2010

From Wikipedia: Flow: For Love of Water is a 2008 documentary film by Irena Salina. The film concentrates on the big business of privatization of water infrastructure which prioritizes profits over the availability of clean water for people and the environment. Major businesses depicted in the film are Nestle, The Coca-Cola Company, Suez, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The first video below is the trailer.  You can watch the movie in 9 (roughly 10-minute) sections after the jump.

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Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Food and Drug Law, Geography, Life, Politics, Public Policy, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Climate Change

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 29, 2009

From Pop!Tech and YouTube, here is Situationist friend, Harvard Professor Daniel Gilbert speaking  about the psychology of global warming.

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For related Sitautionist posts, see “Jeffrey Sachs on the Situation of Global Poverty,” “The Need for a Situationist Morality,” “The Heat is On,” and “Captured Science.”

Posted in Conflict, Emotions, Geography, History, Illusions, Law, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Jeff Sachs Speaks for the Voiceless at Harvard Law School

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 21, 2008

From Sam Flaks’s article in the Harvard Law Record.

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Dr. Jeffrey Sachs spoke to a packed hall in an address entitled “Representing the Voiceless: The Poor, The Excluded, and the Future,” on the morning of Thursday, September 11, 2008. The passionate but precise economist called for the recognition of the intermeshed dilemmas posed by an overcrowded planet and an increasingly interconnected globe. Sachs’ appearance was organized by Professor Jon Hanson, Carol Igoe, Jon Taylor ’10, and an inter-year committee of students from Section VI.

Sachs, who is one of the leading international economists of his generation, is Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and President and Co-Founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a non-profit organization attempting to end global poverty. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, ”The End of Poverty” and ”Common Wealth”. Given that ”Time” listed Sachs as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2004 and 2005, it was unsurprising that a standing-room only crowd packed Austin North to hear him at 8:15 A.M.

In his address, Sachs emphasized that the world faces many grave problems. He bewailed that the general public, politicians, and the media are ignorant of the desperate straits of marginalized communities living in the world’s poorest places. Sachs confessed that he himself would have never understood the straits of deathly parched countries like Somalia without seeing them with his own eyes. The direct connection between the hurricanes and tsunamis that have killed hundred of thousands in recent years and the economic and environmental policies of Western democracies is being generally ignored. However, Sachs has made it his mission to educate others about these connections and to fight for change.

Sachs call for engagement was also starkly political. Though he criticized both John McCain and Barack Obama for not engaging the long-term geopolitical problems facing America, Sachs reserved his harshest criticism for the Republican. Sachs predicted that if McCain is elected, the probability of global crisis will rise a few percentage points. He described McCain’s worldview as epitomizing the mindset that defines America and Islam in self-fulfilling and self-defeating “us and them” terms. In response to a question from the audience, Sachs observed that extremely impoverished places can not be politically stable. America would be safer if it devoted more resources to providing renewable energy rather than military spending, he said.

Sachs urged his audience of law students to use the technical skills that they were gaining in the service of ethical goals and to combat environmental and economic disparities that are spurring ethnic conflict across the globe. Specifically, he called for lawyers to support the legal foundations of international treaties that will be necessary to deal with worldwide environmental problems. More broadly, Sachs shared his belief that that the world’s social problems could only be solved if people become more scientifically literate. He pointed out that many crucial threats facing the planet are recognized by the scientific community many years before the general public. Sachs recommended that everyone read Science to keep abreast with new developments that may have important bearing on social problems.

Student reaction to Sachs’s address was generally positive, though many students left with heavy hearts. One student confessed that the Sachs had made him feel bad about his incipient career as a corporate lawyer. Indeed, another student who had come to Harvard to with the intention of helping solve international poverty admitted to this reporter that he avoided the speech because he was too guilt stricken to attend. Nonetheless, the electric humming at the close of the event indicated that many students had been inspired by Sachs’ words and example.

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In the upcoming weeks, The Situationist will post rough transcripts of portions of Sachs’s remarkable talk.

To watch the 90-minute video, click here.

Posted in Conflict, Education, Events, Geography, History, Ideology, Law, Legal Theory, Morality, Politics, Public Policy | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Al Gore’s Situationism and Call for Urgency

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 28, 2008

Vodpod videos no longer available.

For a related post, see “Al Gore – The Situationist.”

Posted in Deep Capture, Education, Geography, Politics, Public Policy, Uncategorized, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Space & Place (Situation) of Rural Women

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 19, 2008


Lisa Pruitt, Professor of Law at University of California, Davis (and blogger on Legal Ruralism Blog) has posted a fine new paper on SSRN: “Of Spaces and Spheres: What Critical Geography Can Teach Law about Rural Women.” The abstract is as follows:

Like other legal scholars, feminists often think about social change over time, using history as a lens to reveal disadvantage and injustice. They have demonstrated, for example, that the public/private divide and related separate spheres ideology are socially contingent developments based on evolving perceptions of women and gender roles. Shifts in such perceptions have thus informed legal changes, and vice versa.

This Article argues that a more grounded and more nuanced understanding of women’s lived realities requires legal scholars to engage not only history, but also geography. Because spatial aspects of women’s lives implicate inequality and moral agency, they have direct relevance to an array of legal issues. I thus deploy the tools of critical geographers – space, place, and scale – to inform law and policy-making about an overlooked population for whom spatiality can be a profoundly influential force: rural women.

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Here is an excerpt (footnotes omitted) in which Professor Pruitt briefly describes and illustrates what she means by the concepts of space, place, and scale.

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In this Article, I argue that a better understanding of women’s lived realities, including their encounters with the law, requires legal scholars to engage not only history, but also geography. Because spatial aspects of women’s lives implicate inequality and moral agency, they are directly relevant to an array of legal issues. Like feminists in other disciplines, I deploy the tools of critical geographers – space, place, and scale, but I do so with a view toward informing law and policy-making about a frequently overlooked population: rural women.

While historical analysis relies on the vector of time, geographic analysis uses the complementary vector of space. “Space” is an abstract concept that refers both to the familiar idea of physical surroundings (physical space) and to the impact that particular spatial configurations have on many aspects of life, from social relationships to economic opportunity (social space). Attending to rurality seems an obvious aspect of the “space” part of critical geography given the literal, physical isolation of rural residents and rural communities from one another, as well as the influence of this reality on how rural spaces and places are socially constructed. “Place” is a more concrete subset of space. Analysis based on place considers particular locales, taking into account the range of characteristics that distinguish one place from another. “Scale” is a unit of measure of space and place, e.g., the household, the region, the globe.

These spatial concepts are illustrated by a brief example based largely upon an empirical study of gender in rural Appalachia in which changes at a global scale are shown to have material consequences at regional and local scales, even at the micro-sites of household and body. Global economic forces cause a mine closure, leaving many local miners unemployed.

Viewing available service jobs as beneath them, the male miners move into private or quasi-public spaces, away from the formal market. They resort to the informal economy (e.g., car repair, cutting and hauling firewood) to help make ends meet. At the same time, many of the miners’ wives move from the domestic and private spaces of the home into the public spaces of the market by taking paid work to supplement family coffers.

Their newfound status as earners confers some power on the women. This alters the division of reproductive labor in the private space of the household, while also endowing women with greater power in the various public spaces of the wider community. Shifts thus occur at multiple scales. Changes may reverberate across even higher scales as women take on leadership roles in local and regional political movements. At the same time, agitation about shifting gender roles and the stress of economic hardship can lead to intimate abuse, which implicates lower scales, such as the body.

Law and legal actors also have roles in these socio-spatial phenomena playing out in real places. These roles include, for example, global trade agreements that lead to rural economic restructuring and federal and state laws that govern employment law. At the other end of the causal chain, they include local law enforcement responses to intimate abuse and other “lower” scale consequences.

As this scenario illustrates, critical geography can bring “the rural” into scholarly view and presents expansive opportunities for legal scholarship. Unlike rural sociology and rural economics, which seem to thrive as disciplines, legal scholars and critical geographers ignore the rural/urban axis. I am thus challenging the often implicit scholarly association of both critical geography and law with that which is urban.

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To access the entire paper, which includes a primer on critical geography, click here

Posted in Abstracts, Geography | Leave a Comment »

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