- Purchase/rental options available:
To explore the concepts of military and civilian spheres, this essay engages a US federal body created to train foreign police, the Office of Public Safety (1962–74). It follows the justification, rise, and termination of this agency, tracing the labor its champions and employees expended to fix the categories military and civilian even as they moved easily back and forth across official civilian–military divides. It argues that the categories of military and civilian, like racial categories, are not prior to experience but emerge in the process of justifying social hierarchies. Specifically, military and civilian function to justify state violence, so that accepting the division they posit, either by imagining that military and civilian could be distinct, or that police could be civilian—as the argument against police “militarization” implies—is to cede the ground on which to oppose US empire and military action abroad while granting police legitimacy to inflict their unexceptional, everyday racist brutality.