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Reading the signs of work on the body: the police facing people on the move

This chapters looks at the discussion among 19th century Police practitioners in Central Europe on the formation and use of cognitive maps in policing. It starts from the observation, that police experts in mid 19th century claimed the competence to
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  Peter Becker  Reading the signs of work on the body:the police facing people on the move Maintaining order and providing security was the main objective of 19 th century German policing 1 .In order to comply with this task, repre-sentatives of state, regional, and local authorities had to engage in socialinteractions with locals and strangers. Regular contact with the citizensestablished trust and provided the police agents with a rather randomset of information about localities and persons. This information was of crucial importance to single out a group of «dangerous», suspicious peo-ple 2 .They were the functional equivalents of the lepers and the plaguesufferers, which Foucault described as the main target of exclusion anddiscipline in his study on  Discipline and Punish 3 . In order to exclude theprotagonists of the «dangerous classes» from social circulation and espe-cially from the market place, they had to be detected with an experi-enced, analytical gaze. This gaze was directed mainly at dress andlifestyle, at social networks and patterns of salutation, and, finally, at per-formance at work and conformity with role expectations 4 . 63 1 Cf. the codification of police objectives in the Prussian legal code: AllgemeinesLandrecht für die Preußischen Staaten (1794), Tl. II, tit. 17, § 10. On its institutional andpolitical implementation see A. Funk, Polizei und Rechtsstaat. Die Entwicklung des staat-lichen Gewaltmonopols in Preußen 1848-1918 , Campus, Frankfurt/Main 1986; A. Lüdt-ke, «Gemeinwohl», Polizei und «Festungspraxis». Staatliche Gewaltsamkeit und innereVerwaltung in Preußen, 1815-1850 , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1982; R. Jes-sen, Polizei im Industrierevier. Modernisierung und Herrschaftspraxis im westfälischen Ruhrgebiet 1848-1914 , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1991. 2 Cf. the recommendations for the training of criminal police agents in G. Zimmer-mann,  Die Deutsche Polizei im neunzehnten Jahrhundert , Vol. 3, Schlüter, Hannover1849, p. 1159. 3 M. Foucault,  Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison , Vintage Books, New York 1995, pp. 195-200. 4 Cf. P. Becker,  Randgruppen im Blickfeld der Polizei. Ein Versuch über die Perspekti-vität des «praktischen Blicks» , in «Archiv für Sozialgeschichte», 32, 1992, pp. 283-304,esp. pp. 284-288. forms of address in: Livia Antonelli (Hg.), La polizia del lavoro: il definirsi di un ambito di controlli. SoveriaMannelli: Rubbettino 2011  64 Police observation was both an individual task and an institutional-ized project. In its institutional dimensions, observation was organizedaround new bureaucratic tools such as a printed form developed by thepolice expert Johann Friedrich Karl Merker from Erfurt and policegazettes as the most important communication infrastructure within the res publica criminalistica . Merker’s form offered the opportunity toshare observations on individuals within a police organization, the po-lice gazettes organized the flow of information among a wider group of experts and police departments. Both followed the logic of Foucault’spanoptical, disciplinary observation. Merker’s form can be linked in ad-dition to the example of early census forms with its topographic organi-zation. Each suspicious person was recorded according to the districtand street where he or she lived in. Sufficient place was left to accumu-late relevant observations on these individuals during several years.With Merker’s innovation, the Erfurt police had available a tool to reor-ganize the flow of information while still using the ‘natural order’ of citytopography  5 .In their interaction with the local population, police agents reliedand still rely on «finely grained cognitive maps of the social world, sothat they can readily predict and handle the behavior of a wide range of others in many different contexts without losing authority in any en-counter» 6 ,as the British criminologist R. Reiner argues. These maps arebased on widely shared expectations, which define fields of respectabili-ty depending on gender and age, but also on the social and, to some ex-tent, spatial position of subjects. The main criteria for locating people within or outside of these fields of respectability were their social and work performance. Information of this kind was available in small townand villages through many different channels – direct observation, gos-siping, but also complaints by neighbors and employers 7 .This kind of information was not available for strangers, whichpassed in remarkable numbers through smaller and bigger cities of the18 th and 19 th centuries. As strangers, they could not be easily located within a social or biographical frame. Citizens and local magistrates hadto orient their interaction with these people on the basis of circumstan-tial evidence to differentiate between foreign beggars as a nuisance, trav-eling salesmen and craftsmen as business partners or workforce, the rich  5 Cf. J.F.K. Merker, Handbuch für Polizey-Beamte im ausübenden Dienste , Maring-sche Buchhandlung, Erfurt 1818, pp. 143-148. 6 R. Reiner, The Politics of the Police , 2 nd ed. University of Toronty Press, Toronto1992, p. 115. 7 Mental maps are of key importance to the work of street-level bureaucrats until to-day. Cf. M. Lipsky,  Street-Level Bureaucracy. Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services ,Russel Sage Foundation, New York 1980, pp. 140-156. a tool at theirdisposal  and famous as chance for business, and, finally, the professional crimi-nals as substantial risk for property and health 8 .Already the early modern state thought up schemes to help local au-thorities to clearly distinguish between these different groups of strangers. These schemes were based on travel documents and their reg-ular scrutiny 9 .In case of irregularities the travel document would revealthe dangerous character of its carrier to the authorities. The scheme wastheoretically convincing, but very poorly executed. The passport was on-ly theoretically a  proxy for respectability, as, in practice, it was not unam-biguously linked to its carrier and the most dangerous criminals were be-lieved to travel always with valid papers on them 10 .Therefore, a differentkind of   proxies  was required for the classification purpose: the body of the stranger. The body carried signs of respectability if read with suffi-cient skill – a reading, which was based on tacit assumptions about re-spectable behavior and its imprints on face, body, and habits. This was atleast the expectation of police experts at the end of the 18 th and the be-ginning of the 19 th centuries, as we can learn from the remarks of GustavZimmermann, a police expert from Hanover. He claimed in his guide-lines as late as in the mid-19 th century, that posture, forms of limbs andface give away a person’s trade 11 .In my following remarks, I would like to situate Zimmermann’s am-bitions to decipher the bodies of strangers within the wider cultural con-text of that time, where physiognomy and phrenology were widely de-bated and utilized practices for a semiotics of personality. Then I willlook at the role of  work and especially of the crafts for the mental map of the police agents in two different instances: the handbooks of the Ger-man police of the early 19 th century and the search warrants from the 65 8 On deception and the artful play with identities by 19th century professional cri-minals cf. R. J. Evans,  Szenen aus der deutschen Unterwelt. Verbrechen und Strafe, 1800-1914 , Rowohlt, Reinbek 1997, pp. 199-239; P. Becker, Verderbnis und Entartung. EineGeschichte der Kriminologie des 19. Jahrhunderts als Diskurs und Praxis , Vandenhoeck &Ruprecht, Göttingen 2002, pp. 220-254. 9 On the role of passports for the control of movements cf. J.C. Torpey, The Inven-tion of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State , Cambridge University Press,Cambridge 2000, esp. pp. 4-92; H. Burger, Passwesen und Staatsbürgerschaft , in W. Heindl,E. Saurer (eds.), Grenze und Staat. Paßwesen, Staatsbürgerschaft, Heimatrecht, und Frem-dengesetzgebung in der österreichischen Monarchie (1750-1867) , Böhlau, Wien 2000, pp.1-172, esp. pp. 3-87. 10 The magistrate of the city of Nienburg emphasized in his report to the provincialauthority in 1823 that the most dangerous criminals went out of their way to furnishthemselves with valid passports (Hauptstaatsarchiv Hannover, Hannover 80, HannoverI, A, 623). Cf. also G. Zimmermann,  Die deutsche Polizei im neunzehnten Jahrhundert ,Vol. 2, Schlüter, Hannover 1845, p. 446f. 11 Zimmermann,  Die deutsche Polizei  , cit., p. 417.  18 th and 19 th centuries. It would be misleading to understand policingexclusively as normatively regulated and bureaucratically structured lo-cal practice. In order to trace the links between local connoisseurship indeciphering hidden criminal propensities and a specialized discourse oncriminals and their appearances, I will present some thoughts about theorganization of police gazettes. The conclusion will pinpoint, finally, therelevance of the traditional order of economic production for the mentalmaps of the police. 1. The practical gaze at the bodies of suspects «Instead of undressing prisoners upon their arrival in order torecord all their distinguishing marks, some officials still leave this task totheir clerks and ushers who do not know on what this task mainly de-pends…» 12 .An anonymous police practitioner published these critical remarksabout the incompetence and negligence of his colleagues in 1841. Hisvoice was not the only one to reprimand police officers for their habitualcarelessness and indifference. Ambitious practitioners in the field of «crime control» 13 saw themselves exposed to the rapidly expanding threatof an organized criminal subculture, against which only the combinedefforts of all authorities seemed likely to offer any hope.From this perspective, professional property criminals ( Gauner  ) andtheir tightly knit network of support were particularly damaging to soci-ety. The successful thefts and frauds carried out by these professionalsexacted a heavy toll from common people and especially from the prop-ertied class. By exploiting the new forms of commerce for their fraudu-lent schemes, they even seemed to evoke anxieties about the mechanismsof the marketplace itself. The fight against Gauner   was therefore regard-ed as a crucial task, and it was exactly this task to which the anonymousauthor was referring in his remarks. To accomplish it, police expertstried to elaborate strategies aimed at defeating the Gauner’s expertise indisguise and deceit. Police experts reminded their colleagues over andover again that they had to employ more elaborate tools and schemes forcatching the Gauner  than for pursuing escaped servants, deserters, anditinerant traders. 66 12 Anonymous: «Ueber die Unvollständigkeit der Signalements», in «AllgemeinerPolizei-Anzeiger», 12, 1841, p. 108. 13 Under this heading, a rather dispersed group of people is brought together, whoshare a work experience in crime control agencies, i.e. police, criminal courts, prisons,and workhouses, and who showed an interest to exchange ideas about the best possible ways to organize their fight against crime and deviance.  Many of these projects started with the objective to improve the po-lice practitioners’ gaze at suspects. To combat the cleverness and experi-ence of the Gauner  , a specialized and differentiated knowledge had to bedeployed in their observation and description. As the anonymous authorindicated, this kind of knowledge was only fully available to bettertrained officials, and not to their clerks and assistants. Clerks or office workers regarded it as sufficient to record the personal details of dress,physical size, hair and eye color, the shape of the nose and mouth.Trained officials, on the other hand, studied the whole body of the pris-oner, above all in order to detect «unusual characteristics». Only trainedand highly motivated personnel understood their significance for identi-fication purposes. «Scars, warts, burn marks, deformities, tattoos etc.»had particular value for this purpose, as the author argued 14 .Contemporary police experts did not call the cognitive basis of theirinterpretative approach to the social world mental maps . They referredto this approach in its entirety as  practical gaze meaning the use of tacitknowledge built through practical experience, communication withtheir peers, and the wider cultural knowledge of their time. The policeexperts were not the only ones to claim a  practical gaze . Also physiciansreferred to their elaborate diagnostic tools with the same term before thephysiological turn furnished them with a more firm ground for theiranalysis of the body. To penetrate analytically the surface of bodies, bothpolice experts and physicians of the late 18 th century used a kind of knowledge, which Barbara Stafford characterized as «practical, non-quantifiable and nondiscursive» 15 .The  practical gaze used «dividing practices» as described by MichelFoucault 16 .Police experts divided facial features, the body and its per-formance into significant elements. The meaning of these particulars re- 67 14 For a contemporary discussion of the need to record particular characteristics aspart of personal descriptions see L. Aloys Pfister,  Merkwürdige Criminalfälle mit beson-derer Rücksicht auf die Untersuchungsführung , Vol. 5, Hermannsche Buchhandlung, Frank-furt/Main 1820, p. 624f. He directed the gaze of police experts on the imprints of corpo-ral punishment on the body of suspects. A systematic, but rather awkward classificationof particular characteristics was suggested by the police expert Rademacher. He lumpedtogether physical and psychological anomalies in the same categories: Under category I(corporal), A (visible), a (natural), 1 (stable), Greek Delta (lack of organs, senses, andbody parts), Greek Beta-Beta (complete lack) should be classified: deaf-mute and one-armed by birth: Rademacher,  Zur Theorie der besonderen Kennzeichen; nebst einemVorschlage zu deren vollständigeren Benutzung in der Polizey-Praxis , in «AllgemeinerPolizei-Anzeiger», 4, 1837, p. 238. 15 B.M. Stafford,  Body Criticism. Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Med-icine , MIT Press, Cambridge 1991, p. XVII. 16 M. Foucault,  Afterword  , in Id.,  Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics , ChicagoUniversity Press, Chicago 1982, pp. 208-226, esp. p. 208.
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