Jean and John Comaroff investigate why it is that crime statistics have become a pervasive public passion in the South African postcolony. They explore what exactly those crime statistics make real, how they take on public life, by what means they convert the abstract into the intimate and tertiary knowledge into primary experience. Why is it that they have become deeply inscribed in narratives of personal being, so vital to the construction of moral publics, so integral to debates about the meaning of democracy, freedom and security? Conventionally framed as value-free information, these numbers appear to be taking on ever more political weight as the modernist state deregulates the functions of governance, as sovereignty is parsed and privatized, as control over the means of violence is rendered ambiguous, as a culture of «popular punitiveness» gains credence, as race is criminalized and crime racialized. As they do, modes of producing and deploying crime statistics themselves proliferate. This sets in train processes whose effects are deeply implicated in remaking the nation-state, its governance, and citizenship within it.
Jean Comaroff is the Bernard E. & Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences, John Comaroff is the Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.