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Policing in Colonial Empires

Cases, Connections, Boundaries (ca. 1850–1970)


Edited By Emmanuel Blanchard, Marieke Bloembergen and Amandine Lauro

Colonial security strategies and the postcolonial vestiges they left both in the global South and in former metropoles have recently attracted renewed academic attention. Policing in Colonial Empires is a collection of essays reflecting current, ongoing research and exploring the multifaceted dynamics of policing in colonial societies over the past two centuries. Spanning several continents and colonial contexts (some of them liminal or little-explored), the book examines the limits and legitimacies of the functioning of colonial policing. Addressing issues such as collaboration, coercion, violence, race, and intelligence, the collected works ask what exactly was colonial about colonial policing. Together, the contributors point out the complex nature of colonial law and order maintenance, and provide insights on histories that might reflect the legacies of its many variants.

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Policing and Governance in Greenland. Rationalities of Police and Colonial Rule 1860-1953 (Søren Rud)


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Policing and Governance in Greenland

Rationalities of Police and Colonial Rule 1860-1953

Søren RUD

The history of policing in colonial Greenland could be a very short one. An actual centrally-controlled police force was established only as late as 1951, when the colonial period was almost officially over (1953) and the new policy was to gradually integrate Greenland into the Danish realm. In light of the absence of an actual police force, I wish to raise issues concerning law and order in colonial Greenland: which techniques and practices were used to maintain order, and what can these practices tell us about the nature of the colonial project in Greenland? Policing practices are subsequently used as a lens rendering the rationality and techniques of the colonial project in Greenland visible.

A short presentation of some currents within the historiography of colonial policing and postcolonial theory in general is useful to set the stage for the analysis. Colonial policing activities often intersected with military purposes and took varied shapes, depending on the period and context. Generally, however, essential to the colonial rule was the police officer – both in a symbolic and in a practical way. As Anderson and Killingray put it, the colonial police officer was “the most visible symbol of colonial rule”.1 Furthermore, in many cases the policeman was the sole representative of colonial authority in a vast territory. A central function of colonial police forces was to...

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