Cover of The Gray Zone by Gregory Feldman
The Gray Zone
Sovereignty, Human Smuggling, and Undercover Police Investigation in Europe
Gregory Feldman


240 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804799225
Paperback ISBN: 9781503607651
Ebook ISBN: 9781503607668

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Based on rare, in-depth fieldwork among an undercover police investigative team working in a southern EU maritime state, Gregory Feldman examines how "taking action" against human smuggling rings requires the team to enter the "gray zone", a space where legal and policy prescriptions do not hold. Feldman asks how this seven-member team makes ethical judgments when they secretly investigate smugglers, traffickers, migrants, lawyers, shopkeepers, and many others. He asks readers to consider that gray zones create opportunities both to degrade subjects of investigations and to take unnecessary risks for them. Moving in either direction largely depends upon bureaucratic conditions and team members' willingness to see situations from a variety of perspectives. Feldman explores their personal experiences and daily work in order to crack open wider issues about sovereignty, action, ethics, and, ultimately, being human. Situated at the intersection of the EU migration apparatus and the global, clandestine networks it identifies as security threats, this book allows Feldman to outline an ethnographically-based theory of sovereign action.

About the author

Gregory Feldman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Windsor. He is the author of The Migration Apparatus: Security, Labor, and Policymaking in the European Union (Stanford, 2011) and We Are All Migrants: Political Action and the Ubiquitous Condition of Migrant-hood (Stanford, 2015).

"The Gray Zone is an ethnography of policing unlike any other. Feldman's exhilarating, fast-paced study of an undercover police team is stitched through with a highly original reflection on sovereignty, violence, and distance between ethos and ethics. The Gray Zone is essential reading for anyone interested in the world of policing."

—Mark Maguire, Maynooth University

"The Gray Zone constitutes both a fascinating field-based investigation into how the borders of Europe are policed in invisible and secret ways and a philosophical reflection on the ways in which border spaces interrogate and problematize notions of state power, social order, systemic violence, and the relationship between morality and law in globalization....An invaluable empirical study with significant theoretical underpinnings, this book constitutes a unique account of the ways in which sovereignty is practiced in spaces at the edges of Europe."

—Hélène B. Ducros, Europe Now

"By avoiding trite depictions and predictable analyses of police activity, Feldman has contributed something truly valuable and unique to our understanding of policing in the contemporary world."

—William Garriot, Theoretical Criminology

"The Gray Zone is an outstanding work that will interest any anthropologist dealing with police, security, or migration. Its theoretical scope will allow it to be used extensively in the future, contributing profitably to the debate on contemporary sovereignty."

—Davide Casciano, Political and Legal Anthropology Review

"It is difficult to overstate how thought-provoking The Gray Zone is....[The] fact that the book elicits so many questions indicates the novelty and power of Feldman's approach."

—Dafna Rachok, Allegra Lab

"Gregory Feldman's accomplished new ethnography offers an original consideration of action, ethics, and overall rewarding and inspiring read."

—Karolina Follis, American Ethnologist