Filtering by Tag: London
By Staci Strobl
I like to eat and I support the ideal of the rehabilitation of offenders. So what could be more perfect that The Clink Restaurant at Brixton Prison in South London? I immediately made a reservation (in this case, well in advance because the prison must do its security checks on guests) for my husband and I to enjoy high-class dining, complements of inmates training as chefs, sous-chefs, and waiters. I'll be perfectly honest: the concept is so grand that I was going to love it even if the food was bad. But it most certainly was not. Seared tuna on a bed of sesame oil and greens, Hake and mackerel fried medallions and thrice-fried chips, apple crumble, and fair-trade coffee. Simply delicious.
The Clink is the third such restaurant opened in the United Kingdom in recent years. The brainchild of Chef Alberto Crisci, and founder of the The Clink Charities, the prisoners work a 40-hour week, training towards the national certifications they need to enter the restaurant and hotel industries upon release. Thereafter, they receive additional mentoring not only in securing job placement, but also with social and psychological issues that may trigger re-offending.
Anyone who has been keeping up with the rehabilitation literature knows that no one program fits all, but that in general, job training programs are the most likely to succeed with the biggest proportion of offenders. And, according to the statistics provided by The Clink, and verified by an independent examiner, since its founding in 2009, the recidivism rates after one year of release are between 12.5% and 14%. Compare this to the national average of 49% and it appears the program is a winner. Granted, these inmates are selected for the program because they have the potential for success (and in that sense may not be typical of most U.K. prisoners), nonetheless, the success rates are quite suggestive that the program makes a real difference in prisoners' lives.
Could the model be imported to the U.S.? Given the cultural emphasis on consumerism and work-- as in, there is something wrong with you if you can't consume because you don't have a job-- it would seem that the program would resonate for American prisoners as well, providing them an avenue for returning to mainstream society in a dignified way. Unfortunately, the political buy-in from the public for such a program would certainly be harder to come by. In the U.K., though there are strains and pockets of retributivism, they aren't as deeply engrained as they are in the U.S. The British couple sitting next to us at The Clink speculated that at least half of Britons have a compassionate stance toward prisoner-integration programs, more so in an urban environment like London. Alas, I am not sure half of the American population would be inclined to support such an intensive program which may provide better job training than that to which the law-abiding citizen has access.
As a criminologist, I hope for a quality social science study of The Clink in order to glean out more clearly what works and how much it works. I would do it myself, if I could ever find the time with my ten other projects in the fire. But if anyone reading this needs a dissertation topic, it's up for grabs.
By Staci Strobl. Crimcast Co-Founder Review of the British Library's exhibit "Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK," May 2 - August 19, 2014
Comics often get tagged as being more ideologically subversive than they actually are-- at least this is the case with mainstream American comic books. But “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK” is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the subversive in popular graphic art forms, and the subversive is probably more at the forefront of the British experience with this art form than the American. In fact, British independent and underground comics are ripe with depictions of social deviance which go on to influence mainstream works. Any criminologist with their eye on popular culture will find it fascinating to see so many works from a wide variety of writers, artists, publishers, in one exhibition.
Putting aside the superhero section of the exhibition, which appropriately nods its head to the quintessentially American genre while celebrating such home-grown successes as Judge Dredd— but also takes the exhibition too far afield from its primary purpose— the exhibition’s thematic arrangement of material spanning two centuries invokes interesting connections in the world of graphics across the ages. I was particularly taken by the juxtaposition of pages from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell (1999) and the Illustrated Police News (13 October, 1888) “coverage” of the Ripper murders under the exhibition’s “violence and gore” thematic grouping. We see how the use of black-and-white ink, shadows, small spaces, and flailing arms in the more contemporary work was a brilliantly stylized representation of the Victorian illustrations and also a testament to the enduring fascination with serial killing. People in the West just can’t get enough of these tales of murderous mayhem and transgression, and comics are a perfect medium to deliver such gruesome content.
Occasionally a juxtaposition left me scratching my head, such as the inclusion of London Illustrated News’ 1883 Christmas supplement featuring ladies looking for suitors in romantic dress, dancing, telling ghost stories, with descriptive, but not remotely subversive, captions. Here, the exhibition has us considering the theme of “social ladder” (perhaps a polite British way of saying “class”) and certainly the supplement is depicting a very uncritical 19th century notion of ladies of high class. This is placed next to “Lord Snooty and His Pals” (1960, Dudley D. Watkins), a comic strip featuring a young Lord Snooty who prefers to ditch his class trappings and hang out with the poor kids. The connection between the two, other than depicting class in Britain, appears unconnected across time and cultural niche. The culture of boys’ education in the 20th century and ladies’ follies in the 19th are distinct and each world has its own version of illustrated hegemony and counter-hegemony. All I learned from putting them near each other is that it is fun to make fun of class, especially in the U.K., but I didn’t learn much about how class operates in these texts across time, nor did the artistic styles seem to inform each other. And, further, who is making fun of whom? Do the texts need to have an obvious critique to be subversive, or am I the subversive, laughing at the class arrogance of marriage-seeking in days gone by? All of this is followed by the overt Class War Comix (Clifford Harper, 1974) in which a long-haired hippie tells us in black and white, “I used to be in politics—but it began to hang me up… You can’t lay a trip on people,” rounding out a graphic tale of a class-free utopia. I was more confused than ever.
Regardless, there are gems not to miss and of course, the V for Vendettafan does not go away unsatisfied. The iconic British tale of renewed anarchy on Guy Fawkes’ Day is the centerpiece. Fans will delight in original scripts for the graphic novel (with edits!) on display. “Good evening London...This is the voice of fate” artwork still packs an emotional punch. And, mannequins in V masks literally people the exhibit in life-size bunches which seem to grow bigger and bigger as the display weaves its path. The exhibition may be conveying that as comics marched forward so did the enthusiasm for them and their counter-cultural messages. At the same time, I found myself irritated by the mannequins, the first one wearing the exhibition’s souvenir T-shirt which struck me as a tad too commercial for an exhibition on art and anarchy. And, the mannequins were mostly men, wearing a kind of urban uniform of T-shirt, jacket, jeans, sneakers, and of course, mask. They looked rather ominously conformist and seem to dampen the quirky creativity of the work on display.
With the marching mannequins theme, I didn’t need the additional staging of random objects of apocalyptic modernity (gas masks, phones, grainy photos, shattered glass, and redacted documents, oh my!). It will take all of us to prevent the impending crisis was the message I was getting, and yet the best works were idiosyncratic and goofy graphic experiences from rather unique perspectives from within a cultural milieu, playing on mainstream culture, not wearing the same jeans and T-shirt. I marveled at a William S. Burroughs and Malcolm McNeill's comic strip, “The Unspeakable Mr. Hart” (1970, Cyclops), that I had never seen or heard of before, and in Burroughs style was a drug-induced non-linear comment on police brutality, imperial Britain, and colonial desperation. I got the message even as I could also make no sense of it. I also learned, and saw in vivid comparison, that Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum (DC, 1989) took a nod from the mystical artistic meanderings of Aleister Crowley and his Thoth tarot deck. Neil Gaiman’s introductory comments to a 1989 Sandman script seemed to be as self-congratulating and self-important as I would have expected— and yet what a treat to read it myself, I must admit.
Overall, this exhibition is a must-see for anyone from the popular culture and criminology crowd in range of London between now and its close on August 19, 2014. Though the overall exhibit may not tell a cohesive story, the work on display is truly fascinating in its own right and does give the viewer the sense of Britain’s rich and critically acclaimed comics history.
Part 5 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on TerrorAditi Gupta, Guest Blogger
Over the last four weekly posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part, 4), this blog series has been exploring the profoundly social impact that risk-based security policy has on our everyday lives. In using Selchow’s framework, I’m not trying to say that we have no agency in this process, and that we are helpless to stop it – quite the contrary. I feel only individual choice will reverse the trajectory of securitization, suspicion and fear that currently dictates how we view the risk of terrorism. By zooming in on the dynamics of depoliticization, responsibilization, and the separation of political decision-making from actuality, I have tried to break down the main pillars of what risk-logic does when it is the main force driving the governance of threats. I believe if we can understand objectively the forces at play within the networks of power that we engage in, we can decide for ourselves whether viewing the problem of terrorism only in terms of the risk of an attack and not the reasons behind one is benefiting our lives. Is this what we want for our future?
This question feeds in to the last dynamic of risk that is engendered by the dispositif of precautionary risk (DPR) mode of governance: expansion. As Selchow explains, the logic of risk implies an imperative to act. It is this dynamic that spurs the expansion of security; the UK government thus cannot not act. As we can see in the U.K., this dynamic inevitably feeds a process of ever-expanding securitization whereby increasing areas are deemed to harbor security threats. In the UK this can be seen in a variety of ways, stemming from the four rationalities driving the DPR. For example, this can be seen in the shift of the debate around tackling terrorism from addressing violence to extremism, from the physical to the imagined. This shift is one that has essentially ensured the securitization of potential thoughts.
It is no longer necessary for someone to physically carry out an act, suspicion of intent is enough to necessitate punishment. This perpetuates a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ (as outlined last week) that produces normalized ways of engaging with this perceived risk. In other words, due to the perpetuation of the innate ‘bad’ label given to the archetypal religious Muslim, society is more likely to accept further curtailments on ‘their’ rights. As these risk-based decisions are not ‘tamed’ by an accompanying actuality or any hard evidence beyond the perception of ‘riskiness’, this form of thinking will always produce a sense that there are further uncertainties to be tamed. This can be seen in the steady expansion of who is deemed ‘risky’ since 9/11. From 2001-2005, external, foreign elements were seen to be the primary threat, resulting in the rapid securitization of the immigration system to target asylum seekers and immigrants (Amnesty, 2010). After 7/7, however, threats were expanded to include the panoptic surveillance of British citizens to target ‘home-grown’ enemies. Since then, the yearning for ever greater knowledge has spurred the extension of surveillance to health clinics, schools and universities where doctors and teachers are expected to inform on those under their care. (Liberty, 2007).
The pre-emptive nature of policies deployed by the DPR means that information is always, and always will be, incomplete. However, the desire to project the appearance of control has led to policies based on the expansion of ever-more vague offenses such as the offenses of ‘glorification of terrorism’ and ‘indirect encouragement’, and non-prosecution constraining measures, such as the Terrorism Prevention Investigation Measures (TPIMs [Annex 3]), in order to trap those who are suspected, but do not meet the evidentiary threshold required to be charged. Indeed, the acute suspicion of foreign nationals suspected of ‘extremist’ thoughts but not guilty of carrying out any criminal act, has very recently led to an expansion of executive power to enable the stripping of any naturalized citizen’s British citizenship. In recent years, this citizenship stripping has enabled governments to stick to the dogma of zero-risk and assassinate terror suspects through targeted drone strikes: if the suspect no longer exists, there’s no need to deal with the problematic prosecution of a crime that hasn’t been committed yet.
How this dynamic effects resistance: power dynamics
Consistent with the other dynamics, this process also precipitates at both the micro and macro levels. At the macro-level, Liberty articulates, ‘politicians feel like they need to be seen to be doing something in response to the terrorist threat, regardless of whether it wise…counter-productive…whether it’s entirely unnecessary’. Amnesty International United Kingdom (AIUK) has commented on the difficulty of fighting expansion of policy due to the combination of future temporality, secret evidence and use of vague offenses. In a 2012 Amnesty International report, resistance to this is seen as ‘shadow-boxing’ where ‘you have no idea if your strategy and points are on the money or wide of the mark’. AIUK has documented how the ‘seepage’ of the use of secret evidence in the U.K. has managed to dampen the successes gained in chipping away the system of pre-charge detention down to TPIMs, becoming an ever-more permanent feature of the civil sanctioning system with the institutionalization of the Justice and Security Act.
Reprieve and CagePrisoners demonstrate the importance of micro-resistance in direct ways with the public. CagePrisoners urge those affected by the expansion of risk-based policy to come directly to them to seek justice together, as well as share individual every-day experiences of these policies on a specially created website ‘www.schedule7stories.com’. They explain that this was done so that Muslims themselves could understand that these policies were not just based on racism, but part of a much bigger problem of governance, thus recognizing the importance of engaging with the macro-level debate.
Reprieve has aimed to expose the sheer expansion of War on Terror policy such as the rendition network through the invasion of public space. For example, through teaming up with cosmetics company, LUSH, and lingerie designer, Agent Provocateur, images of Binyam Mohammad and Sami al Haj appeared in LUSH High Street windows, bath bombs and even on the runway through underwear that stated ‘fair trial, my arse’ (Reprieve, 2008). The use of humor in conjunction with this micro-level contact had a powerful impact that made the name ‘Binyam Mohammad’ shorthand for U.K. complicity in rendition and torture.
The importance of humanizing the nature of risk-based policies at the micro-level and not just applying political pressure at the state and transnational level is caught up in the significance CagePrisoners gives to the role of ‘misunderstanding’. If individual assumptions are not targeted – whether they be about misunderstanding the driver of policy or misunderstanding the indefinability of terrorism – people will carry on being normalized into thinking that to gain security, you have to keep on giving up freedoms.
Conclusion: How the case of HRO resistance in the UK pulls together the threads of risk and power
By analyzing the role of human rights organization (HRO) resistance to the technologies deployed by the DPR mode of governance in what Foucault calls ‘the battle for truth’, it is thus possible to see how risk dynamics are ultimately intertwined with power. Focusing on this site of resistance can see how Selchow’s four dynamics are central to the constant negotiation of the dynamics of power that circulate the ‘regime of truth’ regarding the governance of the UK through the DPR.
Secondly, the example of the work of CagePrisoners and their encouragement of the micro-resistance of the Muslim ‘suspect community’ to supplement the macro-resistance carried out at state-level by HROs crucially reveals that it is not enough to simply focus on macro-, policy-level resistance whether globally, or against the state. This is due to what CagePrisoners deems ‘misunderstanding’ at both the micro- and macro-levels. The creation of the Muslim ‘terrorist’ is a central technology deployed by the DPR through the four rationalities that drive it. In essence, the case of the UK suggests that the perpetuation of a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ produces normalized ways of engaging with discourses that present the Muslim identity as ‘risky’. In other words, due to the perpetuation of the innate ‘bad’ label given to the perceived ‘archetypal religious Muslim’, it is likely that society will submit to the dynamic of expansion that indicates further curtailments on ‘their’ rights. If it doesn’t affect me - it’s not my problem, right?
By looking at the combined social and political effects of risk dynamics and their ripple effect on relations of power, it can be seen that simply focusing on resistance to top-down frameworks that govern political power such as parliamentary mechanisms and lobbying, is no longer enough. The Foucauldian ‘battle for truth’ is not about absolute truths that are accepted, but about rules by which these truths are constructed and engaged with by society. The importance of going beyond legal frameworks and working at the level of everyday interaction is highlighted by the examples of CagePrisoners and Reprieve in their parallel activities that aim to affect micro-relations. Interestingly, both of these organizations emerged fully-fledged post-9/11, born out of the need to resist the rationalities and technologies deployed by the DPR.
In saying this, this blog series is not saying that state-level resistance is not important. As shown, different HROs take different roles regarding resistance within the DPR system of governance. Organizations like Liberty and Amnesty cannot fulfill the same role as an organization like CagePrisoners as they are not part of the ‘suspect community’. By the same token, Reprieve equally cannot function the same way as CagePrisoners. However, when viewing successful negotiation of power within the DPR such as the joint HRO campaigns on pre-charge detention and UK complicity in torture, it is clear that there needs to be this division of labor. This enables HROs to target the multiple dimensions of the dynamics engendered by the DPR: global, legal, political, social; micro- and macro-.
This series has attempted to highlight the shifting and fluid nature of the circulations of power underlying risk-governance. Risk-logic can’t be reduced to a technical tool used to govern terrorism. The dynamics that this sets in motion have fundamentally altered society-state relations in a profoundly social way. Risk-based security policy has resulted in a wholesale cultural shift that rests on fear and suspicion and doesn’t ask why the problem of terrorism exists. Instead, it simply tries to pre-empt it from occurring through an expansionary process that is slowly destroying freedom of speech, movement and privacy. Ultimately, the question we should be asking ourselves when we ignore this practice is: ‘is this worth it?’
Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013. She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homeless organizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the last post in her five-part series on Crimcast which began in early January, 2014.
Part 4 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror
Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger
Following on from last week’s post, this week I’ll be discussing Selchow’s third dynamic that is engendered by the Dispositif of Precautionary Risk (DPR), a pre-emptory risk –based mode of governance: the internalization of security issues and the process of ‘responsibilization’. As touched upon last week, the creation of an archetypal Muslim terrorist figure in the U.K. has essentially depoliticized the issue of the governance of terrorism for the majority of the population, while the blame for the root of terrorism has been placed firmly on Islamic extremism and the British Muslim community by association. Thus, it’s evident that the dynamics of depoliticization and responsibilization are intimately linked. Through the governmentality approach, the DPR mode of governance shows that its assemblages of surveillance and risk discourse both work to construct sectors of society that are ‘dreamt up, marginalized and put under suspicion’; and ‘normalize’ the rest of the population, thereby ‘inviting citizens to become security guards, spies and informants’ on the ‘risky’ Muslim community (Mythen and Walklate 2006:390-392). This means that the Muslim community is not only blamed for the problem of terrorism, but are ultimately pressured to provide the solution to the problem by looking inwardly at themselves; effectively, the Muslim community has to internalize the problem of national security in this way, taking it on their own shoulders while simultaneously easing the responsibility of the government to engage fully with the problem.
Those who do not fall under the ‘suspect community’ are responsibilitized in a way that not only allows the continued allocation of blame on the ‘suspect community’, but also places the onus on them to report on anything ‘abnormal’. This dynamic is most clearly seen in government campaigns such as the recent one by the Metropolitan Police emphasizing that it is the Londoners’ responsibility ‘to be vigilant’ for anything ‘out of place in normal day to day lives’.
Mythen et. al. (2012:394) thus articulate the core of this politics of normalcy: ‘this requirement to present an outwardly safe identity…reveals the coercive social pressures that a pervasive climate of suspicion has engendered’. Indeed, this has led to ‘checking behaviors’ such as selective use of dialect, clothing and curbing of outward behavior in the public sphere (p. 391). As the 7/7 bombers were ‘home-grown’ from the Muslim community in Yorkshire, the onus of protecting society has fallen hardest on the Muslim communities in the U.K. The consequences of this element of responsibilization via the allocation of blame has led to the targeted surveillance of Muslim communities through stop and search policies, questioning at ports under Schedule 7 of the Terrorist Act, pre-emptory raids, and the pressure to spy on their own communities through the creation of Muslim Community Units through the PREVENT strategy. Notably, even though these pre-emptory actions are based entirely on suspicion of intent, the person who is targeted has barely any rights in place to protect them from the effects of human error in judging their ‘riskiness’. A corollary to this is the 600% increase in Islamophobia since 2001 and its associated increase in violence on Muslim people and mosques (Spalek, 2008:420).
How this dynamic effects resistance: power dynamics
The dynamic of responsibilization can be seen as directly related to the discourses of power surrounding the ‘battle for truth’ regarding justice. Amnesty International United Kingdom (AIUK) iterates that this dynamic makes HRO work safeguarding human rights standards all the more significant: ‘the stuff that is most unpopular is some of the most important…because it’s the issues that others won’t pick up on…that don’t have public support’. As Liberty (2007:16) articulate, it is unlikely that the majority of Britons ‘upon waking up…felt more subject to surveillance than they did yesterday’; however, targeted surveillance over the Muslim community means that they truly feel the interlinked dynamics in Burchell’s (1991) sense of having to change the way they see themselves as governed subjects, due to the way they are governed. CagePrisoners explains, ‘the way the government speaks, the way the media speaks and the way the average person on the street speaks all perpetuate this cycle of fear’, thus responsibilitizing society wholesale through the DPR’s rationalities of zero-risk and shifting of the burden of proof.
However, from CagePrisoners’ personalized responses in interview, we can see that governance through the DPR and the social dynamics it engenders has a much sharper effect on the ‘suspect community’ of Muslims. CagePrisoners explains that this suspicion has a chilling effect on the politics of the community as a whole: ‘if we stick our heads above the parapet, they’re going to come after us next’. It is thus evident that CagePrisoners feels the four interrelated dynamics engendered by DPR in a way that cuts right to the social core of what the application of risk does to society. As CagePrisoners says, ‘wherever you see a threat coming from a community which goes against the norm of understanding of criminal behavior, you will see a disproportionate response to those threats’. CagePrisoners’ responses emphasize that the key role of the organization is to empower the Muslim community to break away from inactivity and submission to the prevailing rationalities of zero-risk and the shift of the burden of proof.
Due to its unique vantage-point as a Muslim organization, CagePrisoners engages in this ‘battle for truth’ on a level that has a much more personal tone than any of the other human rights organizations (HROs) interviewed. For example, in a CagePrisoners article (Balaratnam, 2012) regarding United Kingdom BorderAgency (UKBA) policy of detaining people at the border for questioning under Schedule 7, the article speaks directly to a Muslim audience and is presented as a Muslim voice. Although not articulated in the terminology of risk, the article essentially asks Muslims to break through the dynamic of responsibilization whereby the allocation of blame on the Muslim community is legitimized through the reflexive internalization of blame. The article asserts it point by provocatively asserting that if the reader is stopped at the border, they have to concede ‘it’s my fault I got stopped today – my fault for being brown’. The form of resistance encouraged by CagePrisoners, therefore, is one that is very different to collective action. It is essentially micro-resistance whereby the individual only resists what affects them on an individual, direct level. Thus, if the affected community itself does not even question the rationalities that legitimize racially-prejudiced forms of profiling and surveillance, CagePrisoners warns that no one will, therefore undermining any lobbying conducted by HROs at the state-level.
This insight is even more powerful when one considers the recent uproar over the detention of David Miranda under Schedule 7 – only when one of the majority non-Muslim population was affected did the media question it, let alone campaign against it. Ultimately, it was only picked up by the media because Schedule 7 affected a Guardian journalist’s partner (Greenwald, 2013). This relation epitomizes the importance of the ‘micro’ level of resistance in countering what is essentially a cultural shift to living through risk, when faced with the multitude of arguments that focus on the global erosion of rights and the need for macro-analyses of power.
Whilst Liberty, AIUK and Reprieve revealed their primary state-level focus by identifying the depoliticization dynamics of secrecy and the narrative of fear as the greatest obstacles to checking government overreach, CagePrisoners stated ‘misunderstanding and blind ignorance’. For them, the social impact of society not understanding the Muslim community, ‘what they’re about and their belief system’ is a major factor in the way government policy is formed. His responses suggest that the government construction of a ‘paradigm of who we are and the way that we engage’ has completely neglected the crucial importance of micro power dynamics. In a reflection of the multitudinal networks of Foucauldian power relations, Asim Qureshi, Executive Director of Cageprisoners, outlines that ‘our identity is not just an identity; it’s a multitude of identities that superimpose themselves one on top of the other’. It may seem logical and practical for the UK government to ask the Muslim community to report on ‘bad’ Muslims through policies such as PREVENT; however, the top-down engagement with only the archetypal ‘good’ Muslim that has been created in the political imagination effectively renders the policy counter-productive and end up pushing away the majority of Muslims who feel they do not fit that rigid definition. CagePrisoners gave the example of Muslims being targeted by the government for simply disagreeing with government policies such as going to war with Iraq. At a recent lecture, CagePrisoners’ founder, Moazzam Begg, spoke of a teenage girl arrested for writing poetry that was seen as ‘extremist’. In their view, the government-led counter-terror policy is ‘dictated by people who are not willing to engage in a way that is useful’, thus simultaneously legitimizing more and more extreme measures against ordinary people in order to secure the state, while creating resentment and isolation among communities who would be willing to engage on their own terms.
This insight cuts to the social core of the combined dynamics of risk engendered by the DPR; ultimately, as asserted by CagePrisoners, this ‘criminalization of people based on an assumption of what you think they are’ takes away Muslim agency. It says, ‘you’re not capable of making up your own mind…you’re not capable of engaging with society…and so we’re going to put you all in the same tub and treat you all in the same way’. This is why the policy shift from targeting violent actions to ‘extremist’ thoughts dictated by UK counter-terror policy worries CagePrisoners so much; it is inherently disenfranchising and disempowering.
Indeed, this micro-level understanding of power dynamics in the context of risk-governance and the need to resist them is also demonstrated by Reprieve in a way that connects the global, macro-level power dynamics inherent in the War on Terror; apart from the macro-issues of the rendition program and Guantánamo, they acknowledge that it is ‘Life After Guantánamo’ (LAG) that poses a big social problem (Reprieve, 2009). Their LAG program thus attempts to overcome the social and psychological difficulties experienced by ex-detainees that result from absorbing all four dynamics of risk via pre-emptory policies and the way that society treats them when they are finally released.
The U.K. government’s perpetuation of what CagePrisoners calls a discourse of ‘misunderstanding’ ultimately produces a Muslim identity that is inherently perceived as ‘risky’. Not only does this dynamic force the Muslim community as a whole to feel responsible for the devastation created by terrorist attacks they had no connection with, the government’s attempts to use this community as an intelligence source ends up actually isolating them further. The rest of society, meanwhile, sinks further into a cycle of constant vigilance and suspicion: is the neighbor with the blinds constantly down up to no good? The perpetuation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘suspicious’ and ‘normal’ labels within UK security practice mean that it is likely that majority society will accept – even crave – extension of security measures and further curtailments on the rights of socially constructed ‘bad people’. The state of constant readiness for the next attack that is physically taken on by the U.K. population thus leads to the dynamic I will be focusing on next week: the expansion of ‘securitization’.
Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013. She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homeless organizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the fourth installment in her five-part series on Crimcast which began on January 3, 2014.
Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, Crimcast correspondent
In a time of economic inequality, the plight of the Cratchit family seems particularly poignant in New York City.
For some, the holiday season is about parties; for others, it is about the seasonal performances. Given that I would not have made a clever criminal, I will admit to having been known to enjoy both. That said, this particular year, I have been performance focused, since my new knee, only two months old after total knee replacement, has not been deemed suitable for partying. (Actually, I quipped to a friend that my knee was probably suited to such occasions, but I had the sort of concern about brushes with others walking while drinking that I usually reserve to New Year's Eve drivers-- no judgment, just a healthy fear of testing the fall-abilities of the “knew knee,” I say self-deprecatingly.)
A unique opportunity presents at the Merchant’s House Museum, 29 East Fourth Street (between Bowery and Lafayette), 212-777-1089, in association with Summoners Ensemble Theatre. John Kevin Jones offers a tour de force one man performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The Director’s Note, by Dr. Rhonda Dodd, explains that Jones was in the midst of developing a five actor version of the Dickens work during 2011, when he decided to try this version, motivated by Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots (about which I have previously written about for Crimcast). So it was that Jones took what Dickens did in 1843 and sought to create an abbreviated version of the play that would match Dickens’ comment on social and economic inequality.
Jones succeeds in this effort tremendously. First, he physically inhabits each character as he represents them, going from full ghostly wingspan to (pun admittedly intended) tiny Tiny Tim. He voices Scrooge’s trembling fear, joyous rediscovery of life, and likewise gives full voice and physicality to Dickens’ female characters, as well.
Second, the play itself is designed for one hour, with 15-minute segments that a lawyer dealing with billable hours would appreciate (roughly Spirit One/Christmas Past, Spirit Two/Christmas Present, Spirit Three/Christmas Future, with background and conclusion getting equal shares of the remaining quarter). Several lawyers in the audience commented on this as I (also a lawyer) chimed in as to how remarkable it was.
Third, the selection of the Merchant’s House Museum as the location is quite simply inspired. All that the edifice needed (and now has) was a bit of holiday décor (PS on the ground floor, there is a case of vintage stockings and the like, not to be missed on the way in or out). It is a lovely museum and the front and back rooms provide a perfect setting opportunity (in which folding chairs, which Jones quips are “vintage golden chairs,” as he introduces the performance), are set among the furniture and space of hardware merchant Seabury Treadwell, who purchased the building in 1835, just one year after Dickens authored A Christmas Carol.
An additional – and terrific – feature is that Jones himself mingles and chats with audience members as they are leaving the museum. He told several of us that according to legend (and perhaps even fact), during the writing of the original version (and Jones adapted this version from Dickens’ original touring version, while reintroducing a scene from the original novella), Dickens would wander the streets of London weeping over piece as he planned and re-edited it. This humanizing authorial angst, combined with activism on behalf of the laboring poor, especially children (which he saw first hand, after his family lost its money and debtors prison resulted for his father, mother and youngest siblings), makes the plight of the Cratchit family even more accessible.
Jones has chiseled and set a jewel of a play at a jewel of a museum.
Crimcast correspondent Demetra Pappas was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College, for her work in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her recent book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate (Greenwood Press, 2012) is a 100-year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) and was recently nominated for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize and was nominated and short listed for the British Society of Criminology 2013 Criminology Book Prize. In addition to her work on end-of-life issues, she writes about anti-stalking mechanisms, pedagogical methodology, visual sociology and pens work on travel (including what has become known as CSI Demetra travel pieces), theater and the arts, dining and culinary books, and historical/cultural sights.
Dozens of curious onlookers crowd London streets each night to experience the saga of the infamous Whitechapel Murders. Crimcast was among the throngs this September to capture the essence of living in treacherous Whitechapel in the late 1880s.
Though the Whitechapel Murders occurred over 100 years ago, speculation continues as to the identity of the so-called Jack the Ripper, believed to have brutally mutilated and murdered at least five women in the area from 1888-1891. As such, extensive archival research continues to be poured over by both trained and self-proclaimed experts in Victorian history, criminal profiling, and psychology.
The five victims were prostitutes at the time of the murders, but a 2009 genealogy revealed that three of the five were previously married and later had turned to prostitution to survive.
Whitechapel was considered one of the most destitute areas of London, and the horrendous murder of Mary Kelly, believed to be the last victim of Jack the Ripper, occurred on Dorset Street. Dorset was known as the worst street in London, where poverty, alcoholism, and prostitution were endemic.
In 1998, psychologists, historians, and the police gathered at the International Investigative Psychology Conference at Liverpool University to debate the authenticity of the archival "Diary of James Maybrick" in which Maybrick allegedly revealed himself to be the killer. According to the BBC News, there was no consensus that the diary was authentic, nor however, was there consensus that the diary was fraudulent. The first edition of the book The Diary of Jack the Ripper: The Discovery, The Investigation, The Debate by author Shirley Harrison contains a facsimile of the diary and documents the controversy surrounding its discovery. Harrison continues to assert that the document is authentic, and an updated edition of the book, with a Foreword by Professor David Cantor, Director of the Institute of Investigative Psychology and Forensic Behavioural Science at the University of Liverpool, was published in 2010.
"The only conclusion they did reach was that the document was written by someone with a 'disturbed mind' and it was therefore 'fascinating', even if it was not genuine." -- UK Ripper Diary has Historians Stumped,BBC News
"that police at the time were probably searching for the wrong kind of man."
One of the more intriguing possibilities is that Jack the Ripper was actually Jill the Ripper. One such speculation surrounds the notion of a "mad midwife" who, as a woman, would have walked the streets without suspicion and would have been an "anatomically educated murderer." Interestingly, though the killer's signature involved removing organs, the most consistently removed organ across the victims was the uterus. Although some removed organs were laid alongside the body, the uterus was typically missing.
Because of the hysteria surrounding the murders, many people in Ripper's time, and some present-day Ripperologists, believe Ripper continued to kill in the few years after the generally agreed upon five murders. This climate of fear and these later Ripper murders--or copycat murders-- is the subject of the popular BBC television series Ripper Street.
Jack the Ripper still fascinates the public despite the unfortunate fact that more prolific and more gruesome serial killers have since followed him. But as the iconic killer who first captured the imagination of the English-speaking world, the case provides important insight as to the cultural origins of our continual fascination with the murderous macabre.
This is the fourth in a 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often intriguing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of criminology and criminal justice.
Wandering around South Bank London on a damp evening, Crimcast stumbled upon a compelling sight-- a small lake constructed out of timber in the middle of an urban scape. Nestled next to a stone archway for commuter trains to and from Waterloo station, "The Lake" featured lounge chairs, a cafe, and playground. A sign indicated that this was an urban oasis, built by architects, carpenters, and other artistic visionaries to bring the notion of being on holiday directly to the people. Had we arrived just a couple days earlier we would have seen the many community members enjoying some late summer sun and floating homemade model sailboats. The privately owned land has been donated to a collective called EXYZT whose manifesto calls for utopian imaginings and community experimentation.As such, the gates are open for all comers who may wish to relax, enjoy a tea, or take on a project in one of the many work spaces underneath the railway arches. We particularly liked a piece in the gallery space created by a local artist featuring a baby stroller resting on a treadmill on cardboard.
Architect Nicolas Henninger explained that the members of the collective, who have spaces throughout Europe, live on-site and bring their brand of enthusiasm for building social capital to local people. "We had families here throughout the summer who made small boats and enjoyed themselves. It's temporary installation so we will have something new next year."
Whether the The Lake, or previous years' projects featuring gardens and faux Lido seasides, the zeitgeist is one of anti-commodification and collectivism through art and design. Playing and building together forms a key part of the collective's modus operandi. A game of "Anti-Monopoly" was ready to go in the tea shop.
A passing bicyclist who stopped to explore along with us couldn't help but notice The Lake stood in poetic contrast to The Shard looming above it-- a brand-new sky-scraper, purportedly the tallest in the European Union. It houses a hotel, residences and offices. Talk quickly turned to the hundreds of millions of pounds it cost and that one can buy a small space there for a mere £8 million. The bicyclist was concerned that The Shard would create problematic traffic flows for the area and that once inside the complex it would isolate people from interaction with the existing Southwark community around it.
Although Southwark has come a long way from its Dickensian roots, the borough's revitalization is happening in two distinct ways represented by The Lake and The Shard. One envisions social capital the other panders to global capital. One empowers locals to work and play together in a low-key, creative space; the other is a silver cage for the cosmopolitan elite, rising above the neighborhood and barely grounded in it.
Graphic Justice: a one-day symposium on the intersection of comics and graphic fiction with the concerns of law and justice, to be held at St Mary’s University College, London on 11 September 2013.
With Anglophone comics, Francophone bandes dessinées, and Japanese manga, graphic fiction represents an expanding dimension of today’s global popular culture and is a richly innovative form of expression.
From the overt law and order focus of many mainstream superhero narratives and comics-inspired blockbuster movies, to the more nuanced examinations of the human condition in less mainstream graphic works; from copyright to the freedom of expression; from the blurring of text and image in the very medium itself to representations of law, justice, and legal systems on the surface of its pages: comics and graphic fiction are rife with themes relevant to law and justice.
Comics have been receiving an increased level of academic attention in recent years, with dedicated journals and conferences springing up around the world. Yet the significance of comics with respect to the concerns of law and justice has received little critical attention. As a development of existing disciplinary fields such as law and popular culture, law and literature, and legal aesthetics, graphic justice is a research alliance aimed at increasing engagement with this under-explored disciplinary crossover.
for more information.