Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment [1st ed.] 9783030472351, 9783030472368

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Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment [1st ed.]
 9783030472351, 9783030472368

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xvi
Fighting for the “Right” Narrative: Introduction to Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment (Martina Althoff, Bernd Dollinger, Holger Schmidt)....Pages 1-20
Front Matter ....Pages 21-21
Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment (Michael Bamberg, Zachary Wipff)....Pages 23-41
Small Stories Research and Narrative Criminology: ‘Plotting’ an Alliance (Alex Georgakopoulou)....Pages 43-61
Public Narratives of Crime and Criminal Justice: Connecting ‘Small’ and ‘Big’ Stories to Make Public Narratives Visible (Martina Y. Feilzer)....Pages 63-84
Front Matter ....Pages 85-85
Crime and Narration: The Creation of (In)Security in Everyday Life (Katharina Eisch-Angus)....Pages 87-112
Popular and Visual Narratives of Punishment in Museum Settings (Hannah Thurston)....Pages 113-137
Conflicting Counternarratives of Crime and Justice in US Superhero Comics (Daniel Stein)....Pages 139-160
Sympathies and Scandals: (Counter-)Narratives of Criminality and Policing in Inter-war Britain (John Carter Wood)....Pages 161-180
Front Matter ....Pages 181-181
‘Let’s Put Human Rights Right’: (Counter) Narratives About Human Rights in the UK Popular Press (Lieve Gies)....Pages 183-199
Files as Prototypical Master Narratives (Mechthild Bereswill, Henrike Buhr, Patrik Müller-Behme)....Pages 201-218
Practical Narratives in the Criminal Law Process: The Suspect’s Statement (Martha Komter)....Pages 219-236
Front Matter ....Pages 237-237
Competing Narratives in the Nexus of Migration-Crime-Gender (Maria De Angelis)....Pages 239-258
Stories of Gender and Migration, Crime and Security: Between Outrage and Denial (Martina Althoff)....Pages 259-278
Back Matter ....Pages 279-288

Citation preview

Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment

Edited by Martina Althoff Bernd Dollinger Holger Schmidt

Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment

Martina Althoff · Bernd Dollinger · Holger Schmidt Editors

Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment

Editors Martina Althoff Department of Criminal Law & Criminology University of Groningen Groningen, The Netherlands

Bernd Dollinger Department of Education & Psychology University of Siegen Siegen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

Holger Schmidt Department of Social Education, Adult Education and Early Childhood Education (ISEP) TU Dortmund University Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

ISBN 978-3-030-47235-1 ISBN 978-3-030-47236-8  (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover credit: Pinghung Chen/EyeEm This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland



Fighting for the “Right” Narrative: Introduction to Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment 1 Martina Althoff, Bernd Dollinger and Holger Schmidt

Section I  Foundation 2

Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment 23 Michael Bamberg and Zachary Wipff


Small Stories Research and Narrative Criminology: ‘Plotting’ an Alliance 43 Alex Georgakopoulou


Public Narratives of Crime and Criminal Justice: Connecting ‘Small’ and ‘Big’ Stories to Make Public Narratives Visible 63 Martina Y. Feilzer


vi      Contents

Section II Popular and Everyday Narrations of Crime and Punishment 5

Crime and Narration: The Creation of (In)Security in Everyday Life 87 Katharina Eisch-Angus


Popular and Visual Narratives of Punishment in Museum Settings 113 Hannah Thurston


Conflicting Counternarratives of Crime and Justice in US Superhero Comics 139 Daniel Stein


Sympathies and Scandals: (Counter-)Narratives of Criminality and Policing in Inter-war Britain 161 John Carter Wood

Section III  Crime Narratives in Social and Criminal Justice 9

‘Let’s Put Human Rights Right’: (Counter) Narratives About Human Rights in the UK Popular Press 183 Lieve Gies

10 Files as Prototypical Master Narratives 201 Mechthild Bereswill, Henrike Buhr and Patrik Müller-Behme 11 Practical Narratives in the Criminal Law Process: The Suspect’s Statement 219 Martha Komter

Contents     vii

Section IV Media Outrages and Narrations of Gender, Crime and Migration 12 Competing Narratives in the Nexus of ­Migration-Crime-Gender 239 Maria De Angelis 13 Stories of Gender and Migration, Crime and Security: Between Outrage and Denial 259 Martina Althoff Index 279

Notes on Contributors

Martina Althoff is an Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Groningen, Department of Criminal Law and Criminology. Focus of her research is the political and social reactions to criminality, societal effects of the criminal justice system, gendered aspects of crime and Feminist Criminology. She published various articles, book chapters and academic books in English, Dutch and German. Michael Bamberg received his M.Phil. from the University of York (Linguistics) and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley (Psychology). Previous to his appointment as Professor of Psychology at Clark University (USA), he held teaching positions in Sociology (FU Berlin), in Linguistics at the University of York (UK), and Foreign Languages at Tongji University (Shanghai) and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (Guangzhou), as well as Universität Saarbrücken (Germany). For 2020, he is on a Fulbright Distinguished Chair Scholarship with the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. His scholarly interests are in narrative, identity and qualitative methodology.


x      Notes on Contributors

Mechthild Bereswill  is a Professor for Sociology at Kassel University, Department of Human Sciences, Institute of Social Policy and Social Welfare. Her fields of research include gender studies, social problems and social control, qualitative methodologies. Henrike Buhr  is a research assistant at Kassel University, Department of Human Sciences, Institute of Social Policy and Social Welfare. Fields of research include Qualitative Research, Biography Studies, Social Problems and Social Control. Maria De Angelis  is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. She holds a Ph.D. in her specialist area of human trafficking, and her research examines intersectionality across criminal, immigration and social policy. She is on the board of CIRN— the Centre for International Research on Narrative at St. Thomas’ University, Canada—and is an active member of the Women Crime and Criminal Justice Network (British Society of Criminology). Her current project is one of impact and involves transforming women’s narratives published in Social Policy and Society (2019) into an ­audio-photo-art exhibition for display in city-wide public spaces. Bernd Dollinger  is a Professor of Social Pedagogy at the University of Siegen, Germany, Department of Pedagogy & Psychology. His fields of research are youth crime, history and theory of social pedagogy, welfare policy. His recent publication includes Dollinger, B. (2020): Changing Narratives of Youth Crime: From Social Causes to Threats to the Social. London: Routledge. Katharina Eisch-Angus is a Professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology of the University of Graz, Austria. Major research interests are in the fields of contemporary everyday cultures, from the anthropology of borders and difference to processes of securitization and subjectivation, as expressed in collective memory or everyday narration. A methodological emphasis is on multi-perspective ethnographic, semiotic and ethno-psychoanalytic approaches. Recent publications include Absurde Angst. Narrationen der Sicherheitsgesellschaft [Absurd Anxiety. Narrations of the Society of Security], Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2019; Der Alltag der (Un)

Notes on Contributors     xi

sicherheit. Ethnographisch-kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf die Sicherheitsgesellschaft [The Everyday of (In)Security. Perspectives of Ethnography and Cultural]. Martina Y. Feilzer  is Professor in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Bangor University. Her research focuses on public perceptions of criminal justice at local, national and European levels; the relationship between the media and public opinion of criminal justice; questions of legitimacy, trust in justice and penal policy; and comparative and historical criminal justice research. She is Co-Director of WISERD (Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data) at Bangor and Co-Director of the Welsh Centre for Crime and Social Justice. Alex Georgakopoulou is Professor of Discourse Analysis & Socio­ linguistics, King’s College London. She has developed small stories research, a paradigm for examining the role of everyday life stories in the (re)formation of social relations and identity politics. She has (co) authored several books that include Analyzing Narrative (with Anna De Fina, 2012, Cambridge University Press) & ‘Quantified Storytelling: A Narrative Analysis of Metrics and Algorithms’ (With Stefan Iversen and Carsten Stage, Palgrave, forthcoming). Her latest study of small stories has been carried out within the ERC project ‘Life-writing of the moment: The sharing and updating self on social media’ ( Lieve Gies is an Associate Professor in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology at the University of Leicester. Her research focuses on human rights in the media and media representations of the law more generally. Martha Komter is ‘research fellow’ at The Netherlands Institute for de Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR). She has published widely on various aspects of language use in the criminal process, especially on interaction in the courtroom and in the police interrogating room. Her research materials include audio and video recordings of authentic police interrogations and trials. The analyses of the courtroom materials have been published as: ‘Dilemma’s in the Courtroom. A Study of Trials of Violent Crime in the Netherlands.’ Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence

xii      Notes on Contributors

Erlbaum Associates, 1998. She has supervised and carried out the research programme ‘Intertextuality in judicial settings’, with a focus on the interrelations between talk and written documents in police interrogations and criminal trials. This has resulted in the book The Suspect’s Statement: Talk and Text in the Criminal Process, Cambridge University Press, 2019. Patrik Müller-Behme is a research assistant at Kassel University, Department of Human Sciences, Institute of Social Policy and Social Welfare. His fields of research are social problems and social control, qualitative research and discourse analysis. Holger Schmidt is Assistant Professor at the TU Dortmund University. His research interests are deviance and (youth-)crime, prisons, processes of social differentiation and inequalities, biographical and—small surprise—narrative research. Daniel Stein is Professor of North American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Siegen, Germany. He is the author of Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography, and American Jazz (University of Michigan Press, 2012) and, most recently, co-editor of Nineteenth-Century Serial Narrative in Transnational Perspective, 1830s–1860s (Palgrave, 2019). Hannah Thurston is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Brighton. Her research interests include punishment in the USA and the American cultural identity; qualitative and interpretative methodologies with a focus on narrative analysis; and the use of museums as research sites. More specifically though, her recent research has focused on the ‘Lone Star State’ and its reputation for harsh punishment. To this end, she has analysed the myths and memories which underpin the Texan self-identity and considered these in relation to the narratives at work in Texan punishment museums. She continues to explore how cultural memories of crime and justice draw on—and feed back into—wider scripts and stories of collective identity. Zachary Wipff  received his B.A. in psychology from Clark University with highest honours. In his senior thesis, Activity & Passivity, he formulated a narrative theory of psychological agency. He is currently

Notes on Contributors     xiii

working in his local community and is seeking to continue his education through pursuing a graduate degree in psychology. His academic interests include narrative, identity, consciousness and philosophical metaphysics. John Carter Wood  is a researcher at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany. His research has addressed the topics of crime, violence, policing, media, gender, intellectual history and religion. His most recent book is This Is Your Hour: Christian Intellectuals in Britain and the Crisis of Europe 1937–1949 (Manchester University Press, 2019).

List of Figures

Fig. 4.1 Column “should we be afraid of being attacked by strangers?” (Source: The Oxford Times, 8 October 2004) 73 Fig. 5.1 “UK and US given case file on ‘nerve agent made in Russian Lab’” (Source: The Guardian, April 6, 2018) 92 Fig. 5.2 Front page imagery “Honey trap girl sends message to setup murder. Sentenced to death by text” (Source: Metro, July 9, 2009) 106 Fig. 5.3 Cover “Draussen wird geschossen! München, 22. Juli 2016. Wie eine Stadt in Panik verfällt” (Source: Der Spiegel, September 17, 2016) 108 Fig. 6.1 The Electric Chair: Texas Prison Museum 117 Fig. 6.2 Poster “Riding the thunderbolt”: Texas Prison Museum 118 Fig. 6.3 Poster “Anatomy of an Execution”: Texas Prison Museum 120 Fig. 6.4 Photographic exhibit: Texas Prison Museum 125 Fig. 6.5 Photographic exhibit: Texas Prison Museum 126 Fig. 6.6 Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum 129


xvi      List of Figures

Fig. 6.7 Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum 129 Fig. 6.8 Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum 130 Fig. 6.9 Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum 130

1 Fighting for the “Right” Narrative: Introduction to Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment Martina Althoff, Bernd Dollinger and Holger Schmidt

Introduction Narratives are a constitutive part of the talk of crime. Whenever an event is interpreted as “crime” and reactions to it are determined, stories are established. Events are described, responsibilities ascribed, M. Althoff (*)  Department of Criminal Law & Criminology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] B. Dollinger  Department of Education & Psychology, University of Siegen, Siegen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany e-mail: [email protected] H. Schmidt  Department of Social Education, Adult Education and Early Childhood Education (ISEP), TU Dortmund University, Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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justifications sought, alternative interpretations evaluated, etc. In other words, crime is contested by devising and rejecting narratives. Narratives are linguistic and cultural patterns of the construction of crime that organise the production of crime. By “patterns” we mean that narratives do not simply exist. They are established and negotiated in social and institutional processes. Some narratives can be established in these processes in the longer term, others will be forgotten or wither. This is a conflictual process. But what exactly it means to link narratives and conflicts in the context of criminality and punishment has hardly been examined in detail so far, and this is what this volume seeks to illuminate.

Narratives Our starting point is the observation that for a narrative understanding of crime it is necessary to consider conflicts or questions of hegemony and subversion to a greater extent than has hitherto been the case. In order to explain this more closely in the following, we first describe our view on narratives, then we go into more detail on conflicts or rather the question of what can or should be regarded as hegemonic or subversive. So what do we understand by narratives? First, it should be noted that there is little consensus on this term (Ryan 2008a). Narratives are understood very differently. Nevertheless, key points that are often associated with narratives can be stated, such as that they are a special form of linguistic (or textual) communication. To place narratives (or stories, as used synonymously here) at the centre of analysis follows a linguistic turn that does not merely see communication as a representation of a non-verbal reality, but ascribes a particular intrinsic value to narratives (Nash 1990). The currently growing interest of criminologists in stories and storytelling goes back to the assumption that narratives create a specific form of crime reality: they are to be taken seriously because they constitute crime as such or at least make it communicable without simply depicting it (Presser 2009). Accordingly, crime is not spoken about, but crime is spoken. There may be “objective” events, e.g. physical actions

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     3

that lead to the injury of one person by another. However, such events only become “violence” or “crime” if they are related in a special way. This relation concerns form and content: In formal terms, certain conditions must be met for crime to be narrated. Events must be given a certain form so that they can be narratively understood and represented as crime. With reference to narrative theories (e.g. Bruner 1991; De Fina and Georgakopoulou 2012; Ewick and Silbey 1995; Polletta et al. 2011) we emphasise three formal aspects: relationally connected participants, activities, and characteristics; a relatively high communicative value, and a temporal sequence. Firstly, narratives of crime provide relationally connected participants including peculiarities attributed to them such as responsibility, motives, and actions (Dollinger 2020): perpetrators harm others, victims suffer, policemen investigate. Offenders bear responsibility, victims do not. Offenders have a motive, victims usually do not. Without such actors, activities and characteristics, one can hardly speak of “crime” (Watson 1976). Secondly, narratives mark an event with these participants and attributes as something special, because the event is worth telling. Narratives assign events a value of “tellability” (Ryan 2008b): minor events are not told, but dealt with as routine or they are—at most— reported, but not related to as a story; if there is a story for an event, it has to be of interest to a more or less large circle of people. Something has happened that is worth becoming the subject of a story. Criminality often has a particularly high tellability; in media and politics, crime is a recurring theme (e.g. Greer 2005; Simon 2007; Surette 2011). Thirdly, as a narrative, an event is given the form of a temporal course (Labov and Waletzky 1967). If no change over time becomes apparent, it would not make sense to speak of a story; it is the most important formal characteristic for identifying narratives. Narratives imply movement or change, whereby in the case of crime the time-bound actions of people (sometimes of organisations or institutions) are communicated: something is stolen; someone is murdered, deceived, injured, lied to, aborted, betrayed, and much more. What these very different forms of action have in common is the assumption of a temporal sequence. The situation before the narrated event is different from the situation after the

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event, because, in the meantime, according to the narrative, an offence has occurred. In addition to formal features, crime narratives can be identified by their content. The formal roles, activities and characteristics of the participants mentioned can vary in their content depending on the respective story. Sometimes it is assumed that there is a given set of narratives with specific roles. According to this view, the limited cultural spectrum of possibilities to tell stories can only be varied by individual narratives, while the core stories themselves are fixed. In relation to crime and especially to perpetrators, Youngs and Canter (2012) mention four possible narrative roles of a perpetrator: as a powerful revenger who fights against external resistance; as a tragic hero struggling with fate; as an actor driven by external circumstances and alienated from other persons; as a powerful and professional actor. Other scholars reject the idea of a limited, culturally predetermined set of narratives. They instead derive from the assumption that narratives are situation- and context-dependent constructions which therefore need to be recon­ structed from the respective interactions of a narrative process (c.f. De Fina and Georgakopoulou 2012; Sacks 1995). The focus here is on how people are indicating to each other that they are telling a story, which, furthermore, has a specific meaning for them. Depending on the context of a narration, different contents are negotiated, whereby in the case of “crime” the violation of criminal law norms always becomes a topic. For this reason, the relevant stories usually contain (at least) perpetrators and victims as well as a related, temporally aligned actions of these two role holders. The evaluation of this action—or non-action, if applicable—is usually unambiguous: crime is something forbidden, i.e. the narrated actions are evaluated negatively. The pejorative meaning can be modified in individual cases, for example if crime is understood as a kind of resistance, as fun or emotional stimulation (e.g. Ferrell et al. 2015; Katz 1988). Nevertheless, this ascription only varies the underlying narrative scheme, according to which crime itself is to be assessed negatively. Crime narratives therefore do not have any arbitrary content—and yet crime can be told in very different ways (Dollinger 2020). What is meant by “crime” varies greatly according to historical

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     5

and cultural conditions. Moreover, there are often different versions of an event at a certain place at a certain time. In view of these differences and (possible) conflicts, the credibility of stories must be justified and negotiated (Nünning 2015). Whoever speaks of crime is confronted with the task of convincing others of a certain course of action, of assigning roles (of perpetrators, victims, witnesses, etc.), of attributing responsibilities, etc. This can take place in “small” informal publics, such as in an everyday conversation, or in highly formalised contexts such as a court hearing. In any case, what “really” happened must be told credibly and plausibly. Alternative ways of telling an event must be delegitimised so that a particular story can be credible. Stories of crime have a special characteristic compared to many other stories: although crime is often the subject of controversy and there are numerous narratives of crime and punishment, there are still instances—despite all the contradictions and contingencies of relating crime—that make ultimate decisions about which narratives are “right” (Barrera 2019). Criminal justice has the authority to determine which actions can be identified as crime and should be sanctioned. Judges act as decision-makers on the truth of narratives, even if they are controversial and although it is clear that people in court present their story with special interests because they want to influence a trial in their favour (Komter 1998). The cultural embedding of crime stories deserves special mention in this context. Narratives of crime never stand alone; there are no purely individual stories, just as little as there is a “private language” that can only be understood by one person (Wittgenstein 1953/2010). Crime is a social construction and a cultural event, and even a judge can only speak law within a certain culture and legal system. In democracies, the jurisdiction—albeit within the framework of a separation of powers— must be linked to a publicly monitored and legitimised rule of law and to criminal policy guidelines. In this sense, a judgement only makes sense because it is embedded in institutional and cultural contexts. The dependence on contexts also applies to narratives of individual “perpetrators” or “victims”. These narratives refer to cultural backgrounds which make the narratives understandable, be it by friends, a judge, a social pedagogue or someone else. Narrators employ categories and

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semantics that are accessible to others and that can be used by them to explore and evaluate the meaning of a crime story. And besides institutional and individual narratives, the dependence on context is also true in the case of public or collective narratives, i.e. crime stories that are, for example, told by the media who cannot (arbitrarily) reinvent new stories. Instead, media agents compile the material available to them (Althoff 2018). The very different contexts of storytelling make it possible to assume conflicts or at least a high potential for disagreement, as there are manifold situations and institutional or everyday contexts in which crime is discussed. Whoever tells a crime story has to direct it towards the respective contexts and the relevant audiences so that it is, and can be, perceived as a “convincing story”. It is precisely because narratives aim to persuade and to negate alternative ways of telling an event that conflicts are of central importance for a narrative analysis of crime.

Counter-Narratives and Hegemony In the realm of conflicting narratives, we are—in the words of narrative theory and research—dealing with dominant or master narratives as well as counter-narratives. Power relations turn out to be analytically valuable when it comes to differentiate among these concepts: according to Ewick and Silbey (1995), narratives are socially organised phenomena that can only be communicated meaningfully within the framework of historically specific cultural contexts. Narratives are irrevocably linked to the production of meanings and the power relations expressed in this specific production. Stories are therefore not told by chance, their contents are determined by social norms and conventions, and this also applies to how and why stories are told. Similarly, Andrews (2004) and Bamberg (2004) stress that the hegemonic character of master narratives results from the fact that they structure social reality as “pre-existent sociocultural forms of interpretation” (Bamberg 2004, p. 360). They establish actions and events as routine, thus giving them the appearance of normality and naturalness, “with the consequence that the more we as subjects become engaged in these routines, the more we become subjected to them” (Bamberg 2004, p. 360). At the same time,

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     7

master narratives provide orientation in everyday action, without which subjects would not be able to act. According to Ewick and Silbey (1995), the hegemonic character of some narratives also results from their ability to function as a mechanism of social control. Hegemonic narratives have the potential to occupy consciousness and reproduce social inequalities and power relations without this becoming particularly visible. An important aspect here is that hegemonic narratives exclude alternative narratives. The contingency of narratives is made invisible: “The events seem to speak for themselves; the tale appears to tell itself ” (Ewick and Silbey 1995, p. 213). Hegemonic narratives seem to express what is self-evident; they make their connection to particular contexts and perspectives unrecognisable. Subversive narratives, on the other hand, make this connection transparent: subversive narratives are narratives that show that narratives are bound to special contexts and power relations, that they are not only solely individual, but that people always live and act in special social contexts. Where hegemonic narratives conceal their linkage to context, subversive narratives show that in legal communication, for example, a purely individual attribution of responsibility and guilt is inadequate, since people are always socially embedded. Subversive narratives thus make visible what hegemonic narratives suppress; subversive narratives “break the silence” (Ewick and Silbey 1995, p. 220). The relationship between hegemonic and subversive narratives should not be thought of as dichotomous, but as more complex (Bamberg 2004). Often subversion does not consist of simply telling the opposite of what is predominant, but of using individual pieces of established narratives and changing them, placing them in new contexts, equipping them with new meanings, and so on. Hegemonic views are constantly readjusted, partially modified, and oftentimes subversively undermined. As Laclau and Mouffe (1985) explain, hegemony is not rigid. It encompasses different demands and articulations, which are made equivalent in a certain way. Differences and contradictions, however, always remain. A special feature of a hegemony is that it encompasses differences and can thus be flexible. Hegemony can permit subversion which it “organises” and uses for adaptation. Without subversion there would be no hegemony.

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But of course hegemonies can actually be hollowed out. Associated with the concept of counter-narratives is the notion that personal stories “resort to and corroborate, but also resist and subvert, ­socio-culturally dominant master narratives” (Bamberg 2008, p. 288). Irrespective of this analytical aspect, the aim of critically questioning current narratives and their social functions (e.g. maintaining the power of the narrators) and thus denaturalising them follows an emancipatory agenda. According to Delgado (1989, p. 2414f ), counter-narratives have the potential that they “open new windows into reality, showing us that there are possibilities for life other than the ones we live […]. Counterstories can quicken and engage conscience”. In order to exploit this potential, entirely new stories about an event in question do not always have to be told. It can be more promising for narrators to connect to existing master narratives. In this sense Bamberg (2004, p. 363) states that “there are always certain aspects of dominant stories that are left intact, while others are reshaped and reconfigured. Speakers never totally step outside the dominating framework of the master narrative, but always remain somewhat complicit and work with components and parts of the existent frame ‘from within’”.1 Accordingly, the sentence formulated above—according to which there would be no hegemony without subversion—can be reversed: subversion presupposes hegemony, and in most cases, subversion should contain at least parts of hegemonic narratives (Hannken-Illjes 2012). Apart from exceptions, hegemonic and subversive narratives are usually not entirely contrary to each other, but are more or less integrated. It is therefore not easy to decide when subversion actually goes so far as to

1A good example can be found in the context of prisons: In this setting, a “conversion story” (Järvinen 2000) can be regarded as a hegemonic expectation that prisoners are facing. According to this narrative figure, an—institutionally accepted—life story implies an (apparently) inevitable decline in which the “remorseful” narrator has hit “rock bottom” but now is “ready to better him- or herself ”. This narrative is sometimes opposed by stories told by prisoners that may follow a similar plot, but in which the narrators prove to be “headstrong” and far more s­elf-determined actors than the rather limited narrative rules of the prison would usually enable them to be: They reject the institutional expectations and the associated subject positions for themselves; the narrators thus “saddle up” on hegemonic narratives, but rewrite them individually (cf. Schmidt 2016, p. 73).

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     9

undermine and counteract hegemony, especially in view of—as Polletta (2006) points out—the often existing ambiguity of narratives. In order to establish that a narrative is, for example, hegemonic or a counter-narrative (or other), value judgements are required that should be made transparent.

Reflexivity and Normativity As suggested at the outset of this chapter, narrating crime and punishment is a persuasive activity; the same applies to the scientific examination of crime. The question of which version of an event is more “convincing” and “credible” than another can be relevant for research. In criminalistics (or forensics) and also in parts of criminology it is regarded as an important task to decide which representation of an event is “true”. Yet, for narratively oriented criminologies, on the other hand, this analytical stance appears somewhat difficult (Sandberg 2010). Distinctions such as those between “true” and “false” or “believable” and “exaggerated” stories are not primarily descriptive, but make normative decisions. Those who say that one narrative is more “credible” or “more realistic” than another attribute a higher value to it and devalue other versions of narratives. Such attributions prove to be difficult for narrative criminologies, since they are based on specific evaluative standards and assumptions on the part of the researchers, which must be substantiated.2 If one acknowledges that narratives are contingent, then they are to be recognised for themselves, i.e. in the form and with the content that was actually told. Even an “exaggerated” or “unauthentic” story—according to whatever standards—is a social reality and can be taken seriously in itself (Presser 2009). Narratives often change according to the context in which they are told; even in the course of a single research interview, narratives can contradict themselves or change 2We

refer here to Max Weber (1904) and the controversy around his demand for “objectivity” and about the possibility or necessity of making normative judgements in research. The dispute continues to this day. We deliberately do not reconstruct it, but merely refer to aspects that are significant for a narratively oriented criminology.

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(e.g. Brookman 2015; Sandberg 2010). It is not (always) necessary in research to decide which version of a story is “right”, but one can reconstruct that there are discrepancies within individual narratives and between narratives. They can be very revealing because they tell us something about the narrators and their contexts. Narratives are often flexible and contradictory. They adapt to the contexts in which they are produced. This might be considered problematic because, as mentioned before, research itself is a highly complex context in which narratives are generated. Thus, for example, research interviews do not simply depict the stories of “perpetrators”, but rather evoke and shape them (Presser 2008). A different research question, a different time and space of interviews, a different interviewing person, etc. can lead to different stories. Such contextual conditions must always be carefully considered when collecting and analysing data (Slembrouck 2015). Against this backdrop calls for reflexivity of research, understood as “monitoring and reflecting on all aspects of a research project” (Jupp 2006, p. 344), appear reasonable. In recent years, demands for reflexivity have taken off in many disciplines. They are based on the insight that there is a cultural trace to every research activity. The knowledge about a research “object” is produced by a multitude of decisions in a field-, situation- and actor-specific way. The more or less openly formulated hope to pursue this cultural trace, to make it transparent and thus to arrive at other and possibly “more substantial” insights, is connected with the claim to reflexive research. Reflexively conducted research is thus recognised as a privileged access to “truth” or “appropriateness” of findings. However, the boom in demands for reflexivity (c.f. Armstrong et al. 2016; Lumsden and Winter 2014) has not led to a clear concept. Reflexivity is understood and interpreted very differently (Lynch 2000; Riessman 2015). The reference to reflexivity is therefore in danger of functioning as a mere label: those who claim to carry out reflexive research sometimes want to assert certain ideas of “correct” research against other positions. The assertion of reflexivity thus may turn out to be nothing more than a strategy. In order to counter this risk, we think it is necessary to state and justify exactly how reflexivity is understood

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     11

and implemented in the context of concrete investigations—a demand that is of central importance, especially for narrative-oriented criminologists. They themselves ultimately deliver stories that are aimed at being “convincing” and “authentic”. Instead of making general demands for reflexivity, it is therefore more sensible to ask the following concrete questions: What is hegemonic for whom and why? How is this expressed? What justifies speaking of a counter-narrative? In which everyday or institutional contexts are individual narratives considered hegemonic or subversive? And—if such an assessment should be made—for what good reasons is a subversive or hegemonic status assessed positively or negatively? Important points of reference for such questions are criminal policy and the criminal justice system. These are institutions that “decide” on the hegemony of individual narratives. What is defined as crime in criminal policy and what individual judges define as crime is, qua official definition, crime and thus a hegemonic narrative. But contextual ties are still important. What a judge determines to be criminal, for example, can be normal for young people in their surroundings. The passing on of secret information can be an act of treason for a politician, for others it may be regarded as a democratic duty and legitimate resistance to state surveillance. Abortion can be criminal in one case, and permitted in another. These and other examples show that criminology can by no means simply follow what politicians and actors in the criminal justice system determine. Criminality is ultimately a question of continuing debates and accordingly historically and culturally variable—a well-known insight of critical criminology (c.f. Reiner 2016, 15–16). Even in a given society it can be disputed at a particular point in time whether a crime narrative is hegemonic or not, for example if something is forbidden, but considered normal by large parts of the population. Deciding what is hegemonic and what is not can therefore be tricky—especially in criminology. For example, when criminologists speak out in favour of giving a voice to “subalterns” (Spivak), this has to be particularly justified because it is a genuinely normative demand. While most criminologists would agree on the fact that right-wing extremism, for example, should be excluded and scandalised other matters such as abortion and drug use may be more difficult to assess. So

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this point remains complicated, and this is exactly where the following contributions come into play.

Structure and Content This leads us to the structure of this book. Besides the introduction, the volume consists of four sections and twelve chapters. The first section is composed of foundational texts written by three authors on the concept of counter-narratives, on the relationship between small stories research and narrative criminology, and on the concept of public narratives. The second section deals with the topic Popular and everyday narrations of Crime and Punishment. In four chapters different subtopics are discussed: the interdependence of public and everyday stories of crime and (in)security, (counter)narratives of crime and punishment in museums, (counter)narratives in US-American superhero comics, and conflicting narratives of crime and policing in newspapers in inter-war Britain. The third section concerns Crime Narratives in Social and Criminal Justice and includes three chapters which scrutinise narratives and ­counter-narratives and their societal effects in very different contexts. The first chapter of this section is on (counter)narratives in European newspaper coverage of the European Convention on Human Rights. The following contributions explore (counter)narratives in case files from residential care in West Germany and in police reports of interrogations. The fourth and last section of this volume is entitled Media outrages and narrations of gender, crime and migration. Both authors of this section draw from a gender perspective on the intersection of stories of migration and crime using different topics, viz. human trafficking and sexual violence. Michael Bamberg and Zachary Wipff deal with the conceptualisation of counter-narratives. Counter-narratives irritate background assumptions that support alternative narratives. Analyses must address the concrete contextual conditions of narratives, without which counter-narratives cannot be understood as such. Predicated on the “narrative practice approach”, they demonstrate how master- and counter-narratives relate to each other and refer to specific contexts.

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     13

To illustrate their focus, they compare closing arguments of a defence lawyer and a district attorney in a murder case and reconstruct overlaps and differences, which result in different kinds of stories. In this way, they make it clear that crime stories contain special structures of expectation, for example, for a perpetrator as the protagonist of a story who actively violates common values without comprehensible reason. Counter-narratives contrast such attributions from a defensive position. With these references, the authors illustrate the particular usefulness of their analysis for a narrative-oriented criminology, which they call upon to take the contexts of narratives seriously. In her chapter, Alexandra Georgakopoulou deals with a further facet of (counter-)narratives that have so far been neglected in criminology. She shows that small stories—understood as fleeting stories, emergent in everyday-life environments—play a significant role in the context of crime, since the people involved are at risk of stigmatisation and sometimes far-reaching consequences. All the more so since in many circumstances it is not always possible for them to generate unified and coherent narratives (‘big stories’). In her contribution Alexandra first introduces the main rational and methods of the small stories approach. Then, using examples from her own research, she opens up the possibilities for a narratively minded criminology. It becomes clear that the analysis of small stories can be a fruitful perspective for criminology— especially in times of social media, where fragmented and multi-vocal narratives are the rule rather than the exception. In the final chapter of the foundation Martina Feilzer explores the concept of public narratives of crime and punishment to make it empirically accessible for measuring its influence and its significance for public opinion, e.g. punitive attitudes or public trust in criminal justice. The contribution is of conceptual nature, discussing the different levels at which stories of crime and criminal justice as “cultural products” are narrated and cross different narrative levels. Public narratives can be part of a range of discourses and can be storied collectively and individually. The assumption debated here is that public narratives are creating public knowledge and shaping public opinion on crime and justice. To illustrate this, the author discusses the results of an experiment in which she wrote columns on crime and punishment in a local newspaper and

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surveyed readers’ knowledge before and after publication. Her findings show that in order to measure public opinion criminology needs the concept of public narratives to understand how society makes sense of crime and justice. Katharina Eisch-Angus analyses everyday narratives on security and crime at the interface with public discourses. On the basis of her own ethnographic surveys in England and Germany, she explores how public discourses are processed in everyday life. People experience themselves and their surroundings as safe or unsafe by referring to public debates and ascribing special meanings to them in everyday life. The emergent stories fluctuate between fiction and factuality and they combine national or international events with elements of biography and life in the community. Historically established cultural semantics, which are updated in relation to new events, flow into this attribution of meaning. The result is not a mere adaptation of public stories, but rather particular context-specific narratives of everyday life which have the potential to contrast political and public discourses. Museums are another site of conflicting narratives. Although they play a major role in how events are remembered and how societies understand themselves, they have hardly been studied in criminology. Hannah Thurston changes this by addressing the question of how museums as storied spaces shape opinions and produce cultural meanings of crime and punishment. She discusses the results of a museum ethnography she undertook in the Lone Star State of Texas. In her thorough analysis, she illuminates the complex interplay between dominant narratives of harsh punishment and diverse, more subtle counter-stories, such as those critical of the death penalty, which raise awareness of the consequences of Texan toughness for the social environment. Comics can affect public attitudes about crime and justice. Using Batman as an example, Daniel Stein examines the intersection of master narratives and counter-narratives in superhero comics and its controversial reception (in (online) reviews, articles and blogs). Generally, Batman’s devotion to justice goes beyond his devotion to law in the name of serving the people and is embodying a socially responsible vigilantism. Taking the example of Batman #44 “A Simple Case” and its story about police brutality, it shows narrative ambiguity by being

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     15

a counter-narrative to the master narrative of Batman as a vigilante warrior. The author shows how in the controversial reception of the ­counter-narrative the authorising of mass murder takes place; it includes the risk of a racist vigilantism and the threatening of social order instead of protecting it. John Carter Wood takes a historical perspective in his contribution by focusing on (counter-)narratives in newspapers in inter-war Britain. As the leading medium for the creation of crime narratives at that time, newspapers had an immense influence on what was negotiated as crime and how it was dealt with: here too, the question of the legitimacy of the (state) responses to crime is central. Using two newspapers of the late 1920s as examples, Wood traces voices that narratively legitimise the death penalty, but also those that appeal to the empathy of the reader by offering accounts of the psychological and social backgrounds of the crimes in question. The resulting sympathy for the condemned raises political debates, as does the scandalisation of harsh police interrogation, which is also being discussed. Thus, on the one hand, the transformative potential of (counter-)narratives is indicated, and on the other hand, it becomes clear that the topic is quite complex, since numerous ambivalences arise and the line between “hegemonic” and “subversive” is continually shifting. Martha Komter reconstructs through conversation analysis how the police produce reports of interrogations. The reports do not simply reflect what the suspects said. Depending on the situational conditions of the interrogations, police officers make protocols that they ­co-constitute and that generate a particular form of reality. The protocols incorporate statements of the respondents in different forms, depending on the preferred protocol styles and the number of interrogators involved. The protocols are prepared with a view to their usability in law enforcement processes, so that they are part of the process in which master narratives are actively and gradually developed. The statements of the respondents, on the other hand, are counter-narratives in that they depend on their individual preconditions and are linked to different goals, which does not necessarily mean that they are resistant to the master narratives.

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Mechthild Bereswill, Henrike Buhr and Patrik Müller-Behme explore personal-related files from residential care institutions in West Germany from the 1950s to 1970s. Case files are understood as powerful artefacts which motivate particular actions within the institutions that work with or create those files. Drawing on own research and on the basis of a selected individual case file the extent to which individual case files can be analysed as narratives is examined here. The study shows that case files contain a prototypical master narrative to establish a “deviant subject”: even though case files include bureaucratically regulated actions and interactions, they leave room to negotiate social order and social control without affecting the institutional power. The conclusion is that case files can be understood as rather fragmented master narratives which are able to include counter-narratives coming from outside the bureaucratic process. Lieve Gies demonstrates in her contribution that counter-narratives can be powerful even when they are directed against widely accepted moral standards, in this case the recognition of human rights standards. She attributes the status of a master narrative to human rights and analyses how this narrative is criticised, using press reports in Great Britain as an example. While counter-narratives are often attributed a progressive quality, this analysis reveals a different tendency. The narratives directed against conventions on human rights are combined with criticism of social policy and positions that are critical of minorities, which can hardly be considered progressive. As pointed out in this introduction and by other authors in this book, she notes that masterand counter-narratives are often not clearly distinguishable, that they refer to each other and are anchored in contexts that must be taken into account in any analysis. In this way, conventions on human rights can also be given the status of counter-narratives, although they are delegitimised in the press reports as mainstream worthy of criticism. In her chapter Maria de Angelis turns to the topic of crimmigration— the conflation of migration control with criminal justice control. With reference to current discourses and on the basis of her own research, she elaborates which public narratives are predominant in current UK politics and how they manifest empirically on an individual level by persons without fully provable rights to enter and remain in the UK. These stories “from below” highlight the complex interplay between migration,

1  Fighting for the “Right” Narrative …     17

crime and gender and illustrate how our ways of seeing the “right” or the “wrong” sort of migrant are steered by narratives. Finally, Martina Althoff explores society’s storytelling concerning New Years’ Eve 2015 in Cologne (Germany) which has attracted a great deal of national and international attention. The case, a typical example of crimmigration—understood as the intersection of migration and crime—shows how the policymaking process is steeped in narratives and how those narratives create certain realities about migration. Two master narratives can be differed here: the securitisation narrative by constructing the migrant as the other; in this narrative, migration comes along with constructions of crime, insecurity and danger. The sexualisation narrative is constructing sexual violence and sexism as problems of the other and coming from outside the society. The interweaving of the two master narratives attributes sexual violence exclusively to refugees, reinforcing the idea of migration as a security problem and excluding counter-narratives of everyday sexual violence in Western society.

References Althoff, M. (2018). Mediaberichten, framing en hypes: Over de relatie van media en criminaliteit en de analyse hiervan. PROCES, 97, 341–352. Andrews, M. (2004). Opening to the original contributions: Counter-narratives and the power to oppose. In M. Bamberg & M. ­ Andrews (Eds.), Considering counter-narratives: Narrating, resisting, making sense (pp. 1–6). Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing. Armstrong, S., Blaustein, J., & Henry, A. (2016). Reflexivity and criminal justice: Intersections of policy, practice and research. Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan. Bamberg, M. (2004). Considering counter-narratives. In M. Bamberg & M. Andrews (Eds.), Considering counter-narratives: Narrating, resisting, making sense (pp. 351–371). Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing. Bamberg, M. (2008). Master narrative. In D. Herman, M. Jahn, & M.-L. Ryan (Eds.), Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory (pp. 287–288). London: Routledge.

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Barrera, D. J. S. (2019). Narrative criminal justice. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 58, 35–43. Brookman, F. (2015). The shifting narratives of violent offenders. In L. Presser & S. Sandberg (Eds.), Narrative criminology: Understanding stories of crime (pp. 207–234). New York: New York University Press. Bruner, J. (1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18, 1–21. De Fina, A., & Georgakopoulou, A. (2012). Analyzing narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Delgado, R. (1989). Storytelling for oppositionists and others: A plea for narrative. Michigan Law Review, 87(8), 2411–2441. Dollinger, B. (2020). Changing narratives of youth crime. London: Routledge. Ewick, P., & Silbey, S. (1995). Subversive stories and hegemonic tales: Toward a sociology of narrative. Law & Society Review, 29(2), 197–226. Ferrell, J., Hayward, K. J., & Young, J. (2015). Cultural criminology. London: Sage. Greer, C. (2005). Crime and media: Understanding the connections. In C. Hale, K. Hayward, A. Wahidin, & E. Wincup (Eds.), Criminology (2nd ed., pp. 157–182). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hannken-Illjes, K. (2012). Geschichten und Gegengeschichten: Erzählen im Strafrecht. In M. Aumüller (Ed.), Narrativität als Begriff: Analysen und Anwendungsbeispiele zwischen philologischer und anthropologischer Orientierung (pp. 281–297). Berlin: de Gruyter. Järvinen, M. (2000). The biographical illusion: Constructing meaning in qualitative interviews. Qualitative Inquiry, 6(3), 370–391. Jupp, V. (2006). Reflexivity. In E. McLaughlin & J. Muncie (Eds.), The Sage dictionary of criminology (pp. 344–345). London: Sage. Katz, J. (1988). Seductions of crime. New York: Basic Books. Komter, M. (1998). Dilemmas in the courtroom. Mahwah: Erlbaum. Labov, W., & Waletzky, J. (1967). Narrative analysis: Oral versions of personal experience. In J. Helm (Ed.), Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts (pp. 12–44). Seattle: University of Washington Press. Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (1985). Hegemony and socialist strategy. London: Verso. Lumsden, K., & Winter, A. (2014). Reflexivity in criminological research: Experiences with the powerful and the powerless. Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan.

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Lynch, M. (2000). Against reflexivity as an academic virtue and source of privileged knowledge. Theory, Culture & Society, 17(3), 26–54. Nash, C. (Ed.). (1990). Narrative in culture. London: Routledge. Nünning, V. (Ed.). (2015). Unreliable narration and trustworthiness. Berlin: De Gruyter. Polletta, F. (2006). It was like a fever: Storytelling in protest and politics. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Polletta, F., Chen, P. C. B., Gardner, B., & Motes, A. (2011). The sociology of storytelling. Annual Review of Sociology, 37, 109–130. Presser, L. (2008). Been a heavy life: Stories of violent men. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Presser, L. (2009). The narratives of offenders. Theoretical Criminology, 13, 177–200. Reiner, R. 2016. Crime. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Riessman, C. K. (2015). Entering the hall of mirrors. In A. De Fina & A. Georgakopoulou (Eds.), The handbook of narrative analysis (pp. 219–238). Somerset: Wiley. Ryan, M.-L. (2008a). Narrative. In D. Herman, M. Jahn, & M.-L. Ryan (Eds.), Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory (pp. 344–348). London: Routledge. Ryan, M.-L. (2008b). Tellability. In D. Herman, M. Jahn, & M.-L. Ryan (Eds.), Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory (pp. 589–591). London: Routledge. Sacks, H. (1995). Lectures on conversation. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Sandberg, S. (2010). What can “lies” tell us about life? Notes towards a framework of narrative criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 21(4), 447–465. Schmidt, H. (2016). (In-)justice in prison—A biographical perspective. In C. Reeves (Ed.), Experiencing imprisonment: Research on the experience of living and working in carceral institutions (pp. 63–80). London and New York: Routledge. Simon, J. (2007). Governing through crime. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Slembrouck, S. (2015). The role of the researcher in interview narratives. In A. De Fina & A. Georgakopoulou (Eds.), The handbook of narrative analysis (pp. 23–254). Chichester, West Sussex, and UK: Wiley Blackwell. Surette, R. (2011). Media, crime, and criminal justice (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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Youngs, D., & Canter, D. V. (2012). Narrative roles in criminal action. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 17, 233–249. Watson, D. R. (1976). Some conceptual issues in the social identification of victims and offenders. In E. C. Viano (Ed.), Victims and society (pp. 60–71). Washington: Visage Press. Weber, M. (1904). Die “Objektivität” sozialwissenschaftlicher und sozialpolitischer Erkenntnis. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 19(1), 22–87. Wittgenstein, L. (1953/2010). Philosophical investigations. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Section I Foundation

2 Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment Michael Bamberg and Zachary Wipff

Counter-narratives have come to occupy the center of many ­discussions regarding analytic work with narratives as related to power and social change. In this chapter, we continue this debate by first clarifying theoretical ambiguity surrounding these constructs, and proceed by exemplifying how the narrative practice approach may be utilized for empirical work with master and counter-narratives, then delineating insights which emerge through such analysis pertinent to (narrative) criminology. Before divulging into a theoretical discussion of master and ­counter-narratives, we must first provide the theoretical background of our orientation, beginning with Searle’s concept of ‘the background.’ Terms like master narratives and dominant discourses imply the necessity of a background or horizon against which human sense-making becomes possible, rendering narratives comprehensible. While some M. Bamberg (*) · Z. Wipff  Department of Psychology, Clark University, Worcester, MA, USA e-mail: [email protected] Z. Wipff e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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refer to ‘the background’ in reference to a culturally instantiated collective consciousness (Durkheim 1915) or social mind (Chriss 2006), Searle (2010) utilized the term background in reference to a horizon that is ‘deeper’ and more universally shared by human beings. Rather than referring to a system of socioculturally instantiated practices, Searle defines background as a set of abilities, capacities, tendencies, and dispositions which are deeply ingrained and continue to ‘go without saying,’ such as the human ability to walk upright, or making sense of ourselves as possessing an anterior and posterior in the form of a physical body (Searle 1994). Searle contrasts this deep background with a collective cultural horizon providing social routines and practices. It is this social background which we credit as constituting ‘agency constellations,’ supplying hermeneutic types for individual and institutional sense-making strategies (Bamberg 2005, pp. 9–10). These constellations allude to story lines or narrative threads with an essential temporal contour, and additionally suggest prototypical character ‘types.’ For example, one such prototype may be defined as ‘the criminal’—a narrative which we will interrogate in a later section. We have posited that in addition to Searle’s respective deep and cultural backgrounds exists an immediate horizon, or local back­ ground—a set of background assumptions which come to existence in the speaker’s embodied engagement in situated contexts through which meaning microgenetically emerges. The assumptions provided by (i) the deep background, to the assumptions of one’s (ii) cultural, and (iii) a situated, immediate background, form a continuum of practices which may be more deeply or shallowly ingrained. For example, as we contemplated in a recent publication, ‘critical considerations of language habits that reflect gender or racial biases may lead to a change in language practices with more ease than assumptions that are much harder to reflect and reconsider—such as how our understanding of spatial dimensions is based off of our human up-right posture and ­ forward-movement and visual field, or how our understanding of temporal dimensions is based on our understanding of spatial relations’ (Bamberg and Wipff 2020, p. 65). Therefore, any engagement in the embodied act of storytelling necessitates narrators to continuously

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navigate between maintaining faith and supporting extant background assumptions on the one hand, and testing, rescripting, and conflicting with—potentially even countering—said background assumptions on the other. Therefore, being complicit and countering master narratives are two sides of the same coin, and are always at play simultaneously in narrative practices, across varying contexts. As we shall demonstrate, empirical work through this analytic lens has the potential to explicate how master and counter-narratives support, conflict with, and interact in local storytelling environments. With these concepts established, we can illuminate more clearly the relationship between master and counter-narratives. The term ‘master narrative’ has been extensively discussed across many fields of inquiry. Typically, master narratives are understood in two differing ways: (i) providing a horizon of background assumptions against which human sense-making is enabled (as discussed above); or (ii) as normative, subjugating, and oppressive. While one can interpret dominant discourses as enabling meaning production, they do, in another sense, restrict through ruling out and silencing other divergent narratives. From this perspective, the term ‘counter-narrative’ acquires a unique and more potent force, countering oppressive hegemonic norms imposed through a discourse. Therefore, counter-narratives may be understood in two corresponding manners: (i) as a bid to interrogate the assumptions which enable our sense-making, or (ii) as an attempt to delegitimize, erode, or even change discourses which are perceived as oppressive. In either case, counter-narratives are distinguished by an intention, ‘to transform background assumptions which typically support a master narrative’ (Bamberg and Wipff 2020, p. 66). However, which narratives ‘master’ and which ‘counter’ remains situationally dependent on the organization of social, cultural, and political power within the local interactive context. Therefore, we must be cautious when universally labeling any narrative as occupying either of these positions. Fortunately, ­counter-narratives are distinguished by a number of attributes which aid in their identification. Counter-narratives commonly make intertextual references invoking another narrative. They are fundamentally reactionary, a vis-à-vis which

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follows similar lines of facts, but at some point diverging from them, often in a manner unexpected or counterintuitive. To illustrate briefly, in the transcript that we shall analyze below in more detail, the defense lawyer characterizes Henry Sutter as ‘a law-abiding citizen’ (line 8). This is slightly rescripted, but in alignment, by the district attorney, who refers to the same person as ‘a good man, who tried to spare his wife’s pain’ (lines 34–35). However, a few seconds later, he counters these (his own) constructions of Mr. Sutter: ‘but he committed a murder’ (line 40). Thus, the district attorney undermines any potential assumptions in support of a narrative of empathy, concern (see also Wood, this volume), and ‘an ethics of care’ (Gilligan 1982, 1987). Before returning to these narratives below, we will briefly discuss associated forms of narratives, like ‘conflicting’ and ‘alternative.’ As defined earlier in this chapter, counter-narratives are primarily distinguished through their illocutionary force undermining assumptions of another narrative, as well as typically following, but slightly diverging from, thematically similar narratives. However, storytellers often stray from narratives with no (conscious) intention to interrogate such assumptions. When this illocutionary force is absent, these narratives diverge, but do not threaten, and are perhaps most accurately considered alternative narratives. These narratives conflict with other narratives by offering different accounts of the same period of time, situation, institution, or individual. For example, as we argued elsewhere (Bamberg and Wipff 2020), marital practices of ‘falling-in-love’ and ‘arranged marriages’ offer alternative, conflicting accounts of the marital ritual, but are typically not mobilized as illocutionary bids to delegitimize the other. The fact that master and counter-narratives are distinguished through an illocutionary force inextricably linked to context creates the unique problem for how to approach them empirically, necessitating analytic methodologies which privilege contextual embeddedness as a central feature—in contrast to traditional methodological approaches which focus on the content of narratives as textual products. The narrative practice approach (Bamberg 2020) diverges from these traditional methods by recognizing narrators’ situated embodiment as

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indispensable to a thoroughly critical analysis. Rather than assuming narratives grant transparent access to a narrator’s ‘interiority’, the narrative practice approach asks the question ‘why this story here-and-now?’, conceptualizing narratives as brought off in collaborative contexts. Following from this, this approach recognizes that narratives are not static and uniform, but rather often rife with contradictions, emerging in and through contexts as a dynamic interactive process, and varying from one situation to another. This necessitates a shift from stories as textual products as the unit of analysis to the particular context of the storytelling act. Therefore, the narrative practice approach investigates how speakers interactively position each other and themselves within their local environment, particularly in terms of three related positioning strategies. Firstly, we examine how storytellers position a sense of who they are in relation to their audience. Through habitual narrative practices, storytellers mark themselves off as same or different from others. This gradual navigation process takes places microgenetically through both significant and seemingly menial interactions, and tellers practice this navigation from early on through stories about both self and others. An additional dimension of identity navigation may be termed ‘agency’, referring to individuals’ potency (or lack thereof ), morality, and capacities for action. While some approaches ontologise agency as a capacity individuals have, we propose that agency is better theorized as a space in which speakers navigate two directions of fit: one from world-to-person, the other from person-to-world. This dimension of identity navigation may bear particular relevance to presentations of selves or institutions as responsible, as typically in claims to achievements and success, versus claiming inculpability in accidents, loss, or misconduct. Thirdly, within these processes of navigating one’s difference vis-à-vis others and one’s agency, narrators can either privilege their constancy, claiming that they are the same as in the past, or present themselves as having undergone gradual or rapid change. These navigation processes ‘materialise,’ so to speak, in how narrators create their characters in a storyworld and place them in a temporal contour of change (or non-change). Moreover, through the

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manipulation of story-characters in the storyworld, and by positioning themselves as storytellers vis-à-vis others in a communicative context, speakers bring off a sense of who they are vis-à-vis dominant master narratives. It is this intricate analytic approach that we will illustrate in the following before returning to disentangle what counts as counter, as alternative, and as master narratives.

Master or Counter?—Two Conflicting Constructions of the Same Event In the following, we will take the reader through the closing arguments (also called ‘closing statements’) in a murder trial (Bochco 1990) in which an elder male (Henry Sutter—henceforth HS) is implicated of having caused his wife’s (Moira Sutter—henceforth MS) death. The fact that he had caused his wife’s death is not contested. However, the defense lawyer (DL) and district attorney (DA) construct two ­different characters in their narratives1 that led up to the death. And it is these two constructions that are of interest for our attempt to disentangle and illustrate what counts as counter, alternative, and master (or simply conflicting) narratives, following up on the way we started differentiating between them in the previous section. In our work with both transcripts, we will follow the type of narrative analysis laid out in more detail in Bamberg (2020). First, we segment the two turns into their thematic sequence, then we identify and begin to analyze (formal) story elements, and finally enter a fuller analysis of the positions taken up by DL and DA, who both try to make their stories compelling and convincing—and in the course of this taking positions vis-àvis dominant (master) narratives. We need to keep in mind here that at the center of the analysis are the stories of two institutionally positioned key-players—one engaging in defending the accused, the other in prosecuting him, on behest of the institutions that gave them the power to

1The reasons for why we refer to these statements or arguments as narratives are laid out in more detail in Bamberg and Wipff (2020), and touched upon in our opening paragraphs.

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represent them. Although they speak on behalf of someone else, i.e., they concoct third-person narratives, it is them who have to come across in their statements as authentic and credible,2 because in and through their actions they bring off their own institutional identities as well as legitimize the power of the institutions they represent.

Defense Lawyer Thematic Segments Lines 1–7: DL used to act in the institutional role of DA, prosecuting ‘mercy-killers.’ Back then she argued the way the jury will hear in the DA’s closing argument. As such, she can be heard as inoculating the presentation of the case he is going to make next. Simultaneously, she orients her audience that her case here and now is different. This brief aside seemingly has nothing to do with ‘the case’ itself. However, it provides a line of reasoning for her continuity-discontinuity positioning strategy in terms of her change in what her line of reasoning used to be. Lines 8–25: HS’s wife’s death is presented as a result from witnessing his wife’s mental deterioration over a prolonged time period, leading up to and culminating in his action, causing the death of his wife— related here as ending her pain, and preserving her dignity. Lines 8–15b: HS is characterized as ‘a law-abiding citizen ’—and as such he would qualify as predictable and trustworthy, but he acted ‘crazy ’ (‘not-in-his-right-mind’—and as such ‘out-of-character’). Lines 16–25: HS’s communal/societal responsibilities were momentarily (in a moment of recognizing his wife’s full deterioration) displaced, resulting in actions that fall into the category of care taking activities ending pain and preserving dignity.


stories, i.e., stories that thematize the actions of others, typically are precluded from narrative research, because they arguably don’t give insight into first-person experiences. However, as we have argued repeatedly, third-person narratives are as worthy of positioning and identity analysis as are first-person stories. Courtroom narratives are a good example.

30     M. Bamberg and Z. Wipff

Lines 26–31: In her ‘closing argument’ DL appeals to jury to choose between feeling that the category ‘criminal ’ applies versus knowing otherwise, and she pleas for otherwise.

Story As is typical in these kinds of closing arguments, there only are story fragments. First, in lines 8 and 10, the protagonist (Henry Sutter) is placed in a temporal setting (that morning ). Second, the actual story consists of only two intentional actions: (i) lines 22/3: he acted (to end pain), and (ii) lines 24/5: he acted (to preserve her dignity)—where both descriptions refer to the same event, i.e., the action that caused the death of his wife. There is mention of another character in this ‘small story’ (Moira Sutter ), who is positioned as having been attacked by something else: a disease that has been ‘eating away ’ her brain. Both HS and MS are positioned as a loving couple, and HS as ‘carer.’ It should be noted that the actual story line is mini-minimal and could be summarized as: That morning HS acted to cause MS’s death, consisting of a setting and one action clause. However, the reason this story is told is to paint a picture of motives and persuasion that goes way beyond the depiction of what happened.

Positioning Both characters in the story have first names and share their last (family) name, i.e., they are categorized as married and positioned as loving each other. HS is devoted to his wife, self-sacrificing and suffering having to witness her decay. The DL is constructing these two characters in order to position herself as empathetic to both characters. She is trying to accomplish this by unfolding a character development that culminated in HS’s act, thereby bringing off a story line that is consequential and persuasive, resulting in an act characterized as liberating and rescuing a cherished ­person—his wife. In addition to her use of verbal means, the DL also tries to accomplish this in the way she performs her account—her use of rhetorical devices, her tone of voice, and her facial expression and gaze. Her bodily performance, in line with being highly careful in her selection of acts

2  Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment     31

from the possible range of events she could have chosen and depicted in her narrative, marks her (the DL’s) overall position as extremely empathetic— arguably resulting in that she ‘knows ’ that HS is not a criminal. Consequently, the illocutionary force of this third-person story for her audience is to align with her affective stance, i.e., to be empathetic with her (the DL) as a proxy for HS, the protagonist of the story. In terms of a master narrative, the DL calls for what has been termed ‘an ethics of care’ (Gilligan 1982, 1987) that she is representing in her story about HS (Table 2.1). Table 2.1  Transcripts of the CLOSING ARGUMENTS (LA-LAW) (husband caused his wife to die) Defense lawyer:

District attorney:

(1) not that long ago, as a DA, I was prosecuting mercy-killers (2) and I still remember (.) the dialogue (3) we cannot let people take the law into their own hands (4) we cannot individuals let ignore the law (5) we’ll become a state of anarchy (6) the law must be upheld (7) no exceptions (2s) (8) now Henry Sutter IS a law-abiding citizen (9) he is not insane (10) but that morning (.) he wasn’t in his right mind either (11) for seven years Alzheimer’s disease had been eating away at Moira Sutter’s brain (12) it had gotten to the point

(32) pheew  (33) I didn’t want to prosecute this one (34) he’s a good man (35) who tried to spare his wife’s pain (36) and he did (37) what he did (38) because he loved her (39) just like Ms van Owen said (40) but he committed a murder (41) he knowingly reflectively put a gun to her temple (42) and blew her head off

(43) now they‘ve offered up a defense of diminished actuality (13) where she didn’t even know (44) but all the psychiatric evidence as who she was well as his own testimony make clear (14) and she would only suffer more (45) that his mental faculties were in complete working order (15a) and that fact made the person (46) however much you may FEEL for him (15b) it made him crazy (47) we have a job to do here (16) who loved her more than (48) a person cannot act unilaterally anybody (continued)

32     M. Bamberg and Z. Wipff Table 2.1  (continued) Defense lawyer:

District attorney:

(17) h  e wasn’t thinking about societal policy (18) h  e wasn’t thinking about legislative intent or criminal status (19) he was looking at his wife (20) t he person he had spent his entire adult life with (21) the person he cherished (22) he saw her pain (23) and he acted to end it

(49) to end another person’s life

(24) he saw her dignity (25) and he acted to preserve it (26) n  ow if you feel that Henry Sutter is a criminal (27) who should be punished (28) then find him guilty (29) but if you know otherwise (30) then please find otherwise (31) thank you

(50) and THAT’s (.) what Mr. Sutter did (51) she didn’t asked to die (52) she didn’t ask to be killed (53) there is no evidence whatsoever (54) that she wanted to stop living (55) HE (.) made that decision (.) all by himself (56) HE decided (57) that another person was unworthy of life (58) so he killed her (59) now we have two choices (60) either we permit that (61) or we don’t (62) and our society has chosen not to permit that (63) our laws say (64) that people cannot go around (65) deciding (66) who shall live (67) and who shall die (68) and that means (69) that this man committed a crime (70) and no matter how much compassion we ALL may FEEL for him (71) you cannot ignore that simple fact

The full episode of LA Law (Bochco 1990, The Last Gasp ) is available for p ­ ublic viewing at; the smaller take out referred to here is available at - including a full transcript

District Attorney Thematic Segments Lines 32–42: The DA opens in the same way as the DL, i.e., with a ­ personal aside about himself, positioning himself as

2  Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment     33

empathetic—though only to dismantle this/his emotion as irrelevant for this case of ‘murder.’ Lines 43–45: He discredits the argument of ‘diminished actuality’ as not holding up; implying that therefore, this is a case of ‘murder’—and not ‘manslaughter’ (or anything else). Lines 46–54: He argues that there is no case of ‘assisted suicide’ or ‘voluntary euthanasia.’ Lines 55–58: He lays out that HS’s actions were intended, planned, and as such components of a decision-making process that led up to the causation of MS’s death. Lines 59–71: …culminating in his ‘closing statement’ that societal moral rules outweigh individually felt compassion and empathy, thereby attempting to undo the alignment with the jury intended by the DL.

Story As in the DL’s statement, there is only a bare minimum of story elements in the DA’s account. In lines 40–42, we find two (transitive) action clauses: putting a gun to her temple + blowing her head off. Line 55 actually does not depict an action but a mental process making, a (unilateral) decision—that leads to an action (killing ). The way we could summarize the story here is even more plain comparing to the DL’s account: He caused MS’s death. Note, there is no setting, no introducing HS as a person, nor his wife MS. The use of the third-person pronoun (lines 34 ff.) is only possible if speaker and audience can assume full referential continuity from the DL’s story. In addition, the thematic continuation of the DL’s empathetic stance allows for a smooth transition into the DA’s story—foreshadowing the upcoming contrast in positioning.

Positioning The DA’s character positioning and hence his strategic positioning as DA are opposed to the positioning of the DL. The two characters, referred to as ‘Mr. Sutter ’ (only later, in line 50), and ‘she’ (not mentioning her name), are positioned in a loving and caring relationship

34     M. Bamberg and Z. Wipff

(lines 34–38), in line with the DL’s strategy of character positioning. However, this line of positioning is called into question as irrelevant by the DA in the following: HS is said to have intentionally placed himself in contrast to others, who embrace and adhere to a societal moral order that is best characterized as an ‘ethics of justice’ (Gilligan 1982, 1987). There is no temporal path (as in the DL’s depiction of character development), so that HS seemingly acted out of a moral conception that is acontextual, standing alone, and independent. At the same time, HS’s act is positioned as preconceived, calculated and deliberate—the motive for action could have been as well to commit insurance fraud. It is this principle of justice that requires the positioning of himself as DA which, in turn, requires his positioning as third-person narrator of HS in the story told.3

Summary: What Is in Conflict? Whether the two moral perspectives of justice and care range on polar opposites (Botes 2000), or whether justice presupposes and is dependent on care (Moore 1999), and to what degree they connote ­gender-specific orientations (Gilligan 1982, 1987), has been discussed elsewhere. Here, we are considering them as discourses that are available to make sense of people’s actions. When appropriated to sequence temporal events that have moral implications, i.e., when employing ‘justice’ or ‘care’ to construe characters for narrative purposes, they imbue speakers due to their status as master narratives, i.e., they provide background assumptions for communicative and interpersonal purposes. Both do not necessarily compete with or even necessarily relate to one another—they are alternative sense-making strategies and are


should be kept in mind that we are analyzing a fictional representation for viewers that is produced through the lens of cameras. Camera angle, sequence and duration of shots and other techniques are extremely important in the production of emotion transportation (generating affective responses in the viewer)—as for instance the coinciding of a pointing gesture of the DA at one of the jury members with line 67, and, what will be viewed as the juror’s facio-affective reaction—all taken in by the viewer and bodily-affectively processed.

2  Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment     35

likely be employed by the same people at different occasions.4 The master narrative of justice seems to lend itself better for the construction of characters as singular and autonomous, and their agency as rationally self-reflective and self-oriented—in contrast to the care narrative that focuses more strongly on relationships with others, contextual connectivity and a sense of shared agency. Both may have different roots from where and how they may have derived their powers: justice more likely as a universally given trait-like principle versus care as a socialized and culturally contextualized value. However, the ways they have been employed in the courtroom in the above example turns them from their original status as master narratives—as so to speak ‘sitting on the shelves’—into counter-narratives in practice. They are given their illocutionary forces to oppose each other: the master narrative of justice to construe the character of ‘the criminal,’ so justice can be served— and the master narrative of care to break down and undo this construct by placing the person and the sequence of events into the contexts of personal, relational, and affective connections. In ‘justice,’ the criminal is contextualized in an abstract relationship of principles that define criminals as principally other and different—leaving any development of ­‘how-they-became-different’ unsaid. This of course will raise the question of how to ‘correct ’ the rejection of having a personal history and re-integrate the principally different into a communal ‘same.’ We will follow up on the construct of ‘the criminal’ and how narrative approaches can contribute to be critical of this construct in the next section. At this point, we just would like to reiterate the argument laid out above, namely that a clear division between master and counter-narrative as opposing each other would potentially do more harm than benefit. Preferably, their relationship deserves to be explored in context and by context-sensitive means of fine-grained analytic procedures so that the tension between master and counter can be explored deeper and more productively with regard to potential repercussions for change. 4We

made a similar point when analyzing medical interactions between doctors, nursing staff, and researchers (cf. Bamberg 1991; Bamberg and Budwig 1992), emphasizing how caring and curing form two differing sense-making strategies (master narratives) that typically ‘sit’ side-byside, but at certain circumstances can collide and lead to miscommunication.

36     M. Bamberg and Z. Wipff

Master—Counter—and the Narrative Construction of ‘the Criminal’ A person who lied is branded a liar; who cheated, a cheater; and who broke the law and committed a crime is branded a criminal— technically speaking even who speeds in a speeding zone. This is what nominalizations do. They generalize from an act to the actor, attributing to the person an internal trait-like essence that may arguably assist others in the generation of future expectations vis-à-vis them. However, we all know that liars, cheaters, nor criminals exist in their pure forms. This message is wonderfully heightened in John Hughes’ iconic ’80s movie The Breakfast Club (Hughes 1985), starting out with five cliché-like juveniles playing out their stereotypic differences, and ending with their collective insight, declaring ‘that each of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.’5 As noted above, placing characters in a space and timeline of stories, narrators have options which events to pick and how to sequence them in time. And in doing so narrators position themselves vis-à-vis background assumptions that we defined as master narratives. The criminal as a protagonist in story constructs typically gains their persona by being placed in highly agentive roles. If events ‘happen’ without any agency and intentionality, no one can be held fully responsible and blameworthy. In terms of characterizing criminals as same-or-different vis-à-vis others, and potentially allowing space for probable empathy, criminals are placed in an antagonistic constellation vis-à-vis commonly shared values, and therefore are marked off as different in relation to others—so different that ‘we’—in opposition to ‘them’—are in need to be protected from them.6 Finally, the focus on their otherness as narrative characters, alongside with their agentive involvement and responsibility for their (harmful) action, 5We recommend watching the ending scene of The Breakfast Club, retrieved February 14, 2020, from Interestingly, for the German version ( the character of ‘the criminal’ is dubbed ‘ein Freak.’ 6These kinds of constructs reach back as far as Adler’s (1931) and other psychologists’ ruminations about ‘asocial’ personality characteristics of the criminal.

2  Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment     37

typically doesn’t require a spacious contextualization for why criminal actions took place: They could have—and simply should have—been avoided by the person who committed the crime. Adopting this type of narrative script-line for how to draft a criminal character, those who are accused—and anyone who is coming to their defense—are forced to devise a counter-narrative: one that shields from being constructed as criminal, i.e., with high agency, being different/other, and acontextualized—with no past (and no future). And apparently ‘not-having,’ or at least not presenting, ‘a narrative,’ as in the case of convicted ‘Clark Rockefeller’ (Bamberg 2011), is even worse, because if there is no story, there generally can be no trust nor empathy. Now, having argued that ‘in order to have justice served’ there can be no real place for narrative in the courtroom, we, the public, and in total contrast, seem to be obsessed with convicts’ stories, as evidenced by the long history of criminal and legal drama tv-shows. And whether this may be due to distance ourselves from ‘them,’ but also to watch the unfolding drama of what drives ‘them,’ i.e., what’s going on in ‘Criminal Minds ’ and how that compares to ‘Ordinary People,’ cannot be followed up here. Nevertheless, as a consequence, any attempt to counter the conventional construction of the criminal is inevitably in the defensive and loaded with identity dilemmas: (i) forced to downplay agency (also called ‘neutralization techniques,’ cf. Sykes and Matza 1957) which is likely to come across as a denial of responsibility; (ii) forced to borrow communal constructions of the self, rather than the rational, intentional and acontextual ‘lone wolf;’ and (iii) forced to what Georgakopoulou (2020, this volume) calls rescripting what happened in terms of plausible narrative scripts of contextual precursors, such as character or personality traits, dysfunctional family histories, traumatic childhood, stress, or similar kinds of antecedent ‘causes’—likely to be heard as ‘telling it like it isn’t’ (Coates and Wade 2004). To be clear, this is not to deny that these kinds of strategic rescriptions are used (and abused) in defense strategies (and surfacing as insanity or diminished actuality pleas or as blaming the victim strategies), and they commonly are used to diminish actual crimes committed. The point here is simply that the navigation of criminals’ identity dilemmas (agency, communal alignment, and developmental path) is extremely constrained by the

38     M. Bamberg and Z. Wipff

dominant master narrative of justice against which the narrative identity of the criminal finds itself pitted. Researchers who work with self-narratives of offenders predominantly make use of interviews and center their analysis on the thematic content of those interviews, trying to map ‘narratives or elements thereof onto patterns of crime’ (Presser and Sandberg 2015, p. 13). Canter et al. (in press), for instance, attribute to criminals’ stories (alongside with questionnaires) a certain predictive power ‘for understanding the instigation of crime and distance from it’ as well as ‘providing the basis for future actions’. Our approach presented here (and elsewhere—cf. Bamberg 2020; Bamberg and Wipff 2020) recommends a note of caution for licensing these hopes. First, interviews, just like any interactions that generate narratives, require an analysis that goes deeper than analyzing themes and content. Second, it is the narrator’s positions brought off in the interaction vis-à-vis dominant narratives that stand in need to be interrogated for their illocutionary force so that the question can be addressed as to why speakers/narrators adopt a particular story at the particular moment in their interactions. And last but not least, it is the criminal identity ascription by the justice machinery that calls for being countered, and how this can be done successfully is at the core of what is being discussed under the header of critical criminology (cf. Sandberg 2009; Sandberg and Anderson 2019; Barton et al. 2019). The dilemma of establishing a compelling and believable authentic narrative that counters the construction of the criminal is relevant for all correction attempts, as evident particularly in parole hearings. While narrative approaches that focus on the thematic content of narratives (e.g., the redemptive self—cf. McAdams 1993) hold the content of inmates’ stories for the temporal span from incarceration to going up for parole being in need to be changed, the narrative practice approach that we have advocated insists that this may not only be insufficient, but steering toward a questionable path. As argued in the parameters of the narrative practice approach, all storytelling requires the positional navigation of (i) agency-passivity (ii) sameness-difference vis-à-vis others and (iii) constancy and change across time. The criminal’s charge for parole hearings consists of the additional pressure having to navigate the challenges posed by the master narrative of criminality and its fellow in the form of the justice machinery, i.e., to fashion a story of

2  Counter-Narratives of Crime and Punishment     39

transformation from the (highly agentive and isolated) story character, who was convicted of crime, to someone who is able to pass the (communal) trustworthiness-test and set to be free. To be able to engage in the type of narrative practices that may prepare inmates long-term, and not just for the parole hearing, we would argue the necessity of an interactive, performative space where this complex navigation process is subject to interactive practices. Wright’s suggestion for prisons to set aside ‘liminal temporal sites where trajectories of past and present identities intersect’ (Wright 2014, p. 34) is pointing toward one possible window of opportunity to accomplish precisely this. Institutional provisions for what Maruna terms ‘restorative rituals’ (Maruna 2016, p. 294) may be another one. A third one we would like to mention is the provision of an interactive space to engage in ‘social games’ in jails to address problems parents and their children experience as a result of parental incarceration (Markussen and Knutz 2017). These and other more recent developments in (narrative) criminology in our opinion represent interesting counter-narratives better aligned with the narrative practice approach. As such, they go farther than earlier attempts that worked with the redemptive narrative script in restorative justice practices (e.g., Maruna 2001; Maruna and Lebel 2003; McAdams 1993), and as such are more promising and hopeful.

References Adler, A. (1931). Die kriminelle Persönlichkeit und ihre Heilung. Internationale Zeitschrift für Individualpsychologie, 9, 321–329. Bamberg, M. (1991). Voices of curing and caring: The role of vagueness and ambiguity in informed consent discussions. Family Systems Medicine, 9(4), 329–342. Bamberg, M. (2005). Agency. In D. Herman, M. Jahn, & M.-L Ryan (Eds.), Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory (pp. 9–10). London: Routledge. Bamberg, M. (2011). Narrative practice and identity navigation. In J. A. Holstein & J. F. Gubrium (Eds.), Varieties of narrative analysis (pp. 99–124). London: Sage Publications. Bamberg, M. (2020). Narrative analysis: An integrative approach—Small stories and narrative practices. In M. Järvinen & N. Mik-Meyer (Eds.), Qualitative analysis—Eight traditions (pp. 243–264). London: Sage Publications.

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Bamberg, M., & Budwig, N. (1992). Therapeutic misconceptions: When the voices of caring and research are misconstrued as the voice of curing. Ethics and Behavior, 2(3), 165–184. Bamberg, M., & Wipff, Z. (2020). Re-considering counter narratives. In: K. Lueg & M. Wolf Lundholt (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of counternarratives (pp. 60–72). London: Routledge. Barton, A., & Davis, H., & Scott, D. (2019). Quiet silencing: Restricting the criminological imagination in the neoliberal university. In A. Diver (Ed.), Employability via higher education: Sustainability as scholarship (pp. 525– 540). Bochco, S. (Writer), & Wallace, R. (Director). L.A. law. (May 17, 1990). The last gasp. Botes, A. (2000). A comparison between the ethics of justice and the ethics of care. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 32(5), 1071–1075. Canter, D., Rowlands, D., & Youngs, D. (in press). Criminals’ personal narratives as a form of identity. In M. Bamberg, M. Watzlawick, & C. Demuth (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Chriss, J. J. (2006). Giddings and the social mind. Journal of Classical Sociology, 6(1), 123–144. Coates, L., & Wade, A. (2004). Telling it like it isn’t: Obscuring perpetrator responsibility for violent crime. Discourse & Society, 15(5), 499–526. Durkheim, E. (1915). The elementary forms of the religious life: A study in religious sociology. New York: Macmillan. Georgakopoulou, A. (2020, this volume). Small stories research and ­narrative criminology: ‘Plotting’ an alliance. In M. Althoff, B. Dollinger, & H. Schmidt (Eds.,) Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment (pp. 43–61). Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Gilligan, C. (1987). Moral orientation and moral development. In E. Kittay & D. Meyers (Eds.), Women and moral theory (pp. 19–33). Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Gilligan, C.  (2018).  Moral orientation and moral development [1987]. In Justice and care: Essential readings in feminist ethics (pp. 31–46). Taylor and Francis. Hughes, J. W. (Director) (1985). The breakfast club. [Film] Universal Pictures. Markussen, T., & Knutz, E. (2017). Playful participation in social games. Conjunctions: Transdisciplinary Journal of Cultural Participation, 4(1), 1–20.

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Maruna S. (2001). Making good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://dx.doi. org/10.1037/10430-000. Maruna, S. (2016). Desistance and restorative justice: It’s now or never. Restorative Justice, 4(3), 289–301. 1243853. Maruna, S., & LeBel, T. P. (2003). Welcome home? Examining the ‘reentry court’ concept from a strengths-based perspective. Western Criminology Review, 4(2), 91–107. McAdams, D. P. (1993). The stories we live by: Personal myths and the making of the self. London: Guilford Press. ISBN 9781572301887. Moore, M. (1999). The ethics of care and justice. Women & Politics, 20(2),  1–16, Presser, L., & Sandberg, S. (2015). Introduction: What is the story? In L. Presser & S. Sandberg (Eds.), Narrative criminology: Understanding stories of crime (pp. 1–20). New York: New York University Press. Sandberg, S. (2009). A narrative search for respect. Deviant Behaviour, 30(6), 487–510. Sandberg, S., & Andersen, J. C. (2019). Opposing violent extremism through counternarratives: Four forms of narrative resistance. In J. Fleetwood, L. Presser, S. Sandberg & T. Ugelvik (Eds.), The emerald handbook of ­narrative criminology (pp. 445–466). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing. https://doi. org/10.1108/978-1-78769-005-920191036. Searle, J. R. (1994). Literary theory and its discontents. New Literary History, 25(3), 637–667. Searle, J. R. (2010). Making the social world: The structure of human civilization. Oxford: University Press. Sykes, G. M, & Matza, D. (1957). Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review, 22(6), 664–670. Wickramagamage, C., & Miller, J. (2019). Stories that are skyscraper tall: The place of ‘tall tales’ in narrative criminology In J. Fleetwood, L. Presser, S. Sandberg & T. Ugelvik (Eds.), The Emerald handbook of narrative criminology (pp. 109–128). Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing. https://doi. org/10.1108/978-1-78769-005-920191013. Wright, R. (2014). Identities, education and reentry (Pt. 1 of 2): Identities and performative spaces. Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 1(1), 32–41.

3 Small Stories Research and Narrative Criminology: ‘Plotting’ an Alliance Alex Georgakopoulou

Introduction Small stories research, a framework for narrative and ­ identitiesin-interaction analysis, was developed with the intention of providing a critical analytical way for interrogating the focus of narrative studies on interview-generated, coherent and teller-led stories and the marginalisation of fleeting counter-stories, emergent in everyday-life environments. In this chapter, my aim is to ‘recommend’ small stories research as an approach that can contribute to the (further) development of contextualised, social interactional perspectives on stories and identities within narrative criminology. As I will show below, this involves an emphasis on the communicative how of stories and their links with the local occasion of their telling at the same time as offering tools for attending to and uncovering counter-stories. In addition, I will argue that small stories research can facilitate the exploration of the relations A. Georgakopoulou (*)  King’s College London, London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


44     A. Georgakopoulou

between personal and collective or public stories (see Feilzer, this volume). The boundaries between the two have become ever so porous in the era of social media and globalisation and this has implications for narrative-based strands in different disciplines. Sandberg aptly suggests, in relation to his data of offenders’ stories, that narrative criminologists need to interrogate the role of such ‘new postmodern forms of communication’ in shaping “offender” talk’ (2013. p. 230). Particularly in the context of crime and punishment, greater attention seems relevant to fleeting and seemingly insignificant stories, as these are often connected to situations in which stigmatisation and sanctions are threatening. Small stories research, as I will show below, has lately been systematised so as to provide a model for analysing processes and practices of emergence, development and distribution of stories on social media. Drawing on my latest work on this, I will specifically introduce three key concepts of sharing stories, narrative stancetaking, rescripting and ­story-linking. Overall, for the purposes of narrative perspectives on criminal justice, the conceptual apparatus of small stories research allows analysts to explore the role of experience-centred, affective processes in the transformation of certain narrative accounts as more visible and widely available. Below, I will first outline the foundations of small stories, especially their affiliations with ethnographic, practice-based approaches to communication as well as with social interactional approaches to positioning. I will then present the main rationale, methods and analytical tools for extending small stories research to the field of narrative criminology.

The Inception of Small Stories Research Small stories research was developed so as to account conceptually and analytically for a range of narrative activities that had not been sufficiently studied in conversational contexts nor had their importance for the interlocutors’ identity work been recognised. These mainly involved stories that present fragmentation and open-endedness of tellings, exceeding the confines of a single speech event and resisting a neat categorisation of beginning-middle-end. They were invariably heavily

3  Small Stories Research and Narrative Criminology …     45

co-constructed, rendering the sole teller’s story ownership problematic. Small stories research thus made a case for including in conventional narrative analysis: a gamut of under-represented and ‘a-typical’ narrative activities, such as tellings of ongoing events, future or hypothetical events, shared (known) events, but also allusions to tellings, deferrals of tellings, and refusals to tell.1 (Georgakopoulou 2006, p. 130)

In this way, in its early stages and in collaboration with Michael Bamberg (e.g. Bamberg 2006; Georgakopoulou 2006, 2007; Bamberg and Georgakopoulou 2008), we put forth small stories research as a counter-move to dominant models of narrative studies that: a. defined narrative restrictively and on the basis of textual criteria; b. privileged a specific type of narrative, in particular the long, relatively uninterrupted, teller-led accounts of past events or of one’s life story, typically elicited in research interview situations; c. placed emphasis on the ‘biographical content’ and the whats of stories as opposed to their communicative how and its links with tellers’ identities (Phoenix and Sparkes 2009, pp. 222–223). We have specifically argued that any definitional criteria of stories should be seen as context-specific, and that the full continuum that each allows for should be explored in each case. Accepting the contextual variability and relativity of the norms for types and ways of storytelling precludes any inherent prioritisation of prototypical ends. Instead, the assumption should be that in different contexts, different ends of the continua may be foregrounded, different criteria may weigh differently, different schemas for the organisation of experience may hold. For instance, world-making rather than world-disruption


though many of the small stories in face-to-face conversations are indeed small in length, the term ‘small stories’ itself should not be interpreted literally but more as a metaphor for neglected, disenfranchised communication activities in the minutiae of ordinary life.

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may be more important for some stories in certain contexts. In the same vein, there may be a distinct preference for the sequenced events of a story to be about the future and not about the past in certain contexts (Georgakopoulou 2007). Indeed, the criterion of event sequencing has tended to privilege the temporal ordering of past rather than future or hypothetical events, but, as I have shown, this should not preclude the identification of such data as stories or their inclusion in a narrative analysis. In addition to this, small stories research argues for the inclusion of emic criteria in definitions of narrative as complementing and even overriding etic criteria. Emic views can be attested in, e.g. participants’ reflexive discourses (Georgakopoulou 2013a, 2014) on their activities, their meta-pragmatic marking and orientation to an activity as a story. Ethnographic methods of data collection ensure access to these data too. Beyond the above suggestive ways of identifying an activity as a (small) story, we also urge the analysts to pose the question of what difference it makes if an activity is viewed as a story: What will the analysis miss out on, if it does not see it as a story? What is at stake for the analyst and what is their investment in embracing the narrative perspective on the study of everyday-life discourse activities? The broader context of small stories research is to be found in poststructuralist, anti-essentialist views of self, society and culture which stress the multiplicity, fragmentation, context-specificity and performativity of communication practices as well as of identities in discourse (see De Fina and Georgakopoulou 2012, ch. 6). All narrative meaning-making is thus seen as contextualised but also as having the potential to be lifted from its original context and to be ­re-contextualised, that is to acquire new meanings in new contexts (cf. Bauman and Briggs 1990). The historicity and circulation of stories become part of the analysis. Since the inception of small stories research, empirical work has been done to add nuance to the general descriptor of ‘small stories’, so as to bring to the fore the specific genres of small stories that occur in specific contexts and that ought to be included in the narrative analytic lens (for details, see Georgakopoulou 2015a). This work has uncovered different types of social organisation and relations that warrant or

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prohibit small stories, from friendship groups to social media platforms, deliberation focus-groups and professional organisations (Juswik and Ives 2010; Sprain and Hughes 2015; Watson 2007). It has also shown conventional associations between specific types of small stories, social worlds in the tales and tellings and tellers’ situated and larger identities (Georgakopoulou 2007). For example, I have shown the links of small stories of breaking news on social media, e.g. on Facebook statuses, with specific storyteller identities and modes of audience engagement (2017b).

A Heuristic for Analysis I have developed a heuristic for the analysis of small stories, which explores the connections of three separable but interrelated levels of analysis, as a flexible way of analysing stories-in-context: ways of ­telling—sites—tellers (Georgakopoulou 2007). ‘Ways of telling’ refer to the communicative how: the socioculturally shaped and more or less conventionalised semiotic and, in particular, verbal choices of a story. I have been especially interested in uncovering iterativity in the types of stories told as recurrent ways of (inter)acting, embedded in recurrent social practices and engendering expectations about the ongoing activity (Georgakopoulou 2013a). The stories’ plots, the types of events and experience that they narrate, the ways in which they are interactionally managed during the telling, are all important in this respect. So are the intertextual links of the current story with other, previous and anticipated, stories. Emphasis on the how alongside the what and the who of stories in legal settings and, by extension, in narrative criminology can be a productive focus. For instance, it has by now been well-attested that the detail of how stories are told, including how events are sequenced, how places are named and brought into the story, what intonation and accent are employed by tellers, etc. have profound consequences for how asylum seekers’ applications are assessed and for whether the tellers themselves are deemed as being legally entitled to protection (Maryns 2014). The credibility or plausibility of a story is, therefore, not objective, context-free facts. They are, instead, assessables,

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based on institutional conventions and norms that stipulate specific ways of storytelling as more ‘authentic’, credible and tellable than others. This results in certain narrative accounts being more expected and valued than others in specific contexts. In turn, this renders stories into a site of inequality in the treatment of different individuals. Such findings point to a need for a re-examination of the longstanding—within narrative criminology (too)—focus on the truth of the events of stories, as if it were a transparent and referential indication of a teller’s experience and positioning, holding across situations. In addition, the ‘hierarchies of credibility’ (Becker 1967) inherent in a criminal justice system, should be explored contextually, through a micro-analytic lens on the ways of stoytelling and in relation to individual tellers’ access and ability to provide tellable accounts. ‘Sites’ in the analytical heuristic of ‘ways of telling-sites-tellers’ refer to the social spaces in which narrative activities take place. These include situational context factors ranging from physical (e.g. seating arrangements) to mediational tools that the participants may employ. My view of sites is informed by practice-based approaches to language and place that argue for a dialectic relationship between them and see a place not as a monolithic, static entity but as heterogeneous, allowing for certain language and interaction choices and not others (see Baynham 2015). Stories perform actions in situ and they are integrally connected with social practices, with what gets done, how and by whom in specific places. Sites thus allow us to explore the significance of social spaces not just for the here-and-now of the telling activities but also for the taleworlds invoked in the participants’ stories. A study of small stories and identities is incomplete without attention to the actual tellers, as participants of a communicative activity and as complex entities: here-and-now communicators with particular roles of participation; characters in their tales; members of social and cultural groups; last but not least, as individuals with specific biographies, including habits, beliefs, hopes, desires, fears, etc. In narrative-based disciplines where the subjects of inquiry often come with pre-allocated roles (e.g. doctor–patient, judge–offender, interviewer–interviewee), attending to such a multiplicity of storytellers’ identities affords a more nuanced and holistic approach to individuals as well as integrating their

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storytelling repertoires into the analysis of their identities. Once again, the who and the what of storytelling are seen as being fashioned into and shaped by the how of storytelling. Specifically, studies of offenders’ stories have begun to show the multiplicity, ambivalence and fragmentation of their accounts. This suggests that the bias of previous studies in identifying and analysing unified and coherent narratives (‘big stories’) is not representative of the realities on the ground, failing to take into account how tellers draw upon different and even contradictory discourses (see Brookman 2015; Sandberg 2010). In Sandberg’s terms, narrative criminologists need to develop, fine-tune and utilise methodologies and techniques that allow them to capture the dialogic nature and interdiscursivity of stories (2013, p. 228); he adds that ‘there may be much to learn from the small stories of offenders told in passing’ (p. 229). Following multi-layered approaches to context, I accept that the ways in which the three levels above are connected present contingency ­(context-specificity) but also durability: some relations become conventional and hold above individual contexts of storytelling. Furthermore, ways of telling-sites-tellers are reconfigured differently in the different recontextualisations of a story across time and space as well as in different environments. As no contextualised analysis of stories can be exhaustive, however, there is an acceptance that different analyses will have different priorities and that certain questions may require more focus on any one of the three analytical levels. To forge links between the above interrelated levels of ­stories-incontext, I draw on positioning analysis in its connections with small stories (Bamberg and Georgakopoulou 2008; Georgakopoulou 2013b). In doing so, I seek to identify and establish any iterativity (i.e. systematic recurrence) in the following: a. How characters are presented in the taleworld, their relations, evaluative attributions, activities and overall placement in time and place (Level 1 ). b. How a story is locally occasioned and distributed. Who participates and how? Who ratifies, legitimates or contests which part of the story? Who co-authors, what and how? (Level 2 ).

50     A. Georgakopoulou

c. What aspects of the key character(s), events and narrated experience are presented as generaliseable and holding above and beyond the specific story (Level 3 ). There is an ongoing debate in the literature regarding how these three levels of positioning can be extended or further systematised so as to advance the analysis of identities in and through stories. Ethnographic understandings and tracking of iterative choices have been proposed as ways for tapping into operative discourses in stories and into how participants both invoke and are pre-positioned by them (De Fina 2013; Georgakopoulou 2013b).

Outreach and Translocations Small stories and positioning analysis have been employed in a variety of perspectives on narrative: e.g. narrative psychology, sports sociology and psychology, organisational sociology, well-being and ageing studies, narrative inquiry perspectives on language education (e.g. Norton and Early 2011; Simpson 2011; Phoenix and Sparkes 2009; Vasquez 2011). Despite differences in the main questions and concerns of such fields as well as in the analytical modes employed in such applications, one common thread is the aim to challenge dominant idioms about the self and the life story that are supported by mainstream narrative research. In this respect, we can claim that small stories research has been taken up as a critical framework for narrative and identities analysis that encourages the researchers to reflect on their positions and stakes in the field (Norton and Early 2011). This partly involves small stories research being in the service of approaches that interrogate essentialist links between stories and identities thus bringing to the fore silenced, untold, devalued and discarded stories in numerous institutional or research-regulated (e.g. interviews) contexts. Small stories then frequently emerge as counter-stories (see Bamberg and the introduction in this volume, see also chapters in Bamberg and Andrews 2004; Bamberg 2010). Counter-stories involve stories that are not encouraged or allowed in specific environments, do not fit expectations of who the tellers should be or of dominant discourses, and

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through which tellers introduce contradictions, dilemmas and tensions (Oostendorp and Jones 2015). In this respect, small stories research has increasingly served as an epistemology rather than as a mere analytical toolkit (Schiff 2017). It has become an ideological standpoint for the analyst who seeks to ‘listen’ to such counter-stories, make them hearable (e.g. Galasinska 2009; Lee 2013; Phoenix and Sparkes 2009; Spreckels 2008; see also the introduction in this volume) and in the process do justice to tellers’ agentive moments and resistances, however localised and fleeting these may be (Juswik and Ives 2010; Lenchuk and Swain 2010).

Extending Small Stories Research to Narrative Criminology The numerous applications and outreach of small stories research thus far recommend it as a critical micro-perspective on narrative-based strands of research within established disciplines. These, I argue, should include narrative criminology. By now, it is well-recognised that stories play a key role in a variety of legal settings, exchanges and actors in them (e.g. judges, witnesses, lawyers, etc.; see discussion in Shuman and Bohmer forthcoming; Trinch 2010) as well as in the identity work of offenders in interview situations (e.g. Sandberg 2013). In Presser’s terms, ‘in-depth qualitative accounts about one’s actions— stories—remain the very best data with which researchers might retrieve the meanings that people give to their own violations, including violations that state officials do not know or care about’ (2010, p. 431). Alongside this recognition, however, there is much scope in narrative criminology for a focus on how stories are told and what this signals for the identities of their tellers, how different contexts shape and evaluate storytelling, how counter-stories emerge and what the relations of personal, experience-based stories are with widely circulating, collective accounts. Small stories research can help with addressing these questions. Specifically, in the light of this chapter’s discussion so far, small stories research can offer tools and modes of analysis for:

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a. Recognising and analysing the role of sociocultural and situational context in the production of stories, including the dynamics of co-construction between tellers and audiences and, indeed, the researchers themselves, thus facilitating researcher reflexivity. b. Identifying and exploring the interplay between dominant and ­counter-stories in tellers’ accounts, thus serving as a model for looking beyond coherent accounts and not taking them at face value. c. Investigating the inter-animation and mutual feeding of personal and collective, widely available stories, especially in current contexts of social media-afforded processes of distribution and amplification of certain accounts. Drawing on my latest work on small stories on social media, I will now flesh out points (b) and (c) above, by introducing key concepts for analysing the personal and the collective in storytelling. As I am not a (narrative) criminologist, nor have I worked with any material from the criminal justice system, the following discussion by no means constitutes a prescriptive model for narrative criminology. It is, instead, offered as a sensitising perspective, pointing to possible avenues of exploration, in the hope that specialists in the area may find creatively (re)working some of the ideas and modes of analysis of small stories research a productive way in addressing questions of relevance in their field.

The Personal and the Collective in Processes of Sharing Stories My analytical encounter with small stories happened in two ethnographically studied environments of social interaction amongst female adolescents, one in Greece (2007), and one in a London school (2008a, 2008b). In my more recent work, however, I have documented a close association of small stories with the pervasive presence of social media in everyday life (at least in Western contexts; Georgakopoulou 2013c, 2014). I have noted a set of features that conventional narrative analysts would see as a-typical or non-canonical, being salient in different

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social media platforms and practices, from Facebook to YouTube and Twitter, from statuses to spoof videos, remixes and retweets. These features include fragmentation and open-endedness of stories, exceeding the confines of a single posting and site and resisting a neat categorisation of beginning-middle-end. They also involve multi-semioticity and multiple authoring of a story, as it may become shared across media platforms. In addition, there is a tendency for reporting mundane, ordinary and in some cases, trivial events from the poster’s everyday life, rather than big complications or disruptions. Small stories research, having developed tools for examining fragmented, transposable and a-typical stories, is well-placed to provide a sound methodological basis for exploring stories on social media, in particular for how certain types of stories, tellings and tellers, end up becoming more visible and valued than others. In turn, insights from this latest line of inquiry into small stories are well-placed to feed back into analyses of small stories in other contexts. Such insights include fine-tuning the flexible definitions of ‘story’ and ‘plot’, as developed within small stories research (2015, 2016a, b, 2017a, b; Georgakopoulou and Giaxoglou 2018). I argue that stories should be explored as processes of story-making and sharing, found in fleeting moments of tellers locating their experience in time and place and beginning to make tentative, meaningful connections between people, (inter)actions and emotions. I have also shown (2014, 2015b) that the collectivisation of personal stories and the becoming of certain accounts as more widely available than others relies on two systematic (social media-afforded) practices: Narrative stancetaking:  The brevity and live-sharing afforded by social media environments are conducive to announcements of stories (breaking news ) as opposed to full tellings. Conventionalised story-framing devices are used to tell a condensed story or to suggest that there is a story in the making (Georgakopoulou 2017b). These devices include: reference to time, place, events, characters and/or associations amongst them. As I have argued elsewhere (2013b, 2017a, b), small stories often begin with or are confined to narrative stancetaking. Breaking news

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pre-dated social media, as I have shown in my study of the remediation of this particular genre of small stories (2017a), but social media affordances have inadvertently made it a salient mode of sharing personal happenings and current affairs on the go and in-the-moment. I have also shown how narrative stancetaking does an important job of participation inclusion and exclusion, by, for instance, providing the opportunity for specific audiences to serve as potential story (co-)tellers and recipients. This anticipates and proposes subsequent sites of story circulation and audiences as well as potential routes for story-linking, that its, for creating analogies between a specific story-in-the-making and other stories, akin to rescripting processes. With story-linking, users can ‘borrow’ and appropriate other stories, so as to suit their moment, and they often create analogies with their experience. Beyond social media, an analytical focus on moments of narrative stancetaking is significant in my view for two reasons: first, it allows the analyst to attend to and document stories not as products, but as relational processes of becoming. Second, it offers a way of tapping into the often overseen processes of condensed allusiveness in stories. These have the power of drawing on and (re)creating hierarchies of knowing vs. non-knowing participants (Georgakopoulou 2016a, b). In situations where issues of truth, accuracy and credibility of stories are at stake, what is (assumed to be) shared or not, what is understood as being shared and what narrative stancetaking may be successfully taken up are bound to have implications for how stories and individuals are assessed. Rescripting:  The second key practice of sharing small stories attested to in my work involves the deployment of media affordances (e.g. video editing, remixing) for visually and/or verbally manipulating and reworking specific incidents (mainly relating to news events). Rescripting is essentially a manipulation of story plot ingredients (e.g. place, time, characters), so as to create analogies between an ‘original’ incident and other already circulated stories (Georgakopoulou 2015b). Reworking stories and creating intertextual links amongst them is a vital means for changing elements of the plot of specific accounts at the same time as amplifying them at the expense of others. In my study of how small stories get distributed on social media (2013c, 2014), I found that

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rescripting processes were instrumental in creating a ‘hero’ on social media out of the then spokesperson of the Neo-Nazi, far-right political party Golden Dawn in Greece. Ilias Kasidiaris’s assault (7 June 2012) on national TV of two female left-wing politicians2 as part of a political discussion panel led to viral, satirical rescriptings of the incidents on social media, especially on YouTube, which, amongst others, lifted the incident from the TV studio and re-inserted it into a boxing ring, scenes of a Greek rom-com of the 60s, a beach where it was re-enacted by ordinary people, etc. This, in turn, effected changes in the plot, the protagonists’ characterisations based on gendered and personality roles other than their identities as politicians, and the evaluative stances on the original incident (idem). I have argued that this repeated multi-semiotic manipulation of the original event (i.e. what happened, the assault), the satirical insertion of the incident into popular culture stories and the engagement with it by different, multiple audiences, was at the heart of the social mediatised popularity that Kasidiaris achieved, since the wide distribution of the incident.3 Kasidiaris’ active social mediatised persona has involved popular portrayals of him as a macho, outspoken guy. His rants in the Greek Parliament and verbal abuse of fellow MPs lent themselves to uploadings of numerous videos with a viral quality. His social media persona thus began to emblematically stand for that of a guy who speaks his mind. Agha (2010) has suggested a comparable process of recycling of mediatised personae across different contexts, created by traditional media, through some kind of idealisation of certain personality aspects. This involves a process of reduction and homogenisation. My tracking of the rescripting of the incident and the mediatisation of Kasidiaris began to show the intermingling of the personal with the political, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the symbiosis of stories circulating on social media with the process of criminal justice, as a crackdown on Golden Dawn’s criminal activities began and 2He

threw a glass of water at one of them and debatably ‘slapped’ or ‘punched’ the other. It is hard to discern exactly which of the acts happened in the video clip which led to his fans and himself arguing for the ‘lesser’ offense of slapping. 3Elsewhere, I have discussed the ethical issues that this media-afforded hero-creation for Kasidiaris raised in the course of my research (2016).

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Kasidiaris himself was imprisoned in 2014. I was able to document in real time the media-afforded distribution and amplification of specific stories that presented Kasidiaris in a positive light, circulating alongside the criminalisation of his and his party. In addition, ‘offline’ events, such as Kasidiaris going to court charged with assault and in the end being acquitted (March 2015), would fuel a flurry of rescriptings and re-engagement with the original incident on social media. This intermingling of social media distribution of stories and sedimentation of specific evaluative viewpoints for the protagonists with processes of criminalisation (e.g. a high-profile court case in the present study) attest to what small stories research can offer in the exploration of the creation of collective stories within a narrative criminology framework. First, a focus on the how of stories as well as on their unfolding across sites and over time, as multiply authored activities, shows how the credibility and evaluation of specific events and modes of conduct are nowadays intimately connected with social mediatisation and networked audiences’ engagements with personal and public incidents. This includes the creation of small stories-based biographies for individuals: these mainly include a viral distribution of selected ‘emblematic events’ and ‘brief, portable, iterative assessments’ for them and the main characters (see Georgakopoulou and Giaxoglou 2018). Closely related to this, the wide availability and visibility of specific accounts at the expense of others was found to capitalise on facilities for rescripting. These show that the role of creatively and satirically manipulating the how of stories should not be underestimated in how it affects political, ethical and ideological underpinnings of specific incidents.

Conclusion The aim of this chapter has been to make a case for deploying small stories research as a perspective within narrative criminology, that is well suited to uncovering and analysing the contextually sensitive ­co-construction of stories and any moments of agency, resistance, performance but also ambivalence, dilemmas and contradictions for their tellers. To this effect, I distilled what I see as important starting points,

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routes and destinations of small stories research. These included the model’s critical engagement with previous research on narrative, its key assumptions and framework; the creative applications and synergies outside of the immediate analytical concerns of a sociolinguistic study of narrative and identities. In these synergies, small stories research, often combined with positioning, has shown the frequency and significance of tentative, contradictory, diverse identities that emerge in certain contexts as s­ elves-in-the-making, rather than as settled and reflected upon projects. I then moved to my recent work which involves the extension of small stories research into social media. Narrative analysis has a pivotal role to play in social media research for the documentation of genres of stories and (new) forms of subjectivities, but to do so, a radical departure from certain tropes and modes of conventional narrative research is needed. From this point of view, small stories research has been well-placed to offer alternative tools and concepts needed for such an inquiry. I charted above some directions that the current extension of small stories research into social media is taking and the key insights it has produced so far especially in relation to the distribution of stories and the interconnections between personal and collective stories. The insights of working with small stories on social media further attest to the need to define stories and plots flexibly, so as to uncover the ways in which storytellers nowadays narrate their lives within media-afforded formats of sharing-life-in-the-moment. I presented two systematic practices for sharing stories that emerged in my study, namely narrative stancetaking and rescripting, as potentially productive foci of inquiry within narrative criminology at a time at which the intense social mediatisation renders the ownership of stories more difficult to establish and the boundaries between personal and public events narration ever more porous (see Eisch-Angus 2020). As small stories research on social media is uncovering practices for posting stories on the intersection between specific modes of ­self-presentation, participation modes and affordances, we are increasingly in a position to find out more about the processes through which certain stories and, in turn subjectivities, are becoming more valued and widely available. Uncovering ideological forces in the creation of social

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media-amplified, dominant or master accounts through small stories, is emerging as a new priority for small stories research agenda. To conclude, narrative criminology can benefit from the small stories research modes of methods and analysis in uncovering forms of subjectivity through stories in interactional and social media environments. It is anticipated and hoped that a critical mass can be built out of creating imaginative and innovative alliances between any of the numerous and diverse explorations of small stories in the social sciences and lines of inquiry, priorities and concerns that are focal within narrative criminology. Small stories research has so far developed in a pluralised, multi-centric, non-totalising way beyond linear, one-sided models of influence or impact. Synergies with other areas have emerged as productive unpredictabilities and creative reworkings infusing small stories research with novel insights. An intersection with narrative criminology is hoped to expand on and enrich this ‘tradition’.

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Becker, H. S. (1967). Whose side are we on? Social Problems, 14, 239–247. Brookman, F. (2015). The shifting narratives of violent offenders. In L. Presser & S. Sandberg (Eds.), Narrative criminology: Understanding stories of crime (pp. 207–234). New York: New York University Press. De Fina, A. (2013). Positioning level 3: Connecting local identity displays to macro social processes. Narrative Inquiry, 23, 40–61. De Fina, A., & Georgakopoulou, A. (2012). Analyzing narrative: Discourse and sociolinguistic perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Eisch-Angus, K. (2020). Crime and narration. The creation of (in)security in everyday life. In M. Althoff, B. Dollinger, & H. Schmidt (Eds.), Conflicting narratives of crime and punishment. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Galasinska, A. (2009). Small stories fight back. Narratives of Polish economic migration on an internet forum. In A. Galasińska & M. Krzyżanowski (Eds.), Discourse and transformation in Central and Eastern Europe (pp. 188– 203). Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Georgakopoulou, A. (2006). Thinking big with small stories in narrative and identity analysis. Narrative Inquiry, 16(1), 122–130. Georgakopoulou, A. (2007). Small stories, interaction and identities. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Georgakopoulou, A. (2008a). ‘On MSN with buff boys’: Self- and o­theridentity claims in the context of small stories. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 12, 597–626. Georgakopoulou, A. (2008b). Reflection and self-disclosure from the small stories perspective: A study of identity claims in interview and conversational data. In D. Schiffrin, A. De Fina, & A. Nylund, (Eds.), Telling stories: Language, narrative, and social life (pp. 123–124). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. Georgakopoulou, A. (2013a). Building iterativity into positioning analysis: A practice-based approach to small stories and self. Special issue on positioning. Narrative Inquiry, 23, 89–110. Georgakopoulou, A. (2013b). Storytelling on the go: Breaking news stories as a travelling narrative genre. In M. Hatavara, L.-C. Hydén, & M. Hyvärinen (Eds.), The travelling concepts of narrative (pp. 201–224). John Benjamins: Amsterdam and Philadelphia. Georgakopoulou, A. (2013c). Small stories research and social media practices: Narrative stancetaking and circulation in a Greek news story. Sociolinguistica, 27, 87–100. Georgakopoulou, A. (2014). Small stories transposition & social media: A micro-perspective on the ‘Greek crisis’. Special issue. Discourse & Society, 25, 519–539.

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Georgakopoulou, A. (2015a). Small stories research: Issues, methods, applications. In A. De Fina & A. Georgakopoulou (Eds.), Handbook of narrative analysis (pp. 255–271). Wiley-Blackwell: Malden, MA. Georgakopoulou, A. (2015b). Sharing as rescripting. Place manipulations on YouTube between narrative and social media affordances. Discourse, Context & Media, 9, 64–72. Georgakopoulou, A. (2016a). From writing the self to posting self(ies): A small stories approach to selfies. Open Linguistics, 2, 300–317. Georgakopoulou, A. (2016b). Friendly comments: Interactional displays of alignment on Facebook and YouTube. In S. Leppänen, S. Kytölä, & E. Westinen (Eds.), Discourse and identification: Diversity and heterogeneity in social media practices (pp. 178–207). London: Routledge. Georgakopoulou, A. (2017a). Narrative/life of the moment. From telling a story to taking a narrative stance. In B. Schiff, E. McKim, & S. Patron (Eds.), Life and narrative. The risks and responsibilities of storying experience (pp. 29–54). New York: Oxford University Press. Georgakopoulou, A. (2017b). Sharing the moment as small stories: The interplay between practices & affordances in the social media-curation of lives. Special Issue. Storytelling in the digital age. Narrative Inquiry, 27, 311–333. Georgakopoulou, A. (2019). Designing stories on social media: A c­orpusassisted critical perspective on the mismatches of story-curation. Linguistics & Education. Georgakopoulou, A., & Giaxoglou, K. (2018). Emplotment in the social mediatization of the economy: The poly-storying of economist Yanis Varoufakis. Language @ Internet, 16, article 6. Juswik, M., & Ives, D. (2010). Small stories as a resource for positioning teller identity: Identity-in-interaction in an urban language classroom. Narrative Inquiry, 20, 37–61. Lee, H. (2013). Telling stories and making social relations. Transnationalwomen’s ways of belonging in intercultural contexts. Applied Linguistics, 36, 151–173. Lenchuk, I., & Swain, M. (2010). Alice’s small stories: Indices of identity construction and of resistance to the discourse of cognitive impairment. Language Policy, 9, 9–28. Maryns, K. (2014). The asylum speaker: Language in the Belgian asylum procedure (p. 2014). London: Routledge. Norton, B., & Early, M. (2011). Researcher identity, narrative inquiry and language teaching research. TESOL Quarterly, 45, 415–439.

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Oostendorp, M., & Jones, T. (2015). Tensions, ambivalence and contradiction: A small story analysis of discursive identity construction in the South African workplace. Text and Talk, 35(1), 25–47. Phoenix, C., & Sparkes, A. (2009). Being Fred: Big stories, small stories and the accomplishment of a positive ageing identity. Qualitative Research, 9, 209–236. Presser, L. (2010). Collecting and analyzing the stories of offenders. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 21, 431–446. Sandberg, S. (2010). What can “lies” tell us about life? Notes towards a framework of narrative criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 21, 447–465. Sandberg, S. (2013). Are self-narratives unified or fragmented, strategic, or determined? Reading the manifesto of A. B. Breivik in light of narrative criminology. Acta Sociologica, 56, 69–83. Schiff, B. (2017). A new narrative for psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shuman, A., & Bohmer, C. (forthcoming). Discourse and narrative in legal settings: The political asylum process. In A. De Fina & A. Georgakopoulou (Eds.), The handbook of discourse studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Simpson, J. (2011). Telling tales: Discursive space and narratives in ESOL classrooms. Linguistics and Education, 22, 10–22. Sprain, L., & Hughes, M. F. (2015). A new perspective on stories in public deliberation: Analyzing small stories in discussions about public deliberation. Text & Talk, 35, 531–551. Spreckels, J. (2008). Identity negotiation in small stories among German adolescent girls. Narrative Inquiry, 18, 393–413. Trinch, S. (2010). Disappearing discourse: Performative texts and identity in legal contexts. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 7(2-3), 207–229. Vasquez, C. (2011). TESOL, teacher identities and the need for small story research. TESOL Quarterly, 45, 535–545. Watson, C. (2007). ‘Small stories’ and the doing of professional identities in learning to teach. Narrative Inquiry, 17, 371–389.

4 Public Narratives of Crime and Criminal Justice: Connecting ‘Small’ and ‘Big’ Stories to Make Public Narratives Visible Martina Y. Feilzer

Narratives of Crime and Criminal Justice The focus of this edited collection is on narratives of crime, criminal justice, and punishment which includes counter-narratives that aim to disrupt the ‘dominant and hegemonic’ discourses that are claimed to be so prevalent in this field. There are different levels at which stories of crime and criminal justice are narrated: • the individual level where stories and biographies of crime, victimisation, harms are shared—small stories; • the professional level where individual stories of policing, changing lives, supporting victims are shared linked to and influenced by the

M. Y. Feilzer (*)  School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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constraints imposed by criminal justice institutions—small stories linked to institutional stories; • and society’s stories where stories become cultural and temporal products, part of shared memory—big stories. Additionally, there are many different voices whose stories compete for dominance in the public sphere—journalists and the media, politicians, reform groups, victims, police officers, judges, and many others. As a result, research on narratives of crime and criminal justice is often restricted to one level—individual, institutional, or societal—or one set of voices—professionals, media sources, those who commit crime, victims, etc. Choosing which voices to research and which level to focus on reveals assumptions about whose voices are thought to carry most weight or whose narratives are most easily accessible. However, the argument is made here that ‘stories as cultural products’ cross different narrative levels and have an effect beyond individual identity and attitudes. They are used in public discourse—any form of communication about crime and punishment, i.e. policy announcements—to evoke particular emotions, attitudes, and collective public responses. Stories have a purpose and we accept that, on an individual level, individual stories can ‘inspire action’ (Presser and Sandberg 2015, p. 287) and thus may provide clues to individual future action (Maruna 2008). Considering the power of the stories societies tell about themselves on all levels of narratives as well as including the different voices in the public domain and the level of resistance to societal stories may provide insights into future societal policies on crime and criminal justice. There are significant differences between cultures and individual countries in relation to the narratives that are told about crime and criminal justice. While public narratives emphasising redemption and forgiveness and those focussing on retribution and punishment can be found in all societies, the extent to which one or the other is presented and accepted as dominant appears to differ. Melossi (2004, p. 97) highlights the cultural and religious traditions that influence punishment in a given society at a given time and the narrative frames or ‘available repertoires, rhetoric or cultural toolboxes’ available to

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specific publics to draw on to justify a society’s system of punishment. Whitman (2003) considers the role of social hierarchy in influencing acceptance of narratives of mercy applied to individuals subjected to punishment. He contrasts the dominant discourses of formal equality in sentencing expressed through the proportionality principle1 with the acceptance of individual difference of lawbreakers and relative mildness and mercy in continental Europe. In his seminal book, Pearson (1983, p. 7) refers to the narrative of decline as a reflection of the ‘self-understanding of the British people’ which informs discussion of crime and justice and which still resonates with discourses today. More recently, a number of studies have explored the importance of cultural differences on how crimes and responses to crimes are publicly narrated and the impact these narratives have on penal policy. Green’s (2008) book on When Children Kill Children discusses how differently the murder of children by children was dealt with in Norway in the Silje Redergard case and England and Wales in the James Bulger2 case. He locates the different public and media response in the political culture of Norway and England and Wales and a particular media landscape and power of the tabloids in England and Wales. These accounts illustrate how deeply culturally and temporally embedded crime and criminal justice narratives are and how public narratives that could be considered similar are negotiated differently. Emphasising the importance of longitudinal research on narratives, Dollinger (2020) maps narratives on youth crime in Germany over a period of nearly 40 years from the 1970s to the 2000s. He tracks political debates over that time and shows how political narratives initially described ‘young people who offend as victims of society’ to then shift to ‘society being conceived as a public whose members might be hurt by the young person who offends’ (Dollinger 2020, p. 55). In that he has shown how bringing different narrative levels together offers a better 1Most

powerfully represented in the Minnesota sentencing grid in the USA;, last accessed 7 February 2020. 2James Bulger was two, when he was abducted and murdered by two 1 ­0-year-old boys in Liverpool in 1993. James’ abduction was captured on CCTV and the subsequent trial of the two 10-year-old boys was the subject of intense media coverage.

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appreciation of the power of certain public narratives and how these are reframed, reconstituted, and resisted. Dollinger points to the emergence of ‘restricted punitive turn’ in German narratives of young offenders focusing on their individual responsibility for crime rather than their position as structurally disadvantaged and discriminated against (2020, p. 136); a narrative that is familiar to a British audience. However, in Germany this narrative fails to take hold sufficiently to replace a more dominant narrative of young people in need of education. Comparative research has highlighted the significant national differences in levels of punitive attitudes, and individual level as well as group differences is obvious within national opinion polls (Brown 2006; Hough and Roberts 1998; Maruna et al. 2004, p. 278; Wood and Viki 2004). I will argue that public narratives and the extent and form of their use across different narrative levels may provide an explanatory factor for these national and cultural differences. Public narratives may also provide an indication of societal movement towards future action. In other words, the use of public narratives and how these are fed through to different narrative levels may provide an explanation for criminal justice and penal policy choices and the level of public support they engender.

Developing Public Narratives as an Empirical Concept: Some Context This section will look at the use and interpretation of public narratives and the different disciplines that claim ownership of the concept. The focus on narratives is not new and a number of different disciplines have focused on a range of narrative forms—textual and cultural forms in sociolinguistics; individual narratives in psychology; organisational narratives and cultures in sociology; and narrative structure and logic in narratology (Georgakopoulou 2017). Presser (2012, p. 3), for example, summarises three main ideas of narrative theory, namely that ­‘self-stories are vehicles for identity; storied identities shape action; and stories are cultural products’. In the main, narrative theory in criminology has

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been used to explain individual attitudes, identity, and ability to change (for the role of identity narratives in individuals with punitive views, see King and Maruna 2006; for narratives of desistance, see Maruna 2008). In his contribution to the edited collection on ‘Considering Counter-narratives’, Bamberg (2004, pp. 359–361) refers to master ­ narratives, culturally accepted frames of how a story should unfold but which can be countered under the right circumstances and through interaction. Bamberg (2004, pp. 359–361) suggests that master narratives relate to ‘assumptions lurking in the background’ which may ‘remain inaccessible to our conscious recognition’ and against which individual stories are positioned. His interest is mainly on the individual or ‘small’ stories and what influences their form, content, and ability to resist or counter such invisible master narratives. Bamberg’s focus on individual narratives is mirrored in Narrative Criminology which, in the main, looks to individual storytelling to better understand individual behaviour, be it to commit crime, desist from crime, cope with victimisation, or explain professional practice. Thus, as suggested in the introduction to this collection, ‘there are no purely individual stories’ (Althoff et al. 2020, 5) and the interest in this chapter is on how society’s ‘big stories’ are visible in individual and institutional stories. Thus, the interest in this chapter is in society’s storytelling processes and how communities make sense of questions of crime and justice through commonly understood stories or public narratives. The term public narratives as used in this chapter overlaps with master narratives to some extent in that such narratives draw on cultural texts and assumptions; however, they add a dimension to master narratives in that they are used explicitly in public discourses—political and media discourses—and are invoked for a particular purpose. Public narratives are thus conceived as the public’s shared understanding of a phenomenon (Peelo 2005, p. 21) which are expressed through a shared set of stories used to communicate. In that, it has been argued that public narratives are different from, but related to, media narratives, political narratives, and academic narratives—but exactly how we would collate, identify, and analyse public narratives has yet to be fully developed.

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Public narratives then are big narratives of a group or collective which provide a way of knowing about the world (Rowe et al. 2002), narratives and stories that are used as anchoring or reference points for communication with a purpose—to make a point or a claim (Bamberg 2004, p. 358). Individual narratives refer to such storied anchors when trying to make sense of individual experiences or express particular views and attitudes. For example, in a discussion of raising the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales, the James Bulger murder would invariably be invoked and discussed, often to highlight how raising the age of criminal responsibility would allow young people who kill to ‘get away with it’. However, invoking this particular public narrative does not mean that those using it to position themselves necessarily slavishly follow that narrative. Nevertheless, it carries a specific meaning and certainly requires active counter-narratives to challenge its dominant interpretation. Noting the presence of public narratives begs the question why such narratives matter beyond offering individuals a tool to communicate with each other effectively. The relevance of public narratives becomes clear in discussions of public opinion and measures of public opinion, as public narratives may accidentally (or deliberately) be triggered by particular framing of survey questions. In my research (see below and Feilzer 2007, 2015), the author found that when individuals talk about complex issues such as policing or sentencing practices, they draw on a shared set of stories to explain their views as well as using them as reference points for any uncertainties or complexities they want to express. This does not necessarily mean that individuals subscribe to these public narratives but that they recognise them and use them to anchor their opinions in some shared meaning or basis of communication. Thus, public narratives can be used to introduce counter-narratives, turn story lines on their head, as indicated in Bamberg’s (2004, pp. 360–361) discussion of narrators’ ability to resist master narratives, even if with difficulty. To start a discussion of how we make public narratives empirically accessible, it is important to draw a conceptual map of where and how we identify public narratives. This mapping exercise could move

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us one step closer to turning public narratives into an empirical concept which may be open to measurement and comparison. The contention here is that public narratives can be found in a range of discourses both collective and individual and are used there to evoke a particular frame and cultural reference to position these different discourses. • Parliamentary and political discourses on crime and justice— parliamentary debates, white papers, political speeches; • administrative and institutional narratives of criminal justice institutions such as the police, probation, and the courts; • organisational discourses of third-sector organisations and pressure groups—Howard Leagues of Penal Reform; • academic discourses on crime and justice; • news media discourses on crime and justice—everyday news coverage, special campaigns; • cultural narratives—comic books, TV/film, social media, gaming, music; • public opinion as measured by surveys, deliberative polls, vignette polling, interviews; • individual narratives of victims, offenders, and professionals in the criminal justice system. These different discourses are not regarded as equal in their importance to public debates on crime and criminal justice. Accounts of public discourses on crime, justice, and punishment emphasise the dominance of media discourses of crime, justice, and punishment and suggest that the media serve as the main source of people’s understanding of crime and criminal justice issues and is guilty of misrepresenting the prevalence and nature of crime as well as presenting stereotyped characters of victims and offenders (Chibnall 1977; Ditton et al. 2004, p. 595; Ericson 1991, p. 219; Mason 2003, p. 5). Media discourses draw on, create, and influence public narratives and contribute to them but evidence of media effects, as expressed through theories of agenda-setting, social re-production, dominant ideology, or of the media influencing

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how we act and think in relation to crime and justice, is inconsistent and still highly contested (Ericson 1991, pp. 221–222; Jewkes 2006, p. 146). A continued erosion of public trust in mainstream media and journalists (see Ipsos/Mori Veracity Index 2019 which places journalists in the bottom four professions trusted to tell the truth with only 26% of respondents trusting them) raises questions of how this (lack of ) trust might interfere with any possible media effects. Additionally, a phenomenal pluralisation of the media landscape in recent decades offering a plethora of choice of news sources (mainstream and niche market) as well as the development of social media news feeds suggest a significant fragmenting of media discourses. The role of mainstream media is further questioned/undermined by the growth of social influencers and celebrities who contribute to debates on crime and punishment through cultural products and social media campaigns. A few examples can illustrate this: Stormzy’s3 groundbreaking set at Glastonbury 2019 (Savage 2019), highlighting racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system is one example; Kim Kardashian West’s4 support for death row inmates another (Young 2019). The #MeToo movement as well as the Climate Strikes highlight the speed and global reach of social media campaigns. However, the debates surrounding the persistence of partisan online communities and echo-chambers need to be noted here. Given the reach of some of these artists and celebrities, the rise of social influencers, and the as yet unresolved tension between the democratising effects of equal access to social media and networked publics and echo-chambers, analyses of public narratives and counter-narratives need to include such cultural and social media events, as well as more generally engaging with social media practices and influences.

3Stormzy is a London-based grime—a form of electronic dance music—artist and rapper who was the first Black British solo act at the main Glastonbury stage. Glastonbury is a world-famous festival of performing arts taking place annually in Somerset, England, established in 1970 and one of the main British music festivals. 4Kim Kardashian West is a reality TV star with 150 million Instagram followers and 62 million Twitter followers.

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Public Narratives and Public Opinion My interest in public narratives stems from empirical research undertaken in England which explored the role of public knowledge in shaping public opinion on crime and justice. At the time of the research (2004–2006) academic and policy discourse was dominated by a proposition that public opinion on crime and justice was shaped by misinformation and a lack of public knowledge of key aspects of the workings of the criminal justice system, a ‘cognitive deficit model’ of public opinion (for a summary, see Hough and Roberts 2012, pp. 287–289; Loader 2011, pp. 348–351). This lack of information and the misinformation largely blamed on tabloid media misrepresentations of crime and justice were seen to be contributory factors in an era of penal populism and punitiveness (Green 2008, pp. 19–21). A number of research studies and experiments offered evidence that providing members of the public with factual information on crime and justice led to changes in their views on a range of issues including the appropriateness of sentencing, preferences of sentences of imprisonment over community penalties, levels of support for rehabilitation, etc. (De Keijser et al. 2007, p. 132; Hough 1996, pp. 191–192; Hough and Moxon 1985, p. 171; Hough and Park 2002; Maruna and King 2004, p. 91; Roberts et al. 2011). Evidence included providing information on criminal justice and sentencing practices within surveys or vignette information to fix respondents’ views on specific offence or offender details. A significant number of studies drew on experimental research involving pre- and post- measures of the effect of providing factual information on the criminal justice system through deliberative polls, the provision of videos, or leaflets (Luskin et al. 2002, p. 481; Chapman et al. 2002, pp. ix–xi). Some of these studies suffered from methodological limitations such as threats to the validity of the findings from social desirability and Hawthorne effects with respondents being forewarned about participating in an experiment, and financially incentivised; low take-up of the experimental intervention; and selective presentation of facts of the criminal justice system.

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So, in 2004, the author began research funded by the Nuffield Foundation aiming to test whether such findings could be recreated in a natural experiment (see Feilzer 2007, 2015). The research consisted of natural quasi-experimental mixed-methods design including an experimental intervention of writing a column on crime and justice in a local broadsheet newspaper for a period of 6-months and testing readers’ levels of knowledge before and after publication through a survey—the Oxford Public Opinion Survey (for more detail on the research, see Feilzer 2007, 2015). The columns, 26 in total, were designed to provide factual information which should increase knowledge of the prevalence and patterns of crime, sentencing patterns, and other processes of the criminal justice system. Overall, the columns could be read as a general introduction to criminology covering all key aspects of crime and the mechanisms of the criminal justice system; the following headlines which were provided by the author but edited by the newspaper give an indication of the types of topics discussed: ‘Lower classes’ are criminalised by new legislation; Is ‘tougher’ sentencing the answer?; Should those who offend have rights?; Did media outlets accurately report research on restorative cautioning?. All the factual information needed to answer all but one of the factual questions posed in the Oxford Public Opinion Survey was provided two to three times in the course of the publication of the Crime Scene columns (Fig. 4.1). The research was unable to replicate evidence that providing factual information could change individual’s views of criminal justice and sentencing. The main conclusion was that those advocating education of the public as a panacea to punitive views were neglecting the important role of dominant public narratives in framing public opinion as well as the significant distortions created by certain quantitative methodological approaches to measuring public opinion (for a more refined conception of informed public opinion, see Green 2008, p. 14; Feilzer 2015). Other critics of the cognitive-deficit model have pointed to the importance of emotion in the field of crime and justice, the visceral and immediate responses of fear and anger to news about serious crimes (see, for example, Karstedt et al. 2011; Hartnagel and Templeton 2012). So, while the debate on how public narratives are communicated through an increasingly fragmented media landscape is unresolved,

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Fig. 4.1  Column “should we be afraid of being attacked by strangers?” (Source: The Oxford Times, 8 October 2004)

individual talk about crime and justice is clearly framed by such shared story lines. The power of public narratives and narrative allusions is illustrated in two ways by findings from the Oxford Crime Scene study (Feilzer 2007, 2015). The survey used in the research asked 14 knowledge questions about crime and justice, including questions on crime rates, reporting rates, and rates of imprisonment if found guilty of particular crimes. The survey included a ‘pure guess’ option for respondents who wanted to indicate that their responses were based on guesses. Including this option highlighted respondents’ awareness of their lack of knowledge of some facts on crime and justice, for 13/14 knowledge questions more than three-quarters of respondents ticked the ‘pure guess’ option. Additionally, it provided some evidence of the influences of public narratives that may be accessed in the process of trying to answer questions of crime and justice in the absence of factual information and knowledge of the answers to the questions. This point is illustrated using the example of the question about the rate of imprisonment for adult men aged 21 or older convicted of

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robbery. If people had indeed randomly guessed at the answer at least 20% of the sample should have guessed the correct answer which was that ‘81–100’ people aged 21 or older convicted of robbery received a prison sentence at the time of the research. However, in the survey less than two per cent of those identifying themselves as ‘guessers’ chose the right answer while nearly three-quarters (73%) ‘guessed’ that the rate of imprisonment for convicted robbers was between one and 40%, with 44% assuming that the rate of imprisonment was less than 20%. This suggests that survey respondents lacking knowledge of a phenomenon do not make random choices and the qualitative data collated in this research provided evidence that survey respondents refer to certain public narratives of what the queried trends might be (i.e. sentences are too lenient, and it follows that the rate of imprisonment for convicted robbers is low). The power of such public narratives was made explicit in comments on the returned questionnaires. One particular observation during the research (Feilzer 2007, 2015) was the desire by members of the public to comment on survey questions, to explain their answers, criticise questions, and generally engage with the researchers in a more in-depth manner and overall, 27% of respondents left substantive comments on the survey (for a discussion of the neglect of marginalia in survey research see Muddiman et al. 2018). The comment left on a survey reproduced below picks up on the dominant discourse that members of the public are punitive and that it is not desirable to be seen as ‘soft on crime’. It was prompted by a question in the survey on whether or not respondents thought that sentences imposed by the criminal courts were too lenient (Q23). This question is routinely asked in the Crime Survey for England and Wales and suggests that a high and relatively stable proportion of survey respondents think that sentencing is too lenient (between 70 and 80%, between 1989 and 2011). The second comment suggests an unwillingness to be pushed into the answer format provided and resistance to the dichotomous nature of some tickbox survey questions. Question 40 refers to a question of whether those who sentence offenders are ‘in touch’ or ‘out of touch’ with what ordinary people think.

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Regarding question 23—I was tempted not to answer this question since I don’t believe sentencing is an important issue in crime reduction. The way you have phrased it invited the answer ‘too lenient’—who wants to appear soft on crime? (Emphasis added; Comment on survey form, Hippre1795)

I think questions 23 and 40 are too general. Q 23—I think some sentences are too harsh, some too lenient. Q 40—Obviously those people will differ from each other. Plus, I don’t know any of them anyway. (Comment on survey form, Nopre 034)

The narrative quality of such short comments can be questioned but there are very clear and explicit references to public narratives contained in these two examples. These comments fall under the umbrella term of ‘small stories’ that allow for interpretation and illuminate the wider context in which they are told (see Georgakopoulou, this volume; Dollinger 2020, p. 18). Muddiman et al. (2018, pp. 299–300) point to the use of marginalia by survey respondents as a form of resistance and subversion, and the examples highlighted above support a sense of respondents resisting what they perceive to be master narratives if not public narratives—e.g. the respondent’s question on ‘who wants to appear soft on crime?’. The statement that ‘sentencing is not an important issue in crime reduction’ per se does not constitute a counter-narrative but it does link to other discourses on the importance of sentencing as a deterrent. The author’s research also drew on more classic forms of eliciting individual stories using semi-structured interviews with survey respondents exploring some of their views on crime and justice in more depths and aiming to get a greater sense of the processes by which individuals would pick up on the factual information presented in the newspaper 5Research

Identifier in the OPOS study, Feilzer (2007, 2015).

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columns. The extracts below are based on interviews undertaking with survey respondents in the Oxford Crime Scene Study (Feilzer 2007, 2015). The first extract explores the respondent’s thoughts on whether his views on crime have changed from when he was younger. He clearly references some recognisable public narratives about crime, e.g. society is less ordered and disciplined; zero tolerance policing aims to prevent social breakdown and escalating crime; link between ageing and increasing fear of crime and decreasing tolerance, etc. However, rather than submitting to those narratives, the interviewee clearly engages with them, queries them, raises counter-arguments and uses them to express his beliefs with certain qualifications. Here the discussion emerges as a response to open questioning and public narratives are employed in the interaction between interviewee and interviewer to explain the interviewees thought processes and defend their attitudes (Bamberg 2004, p. 353). The resulting narratives are shaped by the interview context in which they occur and the lack of expectation on the interviewee to respond in one way or another (Gubrium and Holstein 2009, p. xvi). Interviewees were asked to respond to three different word associations (‘crime’, ‘criminals’, and ‘the criminal justice system’) to elicit some more general ‘crime talk’ (Girling et al. 2000). The focus here is on the content rather than the form of the narrative.

Yeah. I mean I think I might have been more tolerant as a young person as to what was criminal activity or not. Marginally illegal substances at University or whatever, those sorts of things. Which I now would think are probably not a good idea. So my line there would have sort of changed. I suppose the other thing that happens as you get older and you acquire more stability and family and possessions and things is that you worry more about those things being disturbed by crime and maybe you feel it would be nice to have some nice things so you might be more subject to being robbed or something. I don’t feel any more or less threatened out and about than when I was a teenager really, so. I suppose the only thing, I am gonna sound like an old man, won’t I, saying “they wouldn’t have got away with that in my day”, “we had more

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discipline at school” sort of thing, but I wouldn’t have thought that when I was at school or University, but now I think “how could anyone get away with it” so I don’t know whether that’s the sort of ‘angry old man ’ syndrome creeping up on me. Which actually, I mean, I should have said that earlier on but the issue about society’s standards changing that probably has influenced my perception in that it appears that slightly more, not necessarily lawless, but unruly behaviour is more acceptable. If you work on the principle that’s led to the zero tolerance idea it is that once you have allowed, you know, drunken, marauding people on the streets who may not be committing criminal activity but once that happens then maybe something else can come out of that. So, I probably didn’t think that when I was younger. I don’t know whether Society has become less ordered and less disciplined or whether I’ve grown up and that’s just getting older. I don’t know. (Emphases added, Nopre 353)

Asking members of the public to express their views and thoughts on matters of crime and justice in an open way leads to unstructured discussions of impressions, ideas about justice, some references to public narratives—big stories interwoven with personal stories, small stories. The excerpt below illustrates what Bamberg (2004, p. 363) refers to as ‘juggling several story lines simultaneously’ triggered by the request of the interviewer to state ‘what springs to mind when hearing the term criminal justice system’. Magistrates court, police, judges, wigs, paper work, you see Taxis driving up outside the Magistrates court and getting out boxes and boxes of things. I did a week’s work experience once in B… with a solicitor and he took me to a court once to see the sentencing, I think, and it was just very full of official looking white men, middle aged, you know and there was, I can’t even remember who the defendant was, I think, I am not sure they were even there. It just seemed to be a whole system of process that was quite impersonal and he wasn’t a very forthcoming guy either so it put me off the law to be honest. I suppose it’s the system isn’t it, it is very official, it’s very imposing all courts and Magistrates courts and police

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stations, I just think. Although the police themselves actually when I have come up against them have been very friendly and very approachable. I had a caution once for, do you want to hear this now or shall I tell you later, when Cornmarket used to allow buses down there and I was cycling down it and what I didn’t realise was that you were not allowed to cycle down there and I was cycling down there and it was really busy. There was bus behind me someone walked out in front of me and I slammed on my brakes, the bus right behind me swerved to avoid me and there was a policeman right there and he said ‘what are you doing on your bike you are not supposed to be cycling’ and then someone on the bus had fallen off their seat and was going to claim compensation or something so it was like ‘we have to arrest you for reckless cycling’ and the funny thing was, I asked ‘what happens next’ as I didn’t have any idea what happens next, he was ‘well within 6 months, if you don’t hear anything in 6 months nothing will happen and you don’t need to worry about it’. But all the time we were there everyone who was walking past was kind of going ‘pig’, making really rude comments to the policeman, which I felt really bad about because I was the one who was at fault and he was really fine, really good about it but constantly had these comments coming. So I thought I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes. And nothing happened I didn’t get any, nothing came. I think I got away with my reckless cycling. Yeah, everyone was cycling past at the same time and I was like ‘what about them’ and they were like ‘yeah we got you’. (Hippre 377)

The interview excerpt again shows clear references to public narratives and emerging counter-narratives, but not as fixed but developing—as being negotiated and constructed through the telling. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end to the interviewee’s small story but there are a number of allusions to public narratives. The respondent relays her story of being stopped by the police, referring to abuse the police officer was receiving but also to the arbitrary nature of policing—why was she stopped but others were not—before falling back on the notion of the British police as ‘friendly and approachable’. The story she tells here is used to contrast her earlier statement that the criminal justice system is

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an impersonal process full of officious, white, middle-aged men playing different narratives against each other without a clear conclusion. Thus, the marginalia left on the survey forms and the narrative content revealed in the in-depth interviews provide evidence of the presence of public narratives and the recourse to such narratives when completing surveys and talking about crime and justice. Both data sets highlighted that ‘people think more dynamically than we give them credit for, and are able to agree a relatively simple “social” viewpoint while still holding onto private awareness of complexity’ (Peelo and Soothill 2000, p. 136). In the context of this chapter, both data sets also provided evidence of the reference to public narratives dominating the sphere of crime and justice and how such public narratives are invoked, considered, and deconstructed.

Connecting Different Narratives and Considering the Importance of Public Narratives The academic and empirical work in understanding the relevance of the multitude of discourses in the public domain lies in connecting the different stories to understand the prevalence of dominant public narratives across different voices and audiences, their significance in making sense of crime and justice, and their dominance in a community’s approach to questions of crime and justice. In that vein, Dollinger (2020) looked at three narratives of youth crime in Germany, political debates, narratives of professionals—the police and social work—as expressed by professionals in their professional journals, and the narratives of young defendants interviewed about their cases. In his analysis, Dollinger (2020, pp. 125–136) identifies narrative patterns across the three types of discourses, common story lines as well as hegemonic and marginal narratives. He concluded that despite attacks on the overwhelming support for educational responses to youth crime and those who commit it in Germany, the institutional and individual support for education remained strong (2020, pp. 138–140).

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Assessing different levels of narratives requires different methodological tools and while in public opinion research surveys might dominate, in political and media narratives discourse and content analyses would be more appropriate. In order to elicit individual narratives, ­ semi-structured interviews or biographical methods are best suited. Clearly, a mix of different methodological approaches raises epistemological questions of how to approach such a project, how to analyse the different data sets and triangulate the findings. It seems an overwhelming task to try and bring all these narrative levels together. Interdisciplinary collaboration would provide a starting point to developing a methodological toolkit to start such a process. There are significant questions around how these different narrative levels can be measured and how little and big narratives should be connected. Narratives and stories are designed by the storyteller to be understood by the listener and individual narratives as the examples used above are thus constituted for a particular purpose. Some of the levels of narratives distinguished above are designed for different purposes and audiences—so to what extent does it matter who speaks and who is listening? How do researchers know whose narrative is most important and under which conditions do certain narratives emerge? What aspect of the different narratives should be measured—the content, the form, the purpose, the effect? Is it possible to establish hegemonic narratives and counter-narratives, thus assessing their dominance and relative power? One approach to identifying particular public narratives may be comparative research that illuminates how crime and punishment are conceived, framed, constructed, and narrated in different countries. Part of the cultural repertoire of public narratives are incidents shaping the collective memory of a community. As mentioned above, some signal crimes (Innes 2014) such as the 1993 James Bulger murder have long-lasting effects on how we talk about crime and justice issues and over two decades after his death, any discussion about raising the age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales will be accompanied with a discussion of James Bulger’s murder and the boys who killed him (for the latest discussion in The Guardian, see Pidd et al. 2019). In England and Wales, there are similar signal criminal justice events such as the

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Stephen Lawrence murder6 and subsequent Macpherson inquiry or the Hillsborough disaster.7 The creation of collective memory in this way allows references to a whole host of narrative content through cues and references to them and they shape public narratives in a culturally specific as well as historically specific way. Given the discussion above it becomes clear that a focus on only one narrative level—individual, institutional, or societal—leads to only a partial reading of how crime is understood in a particular temporal and spatial context. A number of media narrative analyses, for example, have struggled to move behind headline reviews and providing a ­one-dimensional and simplistic view of public narratives. The ambition of this chapter was to encourage researcher to go beyond individual narrative levels and provide an insight into the complexity of public narratives and a societies’ (and possibly different communities’) storytelling processes in order to gain a better understanding of how societies make sense of crime and justice.

References Althoff, M., Dollinger, B., & Schmidt, H. (2020). Fighting for the ‘right’ narrative: Introduction to conflicting narratives of crime and punishment. In M. Althoff, B. Dollinger, & H. Schmidt (Eds.), Conflicting narratives of crime and punishment. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Bamberg, M. (2004). Considering counter-narratives. In M. Bamberg & M. Andrews (Eds.), Considering counter-narratives: Narrating, resisting, making sense (Vol. 4, pp. 351–371). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing. Brown, E. (2006). The dog that did not bark. Punishment & Society, 8(3), 287–312. 6Stephen

Lawrence was murdered in a racially motivated attack in London in 1993, at the age of 18. The investigation of his death was mishandled and subject to a public inquiry which led to the Metropolitan Police to be labelled as institutionally racist (Macpherson Report 1999). 7Hillsborough Stadium was the scene of Britain’s worst sporting disaster when 96 people died in a stadium crush in 1989. Media coverage blamed football fans and South Yorkshire Police shifted blame to football fans. Numerous enquiries followed and criminal and civil proceedings are still ongoing—a senior police officer, match commander at Hillsborough on the day of the crush, was acquitted of gross negligence manslaughter in December 2019.

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Chapman, B., Mirrlees-Black, C., & Brawn, C. (2002). Improving public attitudes to the criminal justice system: The impact of information. London: Home Office. Chibnall, S. (1977). Law-and-order news—An analysis of crime reporting in the British press. London: Tavistock Publications. De Keijser, J. W., van Koppen, P. J., & Elffers, H. (2007). Bridging the gap between judges and the public? A multi-method study. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 3(2), 131–161. Ditton, J., Chadee, D., Farrall, S., Gilchrist, E., & Bannister, J. (2004). From imitation to intimidation—A note on the curious and changing relationship between the media, crime and fear of crime. British Journal of Criminology, 44(4), 595–610. Dollinger, B. (2020). Changing narratives of youth crime: From social causes to threats to the social. London: Routledge. Ericson, R. V. (1991). Mass media, crime, law, and justice. British Journal of Criminology, 31(3), 219–249. Feilzer, M. Y. (2007). Criminologists making news? Providing factual information on crime and criminal justice through a weekly newspaper column. Crime, Media, Culture, 3(3), 285–304. Feilzer, M. Y. (2015). A review of public knowledge of sentencing practices. In J. V. Roberts (Ed.), Exploring sentencing in England and Wales. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Georgakopoulou, A. (2017). Small stories research: A paradigm for the analysis of social media. Sage handbook of social media research. London: Sage. Girling, E., Loader, I., & Sparks, R. (2000). Crime and social change in middle England: Questions of order in an English town. London: Routledge. Green, D. A. (2008). When children kill children: Penal populism and political culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gubrium, J. F., & Holstein, J. A. (2009). Narrative reality. London: Sage. Hartnagel, T. F., & Templeton, L. J. (2012). Emotions about crime and attitudes to punishment. Punishment and Society, 14(4), 452–474. Hough, M. (1996). People talking about punishment. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 35(3), 191–214. Hough, M., & Moxon, D. (1985). Dealing with offenders: Popular opinion and the views of victims. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 24(3), 160–175. Hough, M., & Park, A. (2002). How malleable are attitudes to crime and punishment? Findings from a British deliberative poll. In J. Roberts and M. Hough (Eds.), Changing attitudes to punishment (1st ed.). Cullompton: Willan Publishing.

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Hough, M., & Roberts, J. V. (1998). Attitudes to punishment: Findings from the British crime survey. London: Home Office. Hough, M., & Roberts, J. V. (2012). Public opinion, crime and criminal justice. In M. Maguire, R. Morgan, & R. Reiner (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of criminology (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Innes, M. (2014). Signal crimes: Reactions to crime and social control. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ipsos/Mori Veracity Index. (2019). trust-politicians-falls-sending-them-spiralling-back-bottom-ipsos-mori-veracity-index, last accessed 26 January 2020. Jewkes, Y. (2006). Creating a stir? Prisons, popular media and the power to reform. In P. Mason (Ed.), Captured by the media: Prison discourse in popular culture. Willan: Cullompton. Karstedt, S., Loader, I., & Strang, H. (2011). Emotions, crime and justice. Oxford: Hart. King, A., & Maruna, S. (2006). The function of fiction for a punitive public. In P. Mason (Ed.), Captured by the media: Prison discourse in popular culture (pp. 16–30). Cullompton: Willan. Loader, I. (2011). Playing with fire? Democracy and the emotions of crime and punishment. In S. Karstedt, I. Loader, & H. Strang (Eds.), Emotions, crime and justice. Oxford: Hart. Luskin, R. C., Fishkin, J. S., & Jowell, R. (2002). Considered opinions: Deliberative polling in Britain. British Journal of Political Sciences, 32, 455–487. Macpherson Report (1999). The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (Cm 4262-I). uploads/attachment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf. Maruna, S. (2008). Making good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Maruna, S., & King, A. (2004). Public opinion and community penalties. In A. Bottoms, S. Rex, & G. Robinson (Eds.), Alternatives to prison: Options for an insecure society. Willan: Cullompton. Maruna, S., Matravers, A., & King, A. (2004). Disowning our shadow: A psychoanalytic approach to understanding punitive public attitudes. Deviant Behaviour, 25, 277–299. Mason, P. (2003). Introduction. In P. Mason (Ed.), Criminal visions: Media representations of crime and justice. Cullompton: Willan Publishing. Melossi, D. (2004). The cultural embeddedness of social control. In T. Newburn & R. Sparks (Eds.), Criminal justice and political cultures. Willan: Cullompton, UK.

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Muddiman, E., Lyttleton-Smith, J., & Moles, K. (2018). Pushing back the margins: Power, identity and marginalia in survey research with young people. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 22(3), 293–308. Pearson, G. (1983). Hooligan—A history of respectable fears. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd. Peelo, M. (2005). Crime and the media: Public narratives and private consumption. In M. Peelo & K. Soothill (Eds.), Questioning crime and criminology. Cullompton: Willan. Peelo, M., & Soothill, K. (2000). The place of public narratives in reproducing social order. Theoretical Criminology, 4(2), 131–148. Pidd, H., Halliday, J., Wolfe-Robinson, M., & Parveen, N. 2019. Age of criminal responsibility must be raised, say experts. The Guardian, 4 November., last accessed 21 January 2020. Presser, L. (2012). “Getting on top through mass murder: Narrative, metaphor, and violence.” Crime, Media, Culture, 8(1): 3–21. Presser, L., & Sandberg, S. (2015). Conclusion: Where to now. In L. Presser & S. Sandberg (Eds.), Narrative criminology: Understanding stories of crime. New York: New York University Press. Roberts, J. V., Feilzer, M., & Hough, M. (2011). Measuring public attitudes to criminal justice. In D. Gadd, S. Karstedt, & S. Messner (Eds.), The Sage handbook of criminological research methods. London: Sage. Rowe, S. M., Wertsch, J. V., & Kosyaeva, T. Y. (2002). Linking little narratives to big ones: Narrative and public memory in history museums. Culture & Psychology, 8(1), 96–112. Savage, M. (2019). Stormzy tears up the stage at Glastonbury. BBC Entertainment and Arts, 29 June., last accessed 21 January 2020. Whitman, J. Q. (2003). Harsh justice: Criminal punishment and the widening divide between America and Europe. New York: Oxford University Press. Wood, J., & Viki, G. T. (2004). Public perceptions of crime and punishment. In J. Adler (Ed.), Forensic psychology: Concepts, debates and practice (pp. 16–36). Cullompton: Willan. Young, S. (2019). Kim Kardashian describes moment death row inmate rodney reed was spared execution. Independent. 16 November. https://www., last accessed 21 Jan 2020.

Section II Popular and Everyday Narrations of Crime and Punishment

5 Crime and Narration: The Creation of (In)Security in Everyday Life Katharina Eisch-Angus

This ethnographic account follows the circulation of everyday narration on crime and violence at the interface of private and public spheres, in family, neighbourhood and community communication and media discourse. Narrative forms such as urban legends, moral panics or conspiracy theories are followed in the flow of everyday discourse and analysed as narrative means both of managing and socialising personal experiences of crime and insecurity, and of perpetuating collective fears through storytelling. In contemporary contexts of securitisation, these paradox effects are highly intensified, multiplied in digital live-worlds and post-panoptic visibility regimes. Through everyday narration, personal everyday safety concerns for our bodies, families, our livelihood and social inclusion are short-circuited with State and institutional interests and global insecurity. Individuals are set into a state of permanent risk awareness, fear of exclusion, anxiety and suspicion. Between claims of factuality and atmospheres of uncertainty and irreality everyday narratives create a base for the unfolding of the society of security in the age of post-truth. K. Eisch-Angus (*)  University of Graz, Graz, Austria e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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Salisbury Stories On 4 March 2018 the former Russian-British intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the streets of the small city of Salisbury in South-Western England. Investigations came to the conclusion that both Skripals, as well as a police officer, had been poisoned by a nerve agent of the Novichok type, such as had previously been produced in the Soviet Union. These scientific findings, which were provided by the Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down nearby Salisbury, were in the centre of a heated national and international debate about the “truth” behind the attacks, about probabilities, factualities and possible proofs in relation to a crime that was largely attributed to Russia. Following the news headlines, the Porton Down data led to the then Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim on March 12 that it was “highly likely that Russia was responsible” for the Salisbury attack (Cowburn 2018). However, on April 3 the chief executive of the Porton Down Laboratory came out with a declaration that they had only “provided scientific information to the government” to identify the chemical agent (Morris and Crerar 2018), but that it was “not our job to say where it was manufactured” (Roth 2018). “Unhelpful as it undoubtedly is”, as media reacted to this statement (Independent 2018), it revealed what the British government and the public actually expected from their experts: which was not only to deliver independent scientific facts, but also to give the foundation of a story.1 This story plot—that Putin’s Russia had instigated a murderous attack on an ex-spy in a small British town, using a Cold War military weapon—grew in short time into a moral panic. The term moral panic, as it was introduced by Stanley Cohen (1972) and famously explored by Stuart Hall and within British Cultural Studies (Hall et al. 2013), describes a publicly circulated narrative and media campaign that constructs a communal threat to everyone. It is usually backed up by institutional experts, public moralists, the police, etc. and is likely to lead 1This

is in accordance with the national papers referring to the case throughout as a “story”.

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into disproportionate administrative or State countermeasures (Critcher 2006).2 In colloquial British everyday communication, the term moral panic marks a media-hyped, sensationalist and inherently untrue story shared by a large public audience. However, for the purpose of understanding the function and actual societal impact of moral panics any investigations into their factual truth could be misleading. It is therefore essential to recognise that various genres of everyday narration (there are moral panics, contemporary legends, conspiracy theories, rumours, etc.) thrive in liminal zones between the plausible and the unbelievable, where truth and fiction appear undistinguishable, and where an assertion of a trustworthy source seems just as defining as an uncanny atmosphere of danger and fear (Eisch-Angus 2019, p. 426). In the Salisbury case, a moral panic was mainly (but not exclusively) pushed forward by the State itself. It resulted in extensive security and surveillance actions that, for example, affected air traffic, and fed into large-scale military research and preventative actions, the suspension of high-level bilateral relations with Russia, and symbolic gestures such as the non-attendance of ministers or members of the Royal family at the 2018 football World Cup in Russia. In Britain, Europe and throughout the world a high number of Russian diplomats were expelled. European, US-American and international support of the claim against Russia was met by British foreign minister Boris Johnson with the appeal: “We must, as a world community, stand up for the rules based order which keeps us all safe” (Kentish 2018). This comment brought two ideological concepts into the focus of public discussion, both of which function on constructing an evil “other” that must be excluded from an in-group community: Firstly, on the level of national and global politics, Johnson referred to the mythological narrative of heroic solidarity against an unruly, uncivilised adversary. It takes us back to a universal fairy tale formula (Propp 2015 [1928]) that is taking vast effects in our time, for example, by reinforcing populist ideology, as well as by emotionally underpinning Brexit and anti-European campaigns in Britain (O’Toole 2012).


have systematically followed the concept of moral panics in my chapter on discourses of child abuse: 5.7 Intimität, Macht, Missbrauch: Die Kinder (Eisch-Angus 2019, pp. 365–401).

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Secondly, Johnson can rely on the normalisation of the new neoliberal doctrine of community safety in British society.3 On this base a large variety of subsequent storylines evolved from the original plot of the Salisbury attack, such as conspiracy theories, where (relative to perspective) Russia, Britain and the Porton Down Laboratory, and even the Mossad or the CIA were blamed for the attacks (Murray 2018; Letters 2018; Hume 2018). I consider the conspiracy theory the alter ego of the moral panic: Both concepts describe highly suggestive narrative forms that can spread rapidly, but are opposed in the way that they direct accusations top-down or ­bottom-up. Thereby conspiracy theories are told from the perspective of a morally superior, yet disadvantaged and outsmarted underdog. Whilst moral panics appeal from an assertive (expert) position to the legal system for counter-action against suggestive threats to society, conspiracy theories target States or other authorities as suspected instigators, yet who publicly conceal immoral actions and dubious conspiracies. In the Salisbury case, both narrative strategies cross in the way that adversary States (such as the UK and Russia) and their media behaved like the underdog narrative actors in a global village community.4 Boris Johnson, on March 16, went even further when he personalised the story plot by accusing Vladimir Putin directly for the Salisbury crime (BBC 2018). Now the story had an evil criminal perpetrator with a face and a name, acting on the global political stage. The Salisbury events had from their beginnings been widely exploited by the news media in the way of a personalised “true story” that concentrated on the victims, and reported on their state of health, their personal experiences

3Alongside the rise of the dispositive of security and following Margret Thatcher statement “there’s no such thing as society” (Thatcher 1987), the idea of community has been ideologically established as a non-political and homogeneous place of longing in a world of disintegrating social relations and an economy-driven, pluralistic culture. The concept of community links, on the one hand, to communal everyday experience, and, on the other, to governmental rhetoric of empowerment, community policing, or social media, all based on an individualistic and socially detached subject. 4It is an astonishing feature of the times of populism, Brexit, etc. that high-ranking politicians and members of state governments believe in, or are actually able to score in public arenas with the regressive and personalised bearing of the under-privileged and badly done-to victim.

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of the crime. On March 22 the injured police officer, who had been contaminated by the toxin when he visited the Skripals’ house after the deed, was released from hospital and was quoted with the statement “Normal life for me will probably never be the same” (Ward et al. 2018). Here a high-profile political crime had irrevocably encroached upon the life, the body and emotional well-being of a private individual doing his duty, just like any of us, or any of our neighbours, would have in similar circumstances. Later in July 2018 the same toxin claimed a fatal victim in the neighbouring town of Amesbury, where a woman poisoned herself with a discarded perfume bottle. With extensive media reports on her life story and the pain her family had suffered, she was subsequently pictured in a similar way as the innocent and fun-loving woman next door that had lost her life to global political crime. Unsurprisingly, in the first instance Sergei and Yulia Skripal received the highest media attention for double reasons: Firstly, as private people in relation to their survival and state of health (in this context also the forensic findings in their house including their cat and other pets played a big role). Secondly, public interest was caught by their Russian-British life stories in the light of international espionage. At this point, the Salisbury story, including its military science and fact-finding missions, fell in with a fictional public memory, a James Bond style plot. This association points not only to British and Western national mythologies but also to the memory of the Cold War and its stereotypical, morbid imagery. On April 6 The Guardian published a title photograph that claimed to show the research site in Russia where the nerve agent used in Salisbury allegedly had been produced (Roth 2018). Anybody who has, like myself, grown up in Cold War Europe, or has seen the James Bond movies produced in this time will at a glance be reminded of a Gulag prison camp fenced off with rusty iron work and a communist star5 (Fig. 5.1). 5Collective

Cold War memories seemed to be “in the air” in Britain in these weeks, and they resonate also in the name the “Beast from the East” that the media gave to the cold wave and snowstorms blasting over the country around the time of the attack in early March. This association is not only linked to my personal experience of anti-East Cold War propaganda in the borderlands of the Iron Curtain (in an area where heavy snowfalls are not taken as a safety threat), as the headline of 9 March 2018 in the Independent illustrates: “Britain is gripped with fear about

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Fig. 5.1  “UK and US given case file on ‘nerve agent made in Russian Lab’” (Source: The Guardian, April 6, 2018)

In parallel, and this paradoxically increased the fictional fascination of the Salisbury plot and the anti-communist narrative thread that is woven into it, returning to a Cold War was not only stated as a possible consequence by Russia as well as a phalanx of Western governments, but was actually put into reality through widely freezing bilateral relations (Hume 2018; Borger et al. 2018). This collective memory of the Cold War connected in public perception with the horror images of nerve gas being used in Syria in April 2018 and suspicions of Russia’s role therein. Simultaneously, we were reminded of other ex-secret service agents— like Alexander Litvinenko—who were killed in brutal, yet technically highly sophisticated ways, and of similar stories that flourish between fictional fantasies and criminal realities on a world stage.

everything these days – are we thinking ourselves into a new Cold War?”; interestingly the article also connects stories of bad weather and the Cold War to World War II practices of stockpiling food (Street-Porter 2018; see also Eisch 1996).

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In-Between Locality and Global Totality—Approaches from Cultural Theory and Ethnography But at the same time, the normal life of normal people in a local Salisbury neighbourhood had been affected—or infected—by an invisible, but unimaginably toxic danger. Administrative attempts to protect Salisbury citizens (including recommendations that people should wash their clothes) moved into the focus of media attention, as did local citizens’ worries and complaints against the authorities (The Associated Press 2018; Dearden 2018; Street-Porter 2018). Suddenly this local community found themselves closely linked to Boris Johnson’s political “world community” in that an impalpable threat to the personal safety of Salisbury citizens, of school children, shoppers, pub visitors and pedestrians met with security concerns on a global level. Michel Foucault points out that our present time, and especially what he, by the end of the 1970s, recognised as the upcoming “society of security”, is marked by an intense intermingling of tendencies of individualisation and totalisation: “Never, I think, in the history of human societies […] has there been such a tricky combination in the same political structures of individualization techniques and of totalization procedures” (Foucault 1994, pp. 349–350). It is a two-faced power that targets the individual subject concerning their needs for personal, bodily and social safety, and, at the same time, relates them to political processes of the securitisation of Western societies on an overarching macro-level. All of this happens in our everyday life-worlds,6 which again are closely linked to Foucault’s understanding of the “milieu”: “The space in which a series of uncertain elements unfold is, I think, roughly what one can call the milieu. […] It is therefore the medium of an action and the element in which it circulates” (Foucault 2007, pp. 20–21). With their actions (such as prevention policies, or


form of power that applies itself to immediate everyday life categorizes the individual, marks him by his own individuality, attaches him to his own identity, imposes a law of truth on him that he must recognize and others have to recognize in him” (Foucault 1994, pp. 349–350).

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c­ounter-measurements against crime and terrorism), and their discursive circulation within everyday milieus the politics of security substantiate the quasi-natural and irrefutable character of human uncertainty, and they introduce natural causes to everyday perceptions of insecurity in order to naturalise also the effects of political intervention. With this ideological dimension “of the mechanisms of security, [as] a political technique that will be addressed to the milieu” (Foucault 2007, p. 23), Foucault’s theory reminds of the workings of the myth of the everyday, as described by Roland Barthes (1972 [1957]) two decades earlier. In a comparable way, the myth relies on the implementation of a political message into the discursive field of the everyday, it deploys the mechanisms of narrative circulation through media and everyday communication, and aims to naturalise its own power claims with reference to a given threat to the people and their communities. In my own ethnographic research, conducted since the year 2006 in English and German neighbourhoods and everyday fields (Eisch-Angus 2019, 2011), I found that the discursive mechanisms of short-circuiting the private and the public under the dispositive of security/safety7 could be widely observed within everyday communication and narration. Similar to the narrative procedures that drive the stories of the Salisbury attacks on and on, the circulation of stories and the ongoing growth of new storylines strike the eye. From the perspective of narrative anthropological research, strategies of personalisation, emotionalisation and moralisation of story plots are evident. They go along with narrative constructions of an adversary “other”, and with suggestive imageries, all of which aim for the visualisation of victims and perpetrators (where everybody can be a vulnerable victim in one moment, and a responsible suspect in the next (Eisch-Angus 2011, pp. 100–102). Lastly, public narration of safety and risk bears a diffuse tension between factuality and fictionality, and an ability of linking any issues of personal safety to those of administrative and political security and to power on supra-individual and global levels. 7The terms “security” and “safety” name two aspects, which are contained in the German expression Sicherheit and which collude in governmental strategies between the private and public spheres.

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Still, all of this is only a prelude. An ethnographic research looking at the Salisbury story could not only exhaust itself in a narrative media analysis. Instead, media findings need to be connected to the views and experience of real people within their everyday realm. Also, in Salisbury a multi-perspective field research could have been employed, for example, with questions about how everyday actors experienced the attacks as well as the increased attention of health services, police and the media. In the dialogic flow of participant observation and ethnographic interviews an ethnographer could ask how Salisbury inhabitants acted and reacted to the challenges put to them, and carefully listen to how the story of the attacks is told and retold within the neighbourhoods concerned, comparing which lines of interpretation are developed in varying everyday contexts, and how the roles of the main players were understood and integrated into the social realities and heterogeneous world views of local communities. And, even more significantly, a participant observer could open his or her ears towards the responses to the Salisbury attacks and its media representation in any other community in England and elsewhere, and also in his or her own everyday surroundings of work or leisure: After all, and this message is closely woven through the Salisbury media reporting, in the possibility space of insecurity we could all, wherever our homes might be, be the victims of the next high-profile criminal or terrorist conspiracy within our personal live-worlds, no matter how preposterous and unimaginable it might be. In this tension field a multi-perspective ethnographic process, complemented by ongoing situational and context-sensitive analysis (Eisch-Angus 2014) offers the tools to follow the densely, sometimes paradoxically interwoven relations of power that Foucault recognises in everyday milieus. At the same time, it can open up Foucauldian perceptions of a fatal and inescapable top-down grip of power towards manifold bottom-up reactions and counter-strategies. Everyday people aren’t just passive victims of power and societal transformation. Following an ethnographic approach, closed concepts of an impersonal subject of the society of security are contradicted by the inter-subjective communicative flow between the individual everyday actors and an ethnographer. In this, the ethnographer is key to a dialectic process of understanding, in the way that he or she acts as a researcher from a reflexive distance

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and is, at the same time, closely and personally involved in everyday considerations of safety and security. So, in the local communication spheres around the Salisbury attacks one may ask: Are people worried, do they join into moral panics due to their own communal fears, do they share conspiracy theories as regressive outlet of the (ostensibly) disempowered? Or, what counter-strategies and counter-narratives might they develop?8 Do ­ they resist being made into potential victims, or protest against being drawn into an out-of-date Cold War showdown, which deflects from more pressing everyday concerns like the devastating consequences of socio-economic downfall and the hopeless Brexit charade? All of these questions point towards the communicative zone between the private sphere of homes and families, and public discourse arenas. This liminal intersection between the inside and the outside constitutes the neighbourhood as a central venue, and a spatial model of everyday life and communication. Based on the ethnographic and sociological research of a team around Michel De Certeau in the 1970s in the French neighbourhood of Croix-Rousse, Pierre Mayol defines the neighbourhood as the progressive privatization of public space. [It ensures] a continuity between what is the most intimate (the private space of one’s lodging) and what is the most unknown (the totality of the city or even, by extension, the rest of the world); […] for the dweller, it amounts to the sum of all trajectories inaugurated from the dwelling place. (Mayol 1998, p. 11)

The mechanism by which public space, as an outside world of the unknown and threatening, is appropriated as a safe zone of one’s own, Mayol describes as communicative and narrative: Who is who and who is doing what? Where is the new customer from? Who is the new tenant? Chatting and curiosity are internal impulses 8Due to the line of argument of this essay, I can here only hint towards everyday ways of resistance to the narrative politics of security. Elsewhere I have, for example, unfolded everyday strategies of ignoring, reversing, humour and the power of lived experience in my chapter “8.4 Das Lachen der Alltagsmenschen: Erfahrung und Widerständigkeit” (Eisch-Angus 2019, pp. 609–622).

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absolutely fundamental to the everyday practice of the neighborhood: on the one hand, they nourish the motivation for neighbor relations, but on the other, they constantly try to abolish the strangeness contained by the neighborhood; chatting is a repeated exorcism against the alteration of the social space of the neighborhood by unpredictable events that might cross it […]. (Mayol 1998, p. 19)

Even with seemingly meaningless rituals of greeting, of recognising and acknowledging each other by a simple nod, by saying hello to each other, neighbourhood communication and half-public interaction render the social and spatial borders between “us” and the “other” into a kind of buffer zone of the private towards the public. In this way, everyday communication creates social security for the individual dweller and at the same time addresses existential fears by sharing them interactively. With its never-ending exchange about illnesses, accidents, crimes and danger of all sorts, everyday communication adopts an essentially ambiguous function of narration. If we start on a fundamental level, any story plot is constructed around an interruption of normality, the crossing of a border that should not have been crossed, and it is in the happy spirit of a fairy tale that there is an actor, a hero maybe, who finds the way from this exceptional state of the abnormal and insecure back into normality, safety and security.9 This means, on the one hand, that everyday narration enables the individual to transfer the liminal, speechless experience of danger, destruction or death into a shared social reality. In the way of telling and retelling a story with neighbours, colleagues, friends, etc., a break of normality, continuity and comprehensibility re-gains language and social meaning. Personal and collective safety and security are restored. However, on the other hand, safety/security/uncertainty— anything that is covered by the German term Sicherheit—cannot be 9With

this spatial model of the narrative plot, I especially refer to Y. M. Lotman’s semiotic cultural theory (Lotman 1977), with its references to Vladimir Propp’s famous folk tale analysis (Propp 2015 [1928]). In German European ethnology and folklore studies, Herman Bausinger was the first to trace classical forms of folktales within modern everyday narration, and to adapt traditional narrative analysis to the understanding of stories told within a rationalist mindset of the non-fictional and factual (Bausinger 1958).

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named without simultaneously bringing the potentials of insecurity and risk into consciousness. Here, the ambivalence of narration embraces the inherent paradox of the terminology of (in)security: Storytelling and everyday narration emancipate the individual from being caught in speechless anxiety and insecurity, but they also introduce an awareness of danger into everyday worlds and link it to personal or collective memories of accidents, crimes, illnesses and other threats, as well as to our everyday fears for our bodies and w ­ ell-being, our families, property and social integration. Whilst everyday narratives can help the individual to cope with danger and assist in relating it to experiences of survival and resistance, they may just as well disconnect the everyday actors from their lived-through experience in the way that they trade on a suggestive, lurking threat, a diffuse feeling of fear and insecurity that they circulate and normalise within the community. Narrative everyday communication can be read both as hegemonial and emancipating, as ideological and de-mythologising in the way that it suggestively instrumentalises, or is confronted with personal experience and factual reality. This ambivalent quality of narration stands out even sharper and involves us more totally in contexts of neoliberal and populist transformations of society, whilst discourse and anti-discourse, the subversive and affirmative intermingle to indistinguishability. European ethnology and folklore studies have explored rumours and contemporary legends as small narrative core forms10 that take effect through their plots being located right on the borderlines between the concrete and known realms of the everyday, and an otherworldly, implausible and threatening sphere (Bausinger 1968; Jeggle 1987). An unlikely, dubious or even horrifying story might go along with a sense of fiction, whilst a threat or risk is introduced that cannot be denied in the field of possible realities. A clear-cut decision if a story is true, or not, can rarely be made. Rumours, urban legends or crime stories

10With this background, the way that Alex Georgakopoulou (this volume) utilises the condensed, emblematic information of “small stories”, as they link the personal and the collective in everyday narration as a starting point of a context-sensitive discourse analysis, may remind of Germanspeaking Erzählforschung (narratology) in the way that it traditionally revolves around the idea of the Einfache Formen (simple forms) as introduced by André Jolles (1930).

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suggestively allude to people’s fears and emotions, and gain even more authority when they are told as based on the factual testimony of everyday eyewitnesses or local media. Roland Barthes has, with his myths of the everyday, further elaborated this concept by describing a suggestive intentionality of everyday narratives within new fluid power relations and politics of subjectivisation, which he called the gouvernementalité as early as 1957. According to Barthes, in media and everyday discourse the mythical plot, (a “true” story, a political headline, an advert, a fashion image, a cult object, etc.), addresses us personally, it “comes and seeks me out in order to oblige me to acknowledge the body of intentions which have motivated it and arranged it there as the signal on an individual history” (1972 [1957], p. 125). It communicates an ideological message as an appellative, “imperious” urge (p. 125). When it comes to narrative-based calls for safeguarding and security, we can hardly distance ourselves from feeling threatened, we have to accept a personal risk and responsibility. Crime is real, and why should it not hit me, as it has done to this or another person, as told in that unlikely, yet true story? At the same time, when reflected on, the myth withdraws into a cloudy vagueness—nothing was said, only a mere possibility was mentioned. In this sense, the everyday stories of danger and insecurity inescapably circulate between factuality and improbability, reality and irreality. They thrive in the ambivalent liminal spaces of the everyday such as neighbourhoods, work environments, local or digital communities and translate their immanent ambiguities into story plots.

Community Tales Let me give you an example from my own field research conducted in urban neighbourhoods in the South-West of England, in a town that I call Lymeston (Eisch-Angus 2019). During the year 2007 I overheard, over a period of eight months, in informal family and neighbourhood rounds, a story being told of young criminals who had thrown rubbish into the car of a pensioner that was parked somewhere in a residential area. When the owner challenged the attackers, he was beaten

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up—and in another version of the story even killed by the youngsters. The story was usually told in the context of youth crime being on the rise in the country and frequently referred to media reports (in one case I found that it was actually matched by a lead story in the local newspaper that was published at the same time, LLP 2007b11). Irrespectively of the possibility that this story might have happened in one or the other way, I take it as an urban legend that casts an uncanny threat to people’s safe inner life-worlds into a narrative form. It clearly reflects a tension between the older generation and young people, who—coming from our own families and neighbourhoods—are feared to introduce crime and violence into local dwelling places, and even into an intimate private space like a parked car. Similarly, I could repeatedly record how young people, gathering teenagers or also students located in family houses were associated with threats to the local community. Very often these threats were expressed through metaphors of litter polluting public community spaces. In times of raising fragmentation and securitisation of local communities, this symbolism is easily picked up by local media, as well as through community police actions that combine a necessary clean-up with a suggestive social cleansing against a projective anti-social “other” within local communities. To take action against youths threatening neighbours, for example, whilst littering at their informal street meeting points, was voted a key priority of an urban neighbourhood at a so-called Partners and Community Together (PACT) meeting, which I observed during field research in an inner-city community hall.12 With the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act community policing is at the heart of British police work, as the regional Community Police Officer explained to me in an interview.13 In the close cooperation of local police with local residents and institutions, neighbourhood policing claims to link policies of crime 11I don’t deny that these reports are possibly based on real events that alarmed the inhabitants of a Lymeston residential estate. Nevertheless, the presentation and transregional accumulation of comparable reports in media and everyday conversations point to overarching discursive connections. 12Field diary of April 14, 2010. 13Interview with G. Briggs on December 12, 2009. All names of interviewees, as well as local media, are pseudonymised.

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prevention with activities of community building and empowerment, for example, through Neighbourhood Watch schemes, or the PACT meetings.14 At the edge of that meeting, I could overhear how an older man whispered in an excited tone to another lady, how he had recently prevented a case of “distraction burglary” at night in his own residential street. “The next door neighbour nearly had this kind of thing”, “I came down [there] last night”, “saw these guys”, “I went in”, as I noted in my field diary. He had seen three guys, but only two men knocked at that door, from which he concludes: “The third man must have been at the back door, trying to burglar the house from there”.15 This suspicion that created the story plot, follows the general formula of the conman crime story. It gains additional significance within the context of the PACT meeting, a gathering of local residents, police and local politicians, who share a target of crime prevention and empowerment. Around the same time regional police had launched a campaign against doorstep crime that brought a range of administrative and social agencies together within a “multi-agency door-step crime forum”, and also fed a press series “SOS – stranger keep out!” (LLP 2007a).16 Doorstep crime, as my police interview partner told me, is actually very rare. Nonetheless, the police and local media over many years implemented the narrative of the conman, who distracts residents at their house door, whilst a partner in crime robs the house through the back door, deeply within people’s security conscience (Eisch-Angus 2019, pp. 486–500). At the same time, it is the old people—who are the main target group both of criminal intrusions to private neighbourhood spheres and of neighbourhood policing strategies—who also contradict this principle 14I

have argued alongside Ulrich Bröckling’s theory of the “entrepreneurial self ” that these ritualistic processes, in their resemblance to economic coaching strategies, strengthen systematically personalised feelings of empowerment, whilst denying actual power concerning crucial social or criminal concerns. As the priorities chosen in neighbourhood policing campaigns (due to my observation as well as the statement of the responsible police officer and council manager) are usually highly trivial, themes of social and economic precarisation, and the dismantling of social solidarity are rendered invisible (Eisch-Angus 2019, pp. 489–490; Bröckling 2016, pp. 127– 129); interviews on December 9 and 10, 2009. 15Field diary of April 14, 2010. 16Interview with G. Briggs on December 14, 2009.

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of closing up one’s home: In participating in everyday communication in a Lymeston neighbourhood, I could frequently overhear how elderly women invoked memories of neighbourhoods of open doors and of their childhoods of uncontrolled roaming around through houses, gardens, streets and nature. They hold against young neighbours and families that both relying and trusting in neighbours, and allowing children to get street-wise in their own ways are now gone as everyday normality of safeguarding. So the old feel to be made doubly insecure in facing locked doors and high, densely obscured garden fences, and in being permanently trained into the necessity to bring together all preventive forces from police, to the media and to every single individual to shield the house from evil intruders. In this way, it is literally the doorstep that leads into the private home, which becomes a most vulnerable place. The conman story is only one vivid example, of how, in the contemporary society of security, the communicative safety zone of the neighbourhood shrinks down to a confrontative line, where the private and the public collide without any intermediating space to breathe and to talk. It also illustrates the interplay of everyday communication, media and public service institutions under the leadership of the police, that share the objective to enforce the strategies of securitisation within everyday narrative processes. This is how the governmental structures of the society of security take their grip in everyday fields. In the immediate sense of the word, administrative governing joins up with everyday mentalities and local practices in the light of the dispositive of security. Today we can observe what Foucault anticipated 40 years ago, that a largely increased awareness of insecurity, risk and crime is introduced into private spheres through offices, schools, medical practices, shops and all public spaces where people meet throughout the day and talk about issues of health, sustenance, care, schooling, work, raising children, local politics and whatever more. Traditional and digital media easily join into this dynamic by close-circuiting personal everyday affairs with globalised new economics and governance. The effect is pervasive: In an assumed pre-governmental live-world (what the older ones might refer to as natural safeguarding routines of the everyday) crime, violence, illnesses or accidents would interrupt the flow of normal life,

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but only at this point create an awareness of insecurity that could then gradually be put back into order through communication and collective support. Instead, in the society of security, the sheer possibility of disorder, with an inflationary effort of countermeasures, preventive and precautionary actions to be taken, feeds into a permanent state of risk, demanding from each individual to be on constant alert, follow any institutional advice whilst taking full responsibility for one’s own, and others, personal safety. Still, crime happens. In these cases, when criminal and violent events occur on a local level, it can be observed how societal strategies of personalisation and responsibilisation are, in local communication, media and institutional practices, supplemented by the threat of social stigmatisation and exclusion. Let me point to one example when, in Lymeston, in what was seen as a deprived neighbourhood, a woman accidentally drove over and killed her fiancé with her car in front of a seedy pub. Both were in a drunken state. During the time of the court trials reports in the media, and especially the local press, features with catchy headlines and large photos of the couple corresponded with terrified talks and comments of residents that I could overhear in informal local communication. Counter-narratives went around as there were people who knew family members of the couple, maybe from school or work, or had talked to a witness of the event. Murder claims came up or were angrily rejected. The public stigmatisation of the couple seemed to be seen also as a denigration of people’s own social surroundings. The story was felt to be far too real, too close to one’s own live-worlds and, at the same time, unreal, impossible.17 In this atmosphere of insecurity, the police and court, together with local media, managed to stage the case as “another example to amplify the message that drink-driving wrecks lives”, as the local press quoted the judge (LLP 2009). With this, not only the killed man was shown as a victim, but also the perpetrator became a victim of her own irresponsible drunkenness, whilst the authorities and media blinded out the fact that accidents happen, that they are by definition unpredictable and 17Field

diaries of August 12–17, 2009.

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unavoidable. Instead, not only the court sentence, but also the trauma of the guilty woman appears as a moral consequence and necessary punishment to be recognised by public audiences. The message is clear: We are all potential victims, and all potential perpetrators, all guilty in the eyes of security, where every moment has to be lived responsibly, awake, controlled. During the court hearings insights into private family details, the emotions and nightmares of all involved were published from a close-up perspective, leading up to a public apology of the convicted perpetrator/ victim: “I would just like to say how sorry I am for what happened. I can’t believe I have acted in such an irresponsible manner and being in my car when I simply shouldn’t have been” (LLP 2009). Our everyday is interwoven with criminal stories, accidents and events of insecurity from the repertoire of our own experience and collectively shared narratives. Story plots follow us with their suggestive imagery, we tell them on, sort them according to the division of the inner and outer spaces of our social communities and collective memories, and drop them in order to go on to the next story. So far, I have only hinted towards the role of new digital media to enhance the all-presence of insecurity and crime, and to interlock atmospheres of reality and unreality in an unprecedented intensity. We have learnt to be present wherever things happen, to see it all through the panoptical eyes of digital media around us. At the same time these fleeting, yet emotionally loaded images from the everyday are increasingly produced in fuzzy qualities by mobile phones or CCTV cameras, presenting an unreal and uneasy aesthetics and a diffuse morality. They are continuously multiplied by news channels and social media, discussed online and fed back into offline environments.

Post-truth and the Panoptic Spark-Over of (In)Security With the following example, I refer to the free daily paper, the Metro, that I found during my field research laid out in public busses and train stations. Whilst I was on a train in July 2009, the title page, with a photo taken by a CCTV camera on a bus, caught my interest

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(Metro 2009).18 It showed a bored young man, possibly an immigrants’ child and a lightly dressed young woman, typing into her smartphone—a scene that could happen on any bus or train (whilst reading the Metro ). Only the blurred CCTV image, together with the headline: “Sentenced to death by text”, gave a hint that bad things were happening here: That, as the article reports, in this very moment a boy had been trapped into a honey trap by his ­15-year-old ex-lover and stabbed to death in the context of London gang wars. Again, it was an image of everyday normality, and, at the same time, of a criminal other, that the reader could only recognise as an innocent girl that could come from any neighbourhood, from his and her own intimate surroundings. At the same time, the report plays with the ambivalent way in which press media, camera surveillance and the smartphone interact—in that they facilitate the crime just as well as they create a teleoptical, real-time visibility of the crime and put the observer (the everyday train or bus commuter) right in the centre of the scene (Fig. 5.2). This all-visibility, the ongoing kaleidoscopic multiplication of images and narratives of crime, can lead to an explosive showdown that plays the effects of the liminal situation of a criminal attack back into the everyday in a highly exponentiated way. The prerequisite, and this leads back to my example of the Salisbury attacks, is the linking of local experience and the global staging of events, just as I experienced it with the shooting spree of an ­18-year-old man in Munich in July 2016. I had spent the weekend far off in the Austrian borderlands, when the rumour went round of a terror attack in Munich: ISIS, it was said, had already admitted responsibility.19 In this night of July 22 in Munich the traffic widely stopped, and the police and news reporting routines broke down. A few weeks later the German news magazine Der Spiegel published a reconstruction of the supposed terror night, where blurred videos of the Munich murders mixed with images of terror events elsewhere, rumours of shootings spreading over the town, news flashes, text messages, Facebook postings, tweets, live news, TV images, even video games imagery and eye witness reports, 18Field 19Field

diary of July 9, 2009. diary of July 23, 2016.

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Fig. 5.2  Front page imagery “Honey trap girl sends message to setup murder. Sentenced to death by text” (Source: Metro, July 9, 2009)

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all of which were brought together in the style of a “live stream” (Backes et al. 2016). The reporting imitates a liminal dissolution of space and time, an exceptional state between fiction and reality, in which mythical narratives from the funds of collective memory play a major role: Such were the images of previous terror attacks in European cities, stories of people having been taken hostage, white vans, figures like the hooded terrorist dressed in black, or also horror clowns, World War II memories of people hiding in bunkers, and a variety of urban legends. By publishing the reportage also digitally Der Spiegel multiplied this surreal panoptical explosion even further, whilst constantly highlighting the factual truth of its journalism. In the end this reflects the actual hotbed of posttruth, of a post-factual era with its need to produce a permanent state of emergency, of crime simultaneously happening nowhere and everywhere, and in real time (Fig. 5.3). At the same time, Munich citizens, everybody who had happened to be in the city this night, for months told and retold their personal stories, where they had been at which point during the events, what they had done, heard and seen, just as if they needed to re-root a hyperreal experience of world terrorism, that hadn’t even been terrorism, back into their everyday community experience. A brief flashback to Salisbury through the reporting one year on concerning the attacks on Sergei and Yulia Skripal might round up this exploration of everyday narrations of crime in times of post-truth and the ambivalent omnipresence of (in)security. In September 2018 two Russian suspects had been traced and identified through CCTV footage around the days of the attack. Twenty-first-century surveillance and visualisation technologies embraced the 1970s aesthetics of sinister terrorist mugshots, and public media fantasies continued to spin on criminal stories around Russian political conspiracies, reminding of Cold War institutions and murderous agents leaving their traces from and to the ex-communist east of Europe (Perraudin 2019; dos Santos 2019). In their one-year anniversary edition, The Guardian linked the past and present of European terrorism to interviews with Salisbury witnesses similarly to the personalised Spiegel reportage on the Munich amok. It emphasised the vulnerability of and lasting emotional impact on Salisbury residents such as a tailor who reports to be still traumatised

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Fig. 5.3  Cover “Draussen wird geschossen! München, 22. Juli 2016. Wie eine Stadt in Panik verfällt” (Source: Der Spiegel, September 17, 2016)

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by the sound of sirens, his son having suffered a panic attack and needing therapeutical care, whilst the psychological force of narrative media images resonated in a lasting fear of park benches. Against the extremes of political evil hitting from outside the city holds its community values and celebrates the heroes from police and military personnel, and individuals in public and charity services (Morris and Bannock 2019). And, what we can only read between the lines of the sensationalist anniversary reporting of the Salisbury attacks: Hardly anybody seems keen to tell their stories of insecurity and crime, to further live in a state of being overexposed and on permanent alarm. People had had enough.

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Cowburn, A. (2018, March 12). Theresa May says it’s ‘highly likely that Russia was responsible’ for poisoning spy Sergei Skripal. Independent. https:// Accessed 20 July 2019. Critcher, C. (2006). Critical readings. Moral panics and the media. Maidenhead and New York: Open University Press. Dearden, L. (2018, March 29). Salisbury nerve agent attack: Play area near Sergei Skripal’s home cordoned off by police investigating poisoning. Independent. Accessed 30 July 2019. Dos Santos, N. (2019, February 8). Salisbury attack suspect linked to 2015 poisonings in Bulgaria. CNN. salisbury-attack-bulgaria-poisonings-suspect-intl/index.html. Accessed 15 August 2019. Eisch, K. (1996). Grenze. Eine Ethnographie des bayerisch-böhmischen Grenzraums. Munich: Kommission für bayerische Landesgeschichte. Eisch-Angus, K. (2011). “You can’t argue with security.” The communication and practice of everyday safeguarding in the society of security. Behemoth. A Journal on Civilisation, 4(2), 83–106. behemoth.2011.014. Eisch-Angus, K. (2014). Fluid classics. Ethnographic challenges in everyday fields. Ethnologia Europaea, 44(2), 123–129. Eisch-Angus, K. (2019). Absurde Angst – Narrationen der Sicherheitsgesellschaft. Wiesbaden: Springer. Foucault, M. (1994). The subject and power. In M. Foucault, Power. Essential works of Foucault 1954–1984, Vol. 3 (J. D. Faubion, Ed., pp. 349–350). London: The Penguin Press. Foucault, M. (2007). Security, territory, population. Lectures at the Collège de France 1877–78 (M. Sennelart, Ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Hall, S., Critcher, C., Jefferson, T., Clarke, J., & Roberts, B. (2013). Policing the crisis. Mugging, the state, & law and order (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan. Hume, T. (2018, April 4). Russia’s spy chief says Trump and May ordered the Salisbury nerve agent attack. Voice News. Accessed 27 July 2019. Independent Voices (2018, April 5). Independent. IndependentVoices/posts/1046075402197374. Accessed 20 July 2019.

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Jeggle, U. (1987). Die Sage und ihre Wahrheit. Volkskunde als empirische Kulturwissenschaft. Der Deutschunterricht, 39(6), 37–50. Jolles, A. (1930). Einfache Formen. Legende, Sage, Mythe, Rätsel, Spruch, Kasus, Memorabile, Märchen, Witz. Halle (Saale): Niemeyer. Kentish, B. (2018, April 12). Poison used on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury attack was novichok nerve agent, confirms chemical weapons watchdog. Independent. sergei-and-yulia-skripal-in-salisbury-attack-was-a-novichok-nerve-agentconfirms-chemical-weapons-a8301121.html. Accessed 27 July 2019. Letters. (2018, March 18). Questions and theories on the Salisbury nerve agent attack. The Guardian. mar/18/questions-and-theories-on-the-salisbury-nerve-agent-attack. Accessed 27 July 2019. LLP. (2007a, August 18). New message in fight against the doorstep conmen. Lymeston Local Press. LLP. (2007b, August 23). Thugs terrorise elderly in quiet estate. Lymeston Local Press. LLP. (2009, August 13). My grief, by drink-drive mum who killed fiancé. Lymeston Local Press. Lotman, Y. M. (1977). The structure of the artistic text (G. Lenhoff & R. Vroon, Trans.; Michigan Slavic Contributions 7). Ann Arbor: Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Mayol, P. (1998). Part I: Living. In M. de Certeau, L. Giard, & P. Mayol (Eds.), The practice of everyday life. Vol. 2: Living and cooking (pp. 7–148). Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. Metro. (2009, July 9). Honeytrap girl sends message to set up murder. Sentenced to death by text. Metro. Morris, S., & Bannock, C. (2019, March 4). ‘The whole world knows us’: Salisbury one year on from novichok attack. The Guardian. Accessed 15 August 2019. Morris, S., & Crerar, P. (2018, April 3). Porton Down experts unable to verify precise source of novichok. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian. com/uk-news/2018/apr/03/porton-down-experts-unable-to-verify-precisesource-of-novichok. Accessed 20 July 2019. Murray, C. (2018, March 14). Skripal, Novichok, Russia, Israel, Syria, MI6 and Salisbury. GlobalResearch. Centre for Research on Globalization. Accessed 27 July 2019.

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6 Popular and Visual Narratives of Punishment in Museum Settings Hannah Thurston

Introduction The chapter will begin by introducing the reader to Texas as a place of harsh punishment, briefly exploring—from a narrative perspective—the ways in which the Lone Star State is characterised as exceptionally punitive. Then, drawing on ethnographic research undertaken in the Texas Prison Museum, we will consider the Lone Star story of execution past and present. Maybe unsurprisingly the dominant narrative within this museum, celebrated the Texan reputation for harsh justice. However, while the leading story is one of Texan toughness, there were other more subtle stories at work. We find, for example, a display about death penalty abolitionism, an audio exhibit which seems critical of the high number of executions in Texas, and a photographic display that constructs inmates and their families using the scripts of victimhood.

H. Thurston (*)  School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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Taken together the humanising politics at work in the displays mentioned above represent a counter-narrative of sorts; they appear to contradict the image of Texas as a place of excessively harsh punishment. It is worth noting though, that counter-narratives need not be in complete opposition to more dominant discourses in order to be understood as ‘counter’. I am inclined to agree with Bamberg (2004, p. 363) when he wrote “there are always certain aspects of dominant stories that are left intact, while others are reshaped and reconfigured” (2004, p. 363). As we shall see, these humanising elements do create a discord, but ultimately they are complicit with the master narrative of Texan toughness. In other words, these displays do represent a tension within the Texan story of execution, but the pro-death penalty narrative is still more persuasive and more pervasive. As we shall find, in its entirety the story of execution in Texas is a story which celebrates the Lone Star approach to execution as tough but also fair.

Telling Stories of Texan Toughness As aforementioned, Texas is often portrayed as a punitive outlier in an already punitive country. Indeed, the phrase ‘Don’t Mess With Texas ’ has gained symbolic significance far beyond the anti-littering campaign for which it was originally written. This story of a unique Texan toughness is also reflected in the academic punishment literature. Garland (2010) suggests that support for capital punishment is ‘sustained and enthusiastic in Texas’ (p. 192); Hammel (2002, p. 107) refers to the Texan death penalty as a ‘juggernaut’, a ‘massive inexorable force’; Armstrong and Mills (2003, p. 103) suggest executions have become a ‘routine occurrence in Texas’; Koch et al. (2012, p. 150) call Texas the ‘public face of execution’; Bessler (2003, p. 223) contends that Texas is the only state which ‘regularly executes offenders’; McGowan (2011, p. 17) explains that Texans demonstrate a particular ‘enthusiasm’ for harsh punishment; and Judith Randle (2005, p. 103) refers to Texas as ‘America’s death penalty capital’. In short, scholars agree that “Texas reigns supreme in the punishment industry” (Perkinson 2010, p. 4).

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When we view the findings of this literature from a narrative perspective though, we are inclined to consider not only the story but also the storyteller. This shift in focus—from narration to narrator—reveals something rather interesting. These are primarily stories being told about Texas as opposed to stories being told by Texas. Within a narrative framework the punishment scholars can be understood as contributing to what Ewick and Sibley (1995, p. 197) have termed a ‘hegemonic tale’. Together they (re)produce a kind of taken-for-granted story about Texas and its relationship with harsh punishment. While we get a sense of how ‘outsiders’ view Texan punishment, there is less discussion in the literature about how Texas (and Texans) explain and justify that commitment to tough justice. This insider/outsider dynamic is further illustrated in one of the few books dedicated specifically to local stories about Texan punishment Prison City: Life with the death penalty in Huntsville Texas (Massingill and Sohn 2007). The authors interviewed a Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Correction, asking her about her dealings with the press. She suggested that while foreign and out-of-state reporters arrive with an attitude that Texan prisons are ‘out of control’, local Texan journalists “understand Texans are not bloodthirsty, let’s-hang-um-up-in-the-town-square kind of people”. She explained ­ that local reporters are easier to converse with because they “understand Texan laws and the mentality of the people” (Massingill and Sohn 2007, p. 82). Scholars are a little like the out-of-town journalists, telling their outsider stories of a tough Texas with little reference to the insider stories which serve to justify support for execution.

Using Narrative to Justify Action Polkinghorne (1988) and Plummer (1995, pp. 20–21) suggest people use narratives to ‘explain their actions’ both to themselves and to others. It can thus be fruitful to enter the ‘social realm’ of sharing narratives because it is here that “values and interpretations are in the process of being put together”; it is through the telling and sharing of stories

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that we do ‘rhetorical work’, convincing others of our point of view and explaining why we see things this way (Bamberg 2004, p. 357). In sum, as individuals we use stories to describe the social world as it is lived by us, the storyteller. Taking this further, Presser (2009, p. 190) shows how groups can also tell stories and how these ‘narratives of the collective’ provide the resources from which to construct the ‘narrative of the self ’. Any story-of-the-self will thus be embedded within a number of stories told about the collective and when these ‘narrative nesting dolls’ vocalise together we begin to see a constructed form of collective ­self-identity (Gubrium and Holstein 2008, p. 255). It is in story-worlds like the Texas Prison Museum that the Lone Star State is sharing its narratives of penal practice. By placing what we have learned about Texan punishment in the context of narrative then, we have revealed something of a gap within this punishment literature, an untold story so to speak. In this chapter, we will be exploring the narratives (and counter-narratives) of Texan punishment, but we shall do so by exploring the stories Texas tells about punishment. The stories of—as opposed to about—the collective will be our starting point. It is these insider stories which can “take us beyond surface facts or statistics” about Texan punishment and “reveal the social world on its own terms” (Gubrium and Holstein 2008, p. 478). Texas is telling its own punishment stories, we just need to look and to listen. The analyses which follow were informed by ethnographic observations from within the Prison Museum in Huntsville, Texas. As part of the research, I visited other punishment-relevant tourist sites and conducted interviews with staff and volunteers in each of these sites. It is not within the scope of this chapter to discuss the methodological peculiarities of conducting a museum ethnography, although I have published about this elsewhere (please see Thurston 2017). Similarly, this chapter will focus specifically on the stories told in the Texan Prison Museum about execution. For discussion of Texas punishment stories more broadly, please see: Prisons and Punishment in Texas: culture, history and museological representation (Thurston 2016). The remainder of this chapter then is dedicated to the story of execution as told by The Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville. We will encounter a number of relevant displays, and I shall discuss each in the

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order that visitors find them; an order which begins with what Stone (2006) might refer to as a ‘dark tourism product’—the electric chair.

Death by Electrocution As an object, the electric chair is placed in a theatrical setting. The lighting is much more subdued than in the rest of the museum, but the chair still casts a long shadow upon the floor. The chair is housed within a replica of the Walls Unit execution chamber. It is surrounded by three brick walls, one of which includes a door and window that serve no function. The chair is protected by both waist-high glass and security ropes (Fig. 6.1). RESEARCH NOTES: “Most become quiet as the electric chair enters their view, almost respectful as they gaze at it and one assumes imagine its destructive force. A sense of unease seems to surround many of the adult visitors, helped by the security measures which add gravitas to a setting that scarcely needs it. They become awkward; their eyes shifting away from what they are here to see; their bodies moving away faster than their morbid curiosity seems to desire. Yet they always glance back; one last glimpse of what might be an uncomfortable reminder of their own mortality”

It is difficult to understand or explain exactly why people react in the way they do to what is essentially an inanimate object. It is as though the chair—as an object rather than image—holds captive those whose

Fig. 6.1  The Electric Chair: Texas Prison Museum

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lives it has taken; death clings to the air around it. In line with Smith’s (2008) findings, within the museum context the chair-as-object possesses ‘an auratic quality … bestowed by death’ (p. 162). Moreover, the chair is also symbolic of a less modern, less civilised era in American penal history (Brandon 1999; Smith 2008; Garland 2010). Within the museum, the glass wall and ropes which protect the chair encourage the audience to see it as mysterious, but also antiquated. Making the object ‘untouchable’ ensures it retains elements of the unknown while also emphasising its position in the past (Pearce 1994); not just an object, the museum presents the chair as an artefact. The chair-as-object is accompanied by a poster which includes an image (Fig. 6.2). The image is black and white as opposed to colour, grainy as opposed to defined, set purposely in the past. As Wells (2000) suggests, this type of image is often used in museums because it acts as a ‘guarantor of authenticity’. That is, the audience will ‘read’ the image as a snapshot of a past reality. Moreover, the text on the poster refers to the chair as ‘Old Sparky ’ and to electrocution as ‘Riding the Thunderbolt ’. On the one hand, this language contrasts with the c­hair-as-object

Fig. 6.2  Poster “Riding the thunderbolt”: Texas Prison Museum

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because it adds a more comical tone to the capital punishment display. Yet on the other hand, nick-naming the chair is also nostalgic and thus serves to re-establish the chair’s position in the past (Smith 2008). However, while the chair’s story is no doubt told in past tense, that is not to suggest it is a forgotten story. The electric chair continues to feature in cultural products and cultural stories even today. As an image, the chair has featured in blockbuster movies (see Sarat 2001); in bestselling novels (see Owen and Ehrenhaus 2010); in an Andy Warhol exhibition (see Capers 2006) and even as part of the stage design at Madonna’s world tour (see Smith 2008). More than just an object or image; the electric chair has achieved an iconic status within other culture industries. That said, within the context of the museum, the electric chair and accompanying poster together place the story of execution by electrocution in the past. The aesthetics of the chair and the space around it make it an artefact; something of a bygone era. Yet the chair is the beginning of a chronological narrative about execution. The next instalment of that narrative is the story of death by lethal injection.

Death by Lethal Injection There is another poster next to the chair entitled ‘Anatomy of an Execution ’ which is about death by lethal injection (Fig. 6.3). It includes a clock face, with an image of an executed inmate—Willie Pondexter—at its centre. Around the edges of the clock are images and text relating to the tasks undertaken before, during and after an execution. In contrast to the nostalgic tone of the electric chair’s story, using ‘Anatomy’ in the title associates lethal injection with the scientific and the medical. The word no doubt has nuanced connotations of death, but not the painful gruesome death often associated with electrocution. While the death penalty continues to generate emotionally charged debate in the political, social and cultural spheres, the use of the word ‘anatomy’, accompanied by the clock face serve to diffuse that emotionality by portraying lethal injection as a routine, perfectly timed series of predictable events.

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Fig. 6.3  Poster “Anatomy of an Execution”: Texas Prison Museum

Garland (2010) suggests official discourse makes every attempt to ‘de-sensationalise’ the event of an execution, and that correctional officers are trained to be as precise as humanly possible to reduce the likelihood of a ‘spectacle’. The aim is to make modern execution a ‘non event’ (Zimring and Hawkins 1989, p. 120). Entitling the poster about lethal injection ‘Anatomy of an Execution ’ can be understood as achieving that same goal. Indeed, even the positioning of the needles in the museum reflects this same sentiment. No mock execution chamber, no gurney, the needles are instead placed in the bottom of cabinet which is actually dedicated to other things. The cabinet which contains the replica needles also displays various objects associated with two inmates; Karla Faye Tucker and Gary Graham, both of whom were executed. There is no overt explanation as to why these cases were contested, but some controversy is implied by the abolitionist tone of the objects within the cabinet. The museum’s

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story of modern execution (in the form of replica needles) is thus somewhat confusingly entwined with the museum’s brief story about two controversial cases which resonated with the abolitionist movement. One half of this ‘abolitionist’ cabinet is dedicated to the case of Karla Faye Tucker. For the purpose of contextualisation (although not stated within the cabinet) Tucker’s case caused public debate due—in part—to statements of remorse she made while in prison, which were underpinned by a religious conversion (Kudlac 2007). This part of the display includes a ‘stop executions’ banner made by the Texas Coalition against the death penalty, and a poster made by an anti-death penalty group in Copenhagen. The text under the photograph of Tucker states that “Tucker was executed in 1998 for murdering two people with a pickaxe”. The other half of the cabinet is dedicated to Gary Graham, who is depicted using his mug shot. For the purposes of contextualisation (although not stated within the cabinet) Graham’s case received public attention because of the ‘questionable character’ of a key witness who was later found guilty of a separate murder. The objects within this side of the cabinet include a noose and a burnt American flag. The text beneath Graham’s picture states he was “sentenced to die by lethal injection for robbing and murdering a man … Graham had also been charged in ten separate robberies and suspected in two shootings, ten car thefts, eight more shootings, and the rape of 57-year old women”. This cabinet is actually very interesting from a narrative perspective. While it may at first appear to be representing an abolitionist argument, the objects within the cabinet are all symbolically charged in ways which suggest otherwise. Put another way, when read together, these objects tell a specific story about abolitionists. The burnt American flag offers the suggestion that abolitionists (whatever their nationality) are unpatriotic and the noose seems to imply that abolitionists associate the modern death penalty either with legal hangings or illegal lynchings. On closer inspection we realise this cabinet does not actually give any abolitionist argument and thus no real counter-narrative exists here. We are offered no reason to oppose the executions of Graham or Tucker, or to question the use of the death penalty more generally. Indeed, the pro-death penalty viewer is offered a retributive justification to support

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the executions, based on the severity of the crimes. In other words, while this cabinet might appear to contain a counter-narrative to Texan toughness, a more nuanced reading of the cabinet as a storied space reveals a lack of any coherent abolitionist argument.

Audio Exhibit: Witness to an Execution The next instalment within the Texas Prison Museum’s capital punishment exhibit is an audio recording, emitted from a small display entitled ‘Witness to an Execution ’. The audio is a mixture of music and people speaking. The spoken word sections are delivered by correctional officers, spiritual advisors, associated press and an ex-warden Jim Willet. It is clear from listening that those officers trained in execution find the process harrowing, yet the voices tell us something else too. In one part of the audio, each person states how many executions they have witnessed. Purposefully repetitive this section seems to encourage the listener to consider (if not outright question) the Texan commitment to harsh punishment. “Bam, bam, bam, do 3 a year that’s one thing. Do 35 a year - that’s a lot” “… I have been with 114 people at the time of their execution”. “… I’ve participated in and witnessed approximately 120 executions”. “… I’ve witnessed approximately 170 executions”. “I have been a participant in thirty-one executions”. “I witnessed fifty-two executions”. “Probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 115 executions”. “Approximately 105, 110 executions”. “Thirty-six or thirty-seven executions”. “130 executions”. “I’ve witnessed 162 executions by lethal injection in the state of Texas” “What will I say when I see God? I wrestle with myself about the fact that it’s easier now and was I right to make part of my income from watching people die?”

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Yet possibly the most poignant section within this audio comes later, when the witnesses describe the execution itself. According to Sarat (2001), the execution scene in death penalty movies often places the audience as a ‘voyeur to someone else’s voyeurism’ and listening to the audio places the tourists in a similar position. However, death penalty movies tend to involve the victim and the crime (swapping between an image of the gurney and an image of the murder) but the museum’s audio does not. Rather, the interviewees turn our attention to the offender and the offender’s family. Conversely, it is these people who are presented as the unlikely ‘victims’. “I had a mother collapse right in front of me; we were standing virtually shoulder to shoulder. I’ve seen them fall into the floor, totally lose control. You’ll never hear another sound like a mother wailing whenever she’s watching her son be executed. Yet, how do you tell a mother that she can’t be there in the last moments of her son’s life?” “Some of them are very calm, some of them are upset, some of them cry … usually in about 20 seconds, he’s completely strapped in … After all the straps are done they look you in the eye and they tell you thank you for everything you’ve done. It’s kind of a weird thing … A lot of inmates apologise … I know that at times they know when it’s happening to them. One in particular I can remember, he said ‘I can taste it’”

Unlike Brown’s (2009, p. 144) conclusions about other penal tourist sites, this exhibit does not ‘look away’ from the act of punishing; the ‘distance’ between the visitor and the condemned is never smaller than it is when listening to this recording. Rather than presenting a ‘vague unease’ about the act of punishing (Brown 2009), the disquiet of the execution team and those whose job it is to witness an execution is clear and explicit. The shift of focus onto the offender and his family as victims, along with the morbid tone means this display might be read as a ­counter-narrative to Texan toughness, as an audience we are asked to question the morality of execution. However, as Bamberg (2004, p. 224) suggests, counter-narratives can still draw strength from master

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narratives. It is worth remembering that this audio is not heard in isolation, it is instead part of what I have elsewhere described as a ‘modernisation motif ’ (see Thurston 2016). It is one aspect of a bigger museum story in which execution is presented as sterilised, medicalised and civilised. Lest we forget the differences between the portrayal of death by electrocution and death by lethal injection. Indeed, certain elements of the audio do seek to re-establish the storied construction of the lethal injection as bringing about a more peaceful (de-sensationalised) death. “.. then we’ll say its time, and so they will unlock the cell, and he’s not handcuffed or chained, and he and I will walk into the chamber” “one man who wanted to sing Silent Night, he made his final statement and then after the warden gave the signal he started singing Silent Night and he got to the part ‘round yon virgin mother and child’ and just as he got ‘child’ out - was the last word” “The people inside, watching, they are invariably quiet” “It’s very quiet, it’s extremely quiet. You can hear every breath everyone takes around you”

So, the audio in its entirety is quite complex in comparison with the rest of the death penalty exhibit. On the one hand, it appears somewhat critical of the Texan commitment to execution (“you do 35 a year, and that’s a lot”) while also positioning the inmate/inmate’s family as victims (“you’ll never hear another sound like a mother wailing”). Yet on the other hand, it portrays the execution as a quiet event (“you can hear every breath”) and portrays the inmate’s death as somehow civilised (“he’s not handcuffed or chained”). In short, while the audio does represent a tension of sorts, it does little to undermine the more dominant story in which Texan punishment is tough but also fair. This is a ­counter-narrative which—in Bamberg’s words—has been ‘carefully managed’ in order to “leave intact, and be complicit with, other existing (master) plot lines” (2004, p. 362). There is though, one space in the museum which is more overtly critical of Texan execution. Here I am referring to a photographic display entitled The Forgotten Victims of Crime.

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Photographic Display: The Forgotten Victims of Crime Within the Texas Prison Museum, there is a photographic exhibit which consists of sixteen photographs in two rows of eight (Figs. 6.4 and 6.5). One side are pictures of (and statements made by) family members of murder victims. The other includes images of (and statements made by) family members of people who have been executed. At one end is a statement from the artist, in which she describes the families of those who have been executed as the “forgotten victims of crime”. Within the statement she also explains why she felt the need to undertake the project: “I started thinking about the families’ execution leaves behind … It really is a moving conversation to speak with a parent, any parent, who has lost a child”

Within the artist’s statement both ‘sets’ of families—of the victim and of the executed—are seen to be suffering. This sense of symmetry is also reflected in the composition of the exhibit (the photographs are identically framed, and they stand back-to-back) and in the similarity of sentiment within the written statements (both sets of families speak about their grief ). This stylistic composition compels the audience to confront the contradiction that the family of the executed could be afforded victimhood status; they too have suffered a loss. One mother, whose son was murdered, makes this quite clear in her own statement: “Yolanda’s pain was the same as mine. A son is a son. It doesn’t matter whether you lose them as a victim or a criminal. The pain is the same”.

Fig. 6.4  Photographic exhibit: Texas Prison Museum

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Fig. 6.5  Photographic exhibit: Texas Prison Museum

In Chapter 8 of this book, Sympathies and Scandals: (Counter-) Narratives of Criminality and Policing in Inter-war Britain, John Carter Wood explains how newspapers in 1920s Britain deployed narrative strategies to humanise the condemned. These strategies included: showing photographs of the condemned often with family members and interviewing people close to the offender. The museum’s photographic display (and the audio exhibit discussed earlier) could be interpreted as performing a similar function. Inviting the audience to see the offender as a brother, a son, a father, these displays—at least on the surface—humanise the men waiting to die. Indeed, the photographic display might even be seen by some tourists as abolitionist in tone, as an attempt to make them question the death penalty from a moral perspective. The underlying message is that execution makes victims of

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innocent people. But will every patron to the museums view the executed man’s family as ‘innocent’? Maybe not. Christie (1996) has discussed how those who are easily awarded victimhood status tend to be viewed as in no way deserving of their victimisation; they are the ‘ideal’ victims. In contrast non-ideal victims have some connection to their victimisation. They might include sex workers who are raped, drunk people who have been mugged, or victims who have a criminal record. The family of the executed may not be perceived by everyone as having a legitimate claim to victimhood status. The photographic exhibit can thus be interpreted as both a story about ideal victims (the murder victim’s family) and non-ideal victims (the executed man’s family). As Christie (1996) might predict, reactions to the display and to the implicit plea for victimhood status did vary dramatically. RESEARCH DIARY: Some visitors appeared moved by the suffering, others were angry that victimhood recognition had been awarded at all. Of all the displays, this one seemed to generate the most debate from the museum visitors; some people seemed to see a friction between the two ‘types’ of victim. I heard one visitor describe it as ‘a disgusting attempt [by the executed men’s’ families] to get sympathy’.

Plus, the display does speak in a language understood by death penalty advocates. For example, one statement made by Mike Miller (the son of a murder victim) reads: “My sister and I were robbed of the opportunity to know our dad and have him be part of our lives”. This, along with other emotional accounts of continued suffering from ideal victims will likely appeal to the pro-death penalty audience. However, the overriding tone of this exhibit is not pro-death penalty. Unlike other displays in the capital punishment collection, it does not celebrate the reputation of Texan toughness; it does not construct execution as tough but fair; and it does not surround the punishment of death with any kind of cultural nostalgia. We have already discussed how the artist’s statement—along with the stylistic symmetry of the exhibit—invites the audience to at least consider the possibility that execution makes innocent victims of offender’s families. There are though, more explicit anti-death penalty arguments at work within this photographic exhibit.

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Somewhat surprisingly the abolitionist argument in this display is more pervasive and more persuasive than anything we found in the cabinet containing the abolitionist paraphernalia. For example, one statement made by Darryl Bell—whose cousin was executed in 2010— raised a number of questions about the ‘bias’ within a ‘broken system’ including ineffective council. And it is not just the so-called non-ideal victims who question the legitimacy of execution within this museum story. Claudia Beseda-Burns (daughter of murder victim Elizibeth Beseda) states “I don’t believe in capital punishment. I’ve never felt anyone had the right to take another person’s life”. So, while this exhibit does employ some pro-death penalty language, in its entirety the display is not pro-execution. Had the artist or the museum chosen only to include statements and images of the murder victims’ families, then this exhibit would have been interpreted very differently. As a story, it would have presented a compelling argument to support harsh punishment based on the traditional victimhood scripts of suffering. Yet allowing the families of the executed to grieve alongside the families of the murdered creates a tension within the narrative of Texan toughness. The extent to which it should be read as an explicit, free standing counter-narrative though is up for debate. As we saw, the display did also speak the language of death penalty advocates, albeit briefly. Moreover, while the exhibit might have sought to humanise the family of the condemned, the inmates themselves were not the lead characters within this arguably abolitionist story. There were though, other parts of the museum which did seek to humanise the offenders. Rather than portraying Texan prisons in terms of Texan toughness, this collection of displays instead told a story in which correctional facilities are civilised (maybe even civilising) spaces.

Humanising Those in Custody The final cabinets I would like to discuss relate to the inmates themselves and their time in custody. The Texas Prison Museum has several cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts (Figs. 6.6, 6.7, 6.8 and 6.9). These include, amongst other things, a display about female death row

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Fig. 6.6  Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum

Fig. 6.7  Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum

inmates and their quilt/doll making, a large display of inmate carpentry and an exhibit explaining how prisoners train guide dogs for soldiers returning from war. While not all of these objects relate specifically to those awaiting execution, the audience are nevertheless encouraged to

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Fig. 6.8  Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum

Fig. 6.9  Cabinets filled with inmate arts and crafts: Texas Prison Museum

assume some inmates pose only a very minor threat. They have, after all, been given access to saws, needles, scissors and animals. The museum also sells leather goods in the gift shop crafted by inmates. The tourist

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is thus invited to take the narrative of the reformed (even civilised) prisoner home with them. Showing the souvenir to their friends and family or giving it as a gift, this story of the prison and the prisoner will likely loop and spiral far beyond the museum. To be clear within many of the other displays, inmates were characterised as dangerous, animalistic, ruthless and cunning. As we might expect given the Texan enthusiasm for punitive punishment, there were stories about contraband weapons, violent escapes and murdered prison officers. All of which will remind the museum visitor that prisoners (past and present) pose a very real threat. People incarcerated were most certainly portrayed as violent and unpredictable, capable of the most heinous acts (please see Thurston 2016). However, as we have seen, that is not to suggest the museum was completely devoid of humanising instances. This dual inmate identity of ‘dangerous/criminal’ and ‘reformed/humanised’ means the prison film is arguably the closest match to that offered in the museum. Most prison movies do attempt to humanise at least some of the prisoners within the narrative, while simultaneously portraying other prisoners as highly dangerous. However, in prison movies the lead character is often innocent and at times even portrayed as a hero (Bennett 2006). This is not the case in the museum. Humanising politics work to make the reformed inmate appear ‘civilised’ and the prison as ‘civilising’, but that is not to say inmates are ever portrayed as innocent or heroic. Moreover, in prison films the crimes committed by the lead character tend to be non-violent or perpetrated many years ago (Mason 2006). What are less common then, are cultural stories that work to humanise real-life offenders who have committed recent, heinous crimes. In short, what we rarely see is humanising politics at work in cultural stories told about death row inmates. While uncommon, one significant attempt has been made to represent guilty death row inmates as reformed characters, and thus shares some similarities with the humanising politics we have found to be at work within the Texan Prison Museum. The Benetton advertising campaign entitled ‘We on Death Row’ used images of—and statements made by—convicted killers awaiting execution on death rows across America (see Girling 2004). The campaign received much negative

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press, particularly in the Southern States. According to Kraidy and Goeddertz (2003), it was the partiality in the narrative that caused the controversy; there was no victim voice. While a previous Benetton campaign which used a picture of the electric chair had gone relatively unnoticed by victim advocate groups, by contrast the ‘We on Death Row’ billboards sparked national and international debate. Benetton were accused of ‘sympathising with murderers’ (Kraidy and Goeddertz 2003). There are clearly similarities here with our museum narrative, although there are also some important differences to note as well. Firstly, the museum story is not partial in the same way. The voices of victimhood are represented elsewhere in the museum (in the photographic exhibit, discussed earlier) as is the ‘dangerous criminal’ identity (in the form of the contraband cabinets, escape attempts and memorials to those who have died in the line of duty). Secondly, ‘We on Death Row’ used direct quotations to humanise the inmates. Here, the audience was encouraged to hear the offenders’ stories through their own words, and by extension to judge the offenders’ claims of reform. Our museum story replaces words with objects. Displaying inmate artwork, leatherwork, carpentry and tapestry does still represent an attempt to humanise the inmates, to make them appear ‘civilised’, but it also serves to silence the inmate voice. Rather than a declaration of reform from the prisoner’s mouth (as in the Benetton campaign), these are implicit assertions made by the museum. By implying the reform narrative through non-verbal communicative gestures, the museum will likely sidestep much of the controversy associated with Benetton. There is no ‘face’ staring back at the audience asking for forgiveness and the tourist does not ‘see’ the condemned and in turn are not ‘seen by’ the condemned. The dynamics of spectatorship are entirely different. The third difference between the museum and the ‘We on Death Row’ campaign is arguably the most significant, in that the museum’s reform narrative is able to comfortably co-exist with the more dominant story of Texan toughness. Whereas Benetton was seen as humanising inmates in an attempt to generate support for abolition, the museum humanises but offers no such suggestion or argument. For example, dolls made by the ‘women of death row’ are exhibited in the museum

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and we are told they were made ‘twenty years ago’, but that is all. These women (we presume) have either been executed or are still awaiting execution. The museum humanises the inmates but unlike the Benetton campaign it does so without making them part of an argument in favour of death penalty abolition. In summary, there is no suggestion anywhere in the museum that the reformed inmate should not be executed, or that any inmate, however dependable or responsible, should receive a reduction in sentence. Taking this collection of displays together then, we see that the museum removes its humanising stories from wider debates about the appropriateness of execution by avoiding them entirely. As a storied space it ultimately allows the audience to see the inmates as reformed, but still supporting their execution/harsh punishment. These narratives about reformed inmates are thus not in competition with any narrative about how ‘good behaviour’ might signal a reduction in punishment. The reformed inmates are awarded privileges (such as access to carpentry tools) but the audience can view this reform as a personal journey. Within these stories, ‘good behaviour’ will have no impact of an inmate’s death sentence or the length of time they will be in prison. In other words, while the inclusion of humanising politics does again represent a tension, it nevertheless exists alongside the more dominant master plot of Texan toughness. Visitors can leave the Prison Museum confident that in Texas, good behaviour will not result in a reduction in sentence. Inmates can be humanised without them becoming characters in an abolitionist story.

Conclusion Texas has a worldwide reputation for harsh—even excessive—judicial punishment; the story of Texan toughness in the penal sphere is a master narrative of sorts. Yet for the most part this notoriety is founded on ‘outsider’ stories told about Texas as opposed to ‘insider’ stories told by Texas. The aim of this chapter then was to delve into some of the stories that Texas was telling about its own relationship to punishment. In other words, this chapter has demonstrated one way in which we—as

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cultural punishment scholars—can analyse popular narratives of punishment to greater understand the meanings which surround penal practices in localised contexts. More specifically, we began by examining how the meanings which surround electrocution differ from those which surround lethal injection. Here we found the museum embraced the powerful symbolism of the chair, while at the same time making the needles a kind of ­‘non-event’. Moreover, by placing the past alongside the present, the visitor is encouraged to read the punishment narrative temporally, as a story about modernisation. In other words, by juxtaposing the old against the new, the site ultimately offers a narrative of Texan progress. As visitors we learn that while execution in Texas was once delivered using ‘Old Sparky’, it is now more civilised, more sanitised, some might argue more humane. This portrayal of Texan punishment as [comparatively] humane can be read as a counter-narrative to the ‘outsider’ story in which the Lone Star State is portrayed as excessively harsh. Indeed, by entering the Texas Prison Museum as a story-world we found Texas telling various stories which together had the potential to destabilise the more dominant discourse of Texan toughness. For example, the audio exhibit invited us to question the Texan enthusiasm for execution; the photo exhibit seemed to make the offender and their family into victims and there were several cabinets (including those in the gift shop) which displayed inmate artwork, carpentry and dolls/tapestry. All of these humanised the inmates to varying degrees, disrupting and disturbing the image of prison as a dangerous place filled with dangerous people. However, as Bamberg (2004) suggests, introducing ‘counter characters’ [in this case humanised prisoners] need not mean a complete rejection of the mater-narrative [in this case Texan toughness]. Rather “these counter characters have to be … carefully managed in order to leave intact, and be complicit with, other existing (master) plot lines” (Bamberg 2004, p. 362). As we saw, Texas did deploy humanising scripts when portraying prisoners, but within the Lone Star story-world, these humans were still deserving of tough punishment. In conclusion, it is my hope this chapter provides some food for thought. Punishment related museums and other tourist sites offer

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a unique opportunity to understand how a collective narrates its own relationship with criminal justice; as narrative environments they are significant sites in which meanings are made and opinions formed. This chapter is thus an invitation of sorts. Narrative criminologists are well placed to examine the stories being told about crime and punishment in cultural spaces of public memory and to contribute to this growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship. Tourist sites are storied spaces which offer us a unique opportunity to examine the meanings which surround punishment, and this I would suggest is an opportunity not to be missed.

References Armstrong, K., & Mills, S. (2003). Until I can be sure: How the threat of executing the innocent has transformed the death penalty debate. In S. P. Garvey (Ed.), Beyond repair? America’s death penalty (pp. 94–105). Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press. Bamberg, M. (2004). Considering counter-narratives. In M. Bamberg & M. Andrews (Eds.), Considering counter-narratives: Narrating, resisting, making sense (pp. 351–371). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing. Bennett, J. (2006). The good, the bad and the ugly: The media in prison films. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 45(2), 95–115. Bessler, A. (2003). Kiss of death: America’s love affair with the death penalty. New Hampshire: North-Eastern University Press. Brandon, C. (1999). The electric chair: An unnatural American history. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company Inc. Brown, M. (2009). The culture of punishment: Prison society and spectacle. New York: New York University Press. Capers, B. (2006). On Andy Warhol’s electric chair. California Law Review, 94(1), 243–260. Christie, N. (1996). The ideal victim. In E. Fattah (Ed.), From crime policy to victim policy (pp. 17–30). London: Macmillan Publishers. Ewick, P., & Sibley, S. (1995). Subversive stories and hegemonic tales: Towards a sociology of narrative. Law and Society Review, 29(2), 197–226. Garland, D. (2010). Peculiar institution: America’s death penalty in an age of abolition. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Girling, E. (2004). Looking death in the face. The Benetton death penalty campaign. Punishment and Society, 6(3), 271–287. Gubrium, J., & Holstein, J. (2008). Narrative ethnography. In S. Hesse-Biber & P. Leavy (Eds.), Handbook of emergent methods (pp. 241–265). Guildford: Guildford Press. Hammel, A. (2002). Jousting with the juggernaut. In M. Dow & D. Dow (Eds.), Machinery of death: The reality of America’s death penalty regime (pp. 107–126). New York: Routledge. Koch, L. W., Wark, L., & Galliher, J. F. (2012). The death of the American death penalty: States leading the way. Boston: North Eastern Press. Kraidy, M., & Goeddertz, T. (2003). Transnational advertising and international relations: US press discourses on the Benetton ‘We on Death Row’ campaign. Media, Culture and Society, 25(2), 145–165. Kudlac, C. (2007). The death penalty and the media: Public executions. Connecticut: Praeger Publishing. Mason, P. (2006). Prison decayed: Cinematic penal discourse and populism 1995–2005. Social Semiotics, 16(4), 607–626. Massingill, R., & Sohn, A. (2007). Prison City; life with the death penalty in Huntsville Texas. New York: Peter Lang Publisher. McGowan, R. (2011). Getting the question right? Ways of thinking about the death penalty. In D. Garland, R. McGowan & M. Meranze (Eds.), America’s death penalty: Between past and present (pp. 1–29). New York: New York University Press. Owen, S., & Ehrenhaus, P. (2010). Communities of memory, entanglement and claims of the past and present: Reading race Trauma through The Green Mile. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 27(2), 131–154. Pearce, S. (1994). Museums and the appropriation of culture. London: The Athlone Press. Perkinson, R. (2010). Texas tough: The rise of America’s prison empire. New York: Metropolitan Books. Plummer, K. (1995). Telling sexual stories, power, change and social worlds. London: Routledge. Polkinghorne, D. (1988). Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany: University of New York Press. Presser, L. (2009). Stay as you are: The narrative of offenders. Theoretical Criminology, 13(2), 117–200.

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Randle, J. (2005). The cultural lives of capital punishment in the United States. In A. Sarat & C. Boulanger (Eds.), The cultural lives of capital punishment: Comparative perspectives (pp. 92–112). Stanford: Stanford University Press. Sarat, A. (2001). When the state kills. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Smith, P. (2008). Punishment and culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Stone, P. (2006). A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions. Tourism: An Interdisciplinary International Journal, 54(2), 145–160. Thurston, H. (2016). Prisons and punishment in Texas: Culture, history and museological representation. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave. Thurston, H. (2017). Museum ethnography: Researching punishment museums as environments of narrativity. Methodological Innovations Online, 10(1), 1–12. Wells, L. (2000). Photography: A critical introduction. London: Psychological Press. Zimring, F., & Hawkins, G. (1989). Capital punishment and the American agenda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

7 Conflicting Counternarratives of Crime and Justice in US Superhero Comics Daniel Stein

Since the late 1930s, when Superman started selling millions of comic books and captured the attention of a mass audience eager to purchase a new adventure every month, the comic book superhero has been one of the most pervasive figures in American culture. Now, eight decades later, this figure has become one of the most recognisable icons of the global popular imagination and, acting as one of the world’s most ­well-known fictional crime-fighters, continues to trigger debates about crime and justice. Defined as a superhuman being with extraordinary physical and mental powers, a mission to protect people from evil, a secret identity behind the mask, and a signature costume, the comic book superhero at once transcends the spectre of human society and safeguards it against inside and outside forces (cf. Coogan 2006, pp. 30–43). Take Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the comic by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel that launched the genre and turned DC Comics (then National Periodicals) into an industry heavyweight. It D. Stein (*)  University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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showcases Superman’s crime-fighting feats as he saves a wrongfully accused woman from execution, intervenes in a case of domestic abuse, rescues his future love interest Lois Lane from kidnappers, and brings a corrupt politician to justice. The cover illustration emphasises his superhuman strength as he is about to hurl a car through the air; it highlights his iconic blue costume with the red shoes, belt, and cape and the S emblazoning the yellow chevron on his chest. The comic introduces Superman’s origin story, narrating his narrow escape from death as a baby when his scientist father places him in a capsule racing towards earth as his home planet is imploding. On earth, the alien boy starts a new life as Clark Kent and becomes “Superman, champion of the oppressed”, a “physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need” and who “must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind” (Siegel and Shuster 2018).1 Superman is, in many ways, the prototypical superhero, the mould from which all other superheroes have been cast, as his popularity motivated countless variations of the narrative formula. These variations range from dark vigilante figures like Batman, whose alter ego Bruce Wayne, a millionaire playboy, sublimates the traumatic boyhood experience of witnessing his parents’ murder by fighting crime at night, to Marvel’s flawed superheroes, such as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, and The Incredible Hulk, introduced in the early 1960s, to the morally conflicted and often brooding heroes of the current era. Despite these variations, superheroes continue to negotiate a tension that has shaped the genre from the beginning: the incessant fight against crime and evil in pursuit of justice that often reaches beyond the bounds of what would be deemed legally or morally acceptable in real life. It is this constant negotiation of the limits of the legal and the moral that makes the superhero a powerful indicator of changing attitudes about criminal justice. Comic books address these attitudes on the level of content, but as serial narratives that depend on audience feedback for their successful continuation, they also ask their readers to gauge this content as they peruse the stories and, especially since the 1960s, publicise their 1On

Superman’s continuing relevance, see Gordon (2017).

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responses in letters to the editor, fanzines, and other forms of participatory culture. “The origin of Superman”, a 1948 retelling and elaboration of Shuster and Siegel’s original origin story, is a case in point. Here, Clark Kent’s father offers his adopted son some deathbed advice: “There are evil men in this world … criminals and outlaws who prey on decent folk! You must fight them … in cooperation with the law!” (Finger and Boring 1948). Even though Superman does not serve as an official crime-fighter or representative of the state, he follows the advice. The story prescribes an understanding of crime-fighting as an endeavour in which the superhero works with the authorities and accepts the rule of law rather than place himself above it and pursue selfish aims. When Batman’s origin story was retold in the same year, it offered a different conception of the superhero’s relation to the law and its institutions. “I swear I’ll dedicate my life and inheritance to bringing your killer to justice … and to fighting all criminals!”, Bruce Wayne muses in front of his parents’ grave (Finger and Kane 1948), delivering the rationale for Batman’s violence. As readers would have known by 1948, Batman is a darker version of the superhero, a troubled vigilante willing to step outside the law in his pursuit of justice, bound only by a self-imposed code that includes a no-kill provision but allows the use of excessive force.2 These two origin stories from the late 1940s indicate the superhero genre’s engagement with what legal scholar Thomas Giddens calls “the law question”: concerns over “what constitutes law, the nature of authority, the legitimate use of violence, social order and control, the line between public and private, and what law should be” (Giddens 2015, p. 766). That Superman and Batman, the two oldest still popular superheroes, represent divergent approaches to this question complicates monolithic views of the genre as an unequivocal proponent of a reactionary, tough-on-crime stance glorifying vigilante violence. Superhero comics can affirm the status quo and reinforce notions of


and Henson’s analysis of 166 comic books published between the mid-1980s and 2010 confirms that Batman frequently acts outside the law whereas Superman generally follows it (2010, p. 61).

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institutional authority when protagonists thwart threats against the social order, from street crime and political corruption to organised crime and even alien invasion (Vollum and Adkinson 2003; Reyns and Henson 2010; Sharp 2012; Phillips and Strobl 2013; Comerford 2015). But as Phillips and Strobl suggest, the genre “reflects and shapes” attitudes about crime causation and social control (2013, p. 109); stories dramatise “due process, crime control, victimization, crime prevention, and the portrayal of criminal justice officials” (Reyns and Henson 2010, p. 51) in crisis-ridden scenarios with inadequate government agencies and institutions, and they routinely explore ethical tensions between vigilante violence and legal restraint (Bainbridge 2012; Giddens 2015). Moreover, as serial narratives that must accommodate shifting audience interests and account for changes in the world outside the s­toryworld, they have produced different approaches to the law question that offer insights into the impact of popular culture on public dispositions towards crime and justice. It is, however, extremely difficult to gauge the “effects [of such stories] on criminal justice ideology and policy” (Adkinson 2008, p. 258) because we cannot assume that content equals impact. One way to learn how these comics reflect and shape popular dispositions is to examine the reception of individual stories and the debates about crime and justice they initiate. Situated at the intersection of superhero studies (Hatfield et al. 2013), comics narratology (Stein and Thon 2015), and cultural criminology (Ferrell and Sanders 1995), this chapter does so by examining one comic book instalment, “A Simple Case” (Batman #44, November 2015), and its controversial reception, combining a close reading of the comic with critical discourse analysis of reviews and related forms of reader response.

Master Narrative/Counternarrative My observations follow Ferrell and Sanders’s suggestion “that cultural criminology must account not only for the dynamics of criminal subcultures but for the dynamics of the mass media as well” (1995, p. 7). I am interested in how mass mediated narratives like superhero comics

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can “shape dominant perceptions of crime and justice” and impact the “perception of the legitimacy of agents of social control or of the criminal justice system” (Reyns and Henson 2010, p. 47). If “the realities of crime, deviance, and criminal justice practice cannot be understood outside the context of media and criminal justice forces that act, consciously and subconsciously, to shape hegemonic definitions of ‘crime’ and ‘justice’” (Adkinson 2008, p. 241), we must analyse how such hegemonic definitions unfold and how they are sustained as well as potentially subverted in the public sphere. The dynamics of mass media are especially complex in the realm of serial popular culture, where production and reception overlap and where static sender-receiver models cannot capture the productive instabilities of open-ended storytelling. Bamberg’s theory of master narrative and counternarrative, developed in the context of everyday interactions and interview situations, can help unravel this complexity by pointing to the mechanisms though which superhero comics negotiate the law question. Recognising a “spatio-temporal foundation of a storied world, [where] characters are drawn up with plans and goals in relationship to other characters […], creating a social world within which individual characters emerge as protagonists versus antagonists, as good versus bad, as heroes versus villains” (2004, p. 357), Bamberg’s notion of narrative is particularly suitable to superhero comics. He defines master narrative as “setting up sequences of actions and events as routines [… that] have a tendency to ‘normalize’ and ‘naturalize’” and thus “constrain and delineate the agency of subjects, seemingly reducing the range of their actions” (2004, p. 360). Master narratives “remain inaccessible to our conscious recognition” even as they “structure how the world is intelligible” (2004, p. 361). They emerge from a process of “participant creation” (2004, p. 364) and generate flexible positionings through which speakers partially comply with and partially counter them, depending on the context and dynamics of the discourse (2004, p. 366). In order to counter a master narrative, speakers usually “do not present a simple counter story but seem to be juggling several story lines simultaneously” (2004, p. 363). This complicates Phillips and Strobl’s claim that superhero comics “serve to reinforce the status quo, with little room for counternarratives” (2013, p. 39); it recognises the fluidity of narrative,

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which is heightened in a genre of serial storytelling whose popularity depends on its ability to motivate divergent audience responses and encourage readers to engage with the evolving narrative. Superhero comics were long mandated to endorse an official master narrative on crime that reinforced the status quo. Following the comics scare of the 1950s, when psychiatrist Fredric Wertham attacked comics as a cause for juvenile delinquency, the industry consented to the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. This institution developed strict guidelines: “In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds”; “[c]rimes shall never be presented in such a way as to promote distrust in the forces of law and justice” (qtd. Vollum and Adkinson 2003, p. 105). These stipulations left so little room for counternarratives that even an anti-drug narrative of Amazing Spider-Man (#96–#98, May–July 1971) was not approved, even though the storyline condemned drug usage and complied with the moral underpinnings of the code.3 If these comics triggered discussions about crime and law enforcement, they focused on storyworld issues rather than “the law question”.4 As Marvel’s anti-drug position indicates, superhero comics conventionally propose conservative notions of crime, supporting social order in a chaotic world of violence and failing authorities. Moreover, they constitute a “‘hegemonic paradox’ in that the protagonist almost universally operates outside legally recognized forces of social control yet risks his or her life regularly to uphold the legitimacy of formal criminal justice institutions” (Adkinson 2008, p. 249). Batman’s violence is narratively justified by his urge to end crime in Gotham, as is his willingness to risk his life to maintain order through vigilante justice. In The Long Halloween, Batman joins police commissioner Jim Gordon and District 3The

code was eventually loosened and then abandoned by Marvel in 2001 and DC in 2011. a letter in Batman #126 (9/1959), William Tauriello commented: “In a recent story, entitled ‘THE SECRET OF THE FANTASTIC WEAPONS,’ you show BATMAN and ROBIN in a Mexican village, trying to arrest a criminal. According to International Law, no United States officer can arrest a criminal in Mexico because the officer has no authority in Mexico”. DC replied: “True, under the International Law, an officer of one country can’t make arrests in another country. However, BATMAN and ROBIN, being world-famous lawmen, have been ­deputised by the police forces of many nations, including Mexico”. 4In

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Attorney Harvey Dent in a “triumvirate of criminal justice” (Giddens 2015, p. 767). Dent acknowledges that Batman “crosses a line we … can’t” (Loeb and Sale 1998, p. 35) because he is willing to act outside the law. Even though Gordon insists that Batman only bend the rules, the caped crusader crosses over into the realm of criminal behaviour, evading legal accountability through his alter ego Bruce Wayne and using his near-superpowers to escape persecution (Loeb and Sale 1998, p. 37). Batman’s vigilantism follows a moral code, as “[t]he hero’s devotion to justice overrides even his devotion to the law” (Reynolds 1992, p. 16). As Giddens argues, “the fact [that] Batman is outside the legal system becomes symbolic of the divide between technical law and questions of morality and justice” (2015, p. 768), creating a precarious position between respecting and breaking the law in pursuit of justice. When superheroes heed the law, they do so out of their own volition, acting on a self-imposed mandate (Phillips and Strobl 2013, p. 112; Adkinson 2008, p. 251) that compels them to protect the innocent but also enables the use of illegal methods, such as excessive force, invasion of privacy, and torture.5 While most superheroes seek “true justice” (Giddens 2015, p. 768), e.g. by punishing criminals and supervillains beyond the limitations of the legal system, they lack formal democratic legitimisation. “The vigilante autocratically assumes responsibility for societal power and authority on the basis that not only do the circumstances warrant such exceptional action, but that popular sovereignty demands it” (Sharp 2012, p. 360). This makes superheroes quasi-fascist leaders who disobey the law in the name of serving the people. And as Miettinen maintains, “the superhero, by his nature, exists in the terrain between law and politics, in a state of emergency, breaking the law in order to uphold it. The superhero executes acts of power, but at the same time, has no legislative power … has no legal position as an agent


League: Cry for Vengeance features the following dialog: Green Arrow: “Is this torture?” Green Lantern: “Prometheus is a villain, […] he is a murderer”. Green Arrow: “Yeah, but aren’t we supposed to be the good guys?” Later on, the Flash rejects justifications of extralegal superhero violence: “It’s not your call to make. It’s not even your call. We’re the Justice League not the Vengeance League!” (qtd. in Phillips and Strobl 2013, pp. 122, 133).

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of the law” (2011, p. 280). As a vigilante detective, Batman is Gotham’s guardian and a violator of its laws who disregards the sentiments of the people whenever he sees fit. As Superman notes in Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: “You were the one they used against us, Bruce. The one who played it rough. When the noise started from the parents’ groups and the sub-committee called us for questioning… you were the one who laughed… that scary laugh of yours. ‘Sure, we’re criminals,’ you said. ‘We’ve always been criminals. We have to be criminals’” (2002, p. 135).

“A Simple Case”: Juggling Master Narrative and Counternarrative Superhero comics affect public attitudes about crime and justice by serving a “site for cultural and philosophical musings about the means of obtaining justice” (Phillips and Strobl 2013, p. 116) and as “part of the national dialog” (Reyns and Henson 2010, p. 49). Instalments like “A Simple Case” (Batman #44, 11/2015) from the Batman: Superheavy storyline, written by Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello, with pencils and inks by Jock and lettering by Lee Loughridge, facilitate “the e­ mergence of broader symbolic and semiotic universes in which depictions of crime, violence and in/justice accrue and produce political meaning” (Petty 2015, pp. 150–151). In a flashback narrative set early in Batman’s career, Bruce Wayne has returned from training abroad and is struggling with his new role as Gotham’s protector. The story begins with Batman finding the body of fifteen-year-old African American Peter Duggio on a field outside of Gotham, where the youth from the Corner, a poor, crime-ridden, and predominantly black section of the city, was “left for the crows”. Enraged by the crime, Batman shifts into detective mode: “He will catch someone for this. He will punish the one who did it, and stop it from happening again”. This is the Batman we know, who views the world though the framework of victim, perpetrator, avenger. His “path to justice” (Phillips and Strobl 2013, p. 18) traverses between justice and vengeance, ratiocination and physical punishment.

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In the end, Batman realises his failure. His crime-fighting tactics cannot resolve the social, political, and economic inequalities that shape life in Gotham. He recognises the need for a prosocial approach to protecting the city’s inhabitants, especially those living at the margins. The narrative follows Batman as he is moving from suspect to suspect in search of Peter’s killer. The first is Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin, a dangerous supervillain whom Batman attacks with excessive force while disregarding due process. He captures him, throws him into a birdcage, and leaves him dangling over the cityscape, dousing the rope on which the cage is hanging with bird feed and waiting for the crows to sever it. In his forced confession, Cobblepot denies being the killer and reveals that Peter wanted to go into business with him to save his father’s grocery store. When Batman confronts the members of the Four Five gang, who had taken over the store from the Penguin, he once more exerts excessive force, beating up one of the hoodlums before meeting their leader, Tano Canacoo. Again, he believes he has found the culprit but must learn otherwise: Tano burned the place when Peter tried to reclaim it but did not hurt him. Commissioner Gordon then informs Batman that the bullets in Peter’s body are police officer Ned Howler’s, whose history with the Gotham City Police Department shows “a lot of gray, likely a lot of dark, papered over”. Howler admits to shooting but not to killing Peter, but Batman rejects his attempt to exculpate himself from the deed even though he knows that the shots did not kill the youth. He mistrusts Howler because he “knows how many young black men have been shot by cops, unarmed, in the Corner in the last two years. How many cops have gone unpunished”. Batman still lets Howler off, only to learn that Peter had sought help from Bruce Wayne, whose real estate corporation is planning to gentrify the Corner and displace its inhabitants. When Wayne refused to listen, Peter decided to “stand up for himself ”. He bought a serum from a mysterious villain to gain superpowers. He drank the potion, started to fly, and crashed into the marsh, where Batman finds his body. The penultimate page shows Peter’s feet above the city skyline: “The boy flew. But Batman will stay. Because he got it wrong. He sees that now. Because there was someone to catch. Cobblepot. Tano. Howler. The man in the alley. Bruce Wayne. The whole city. Everyone and no one. But above all, the one to catch

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was the boy. Before he fell”. The scene revisits the tension between solving a crime and saving a city that shapes the superhero mythos from an unusual angle. If the superhero must catch criminals, Batman must catch those about to fall. The final page revises his mission from punishing perpetrators to protecting disadvantaged youths from lives of crime. “A Simple Case” positions itself as a counternarrative to the master narrative of Batman’s vigilantism. It offers no “cathartic punishment of an unambiguously evil or non-human villain” (Fennell 2012, p. 326); it does not condone violent retribution as the path to justice (Phillips and Strobl 2013, p. 17). However, instead of rejecting the master narrative, it creates narrative ambiguity conducive to a controversial reception. Batman’s torture of the Penguin can be read as a glorification of extralegal violence (master narrative) as it does not look much different from any other aggressive confrontation between superhero and supervillain even as the story questions the legitimacy of brute force (counternarrative). A counternarrative “takes on meaning through its relation with one or more other narratives”, Lundholt, Maagaard, and Piekut maintain, and “[w]hile this relation is not necessarily oppositional, it involves a stance toward some other narrative(s)” (2018, p. 1). Instead of opposing Batman’s ruthless and brutal behaviour, the comic is more subtle in its critique, allowing readers to revel in the violence and/or to condone it as an abuse of power.

Conflicting Counternarratives: The Reception of “A Simple Case” Bamberg suggests that the significance of counternarratives lies in “the integration of stories into the real world of everyday interactions, where they come into existence, that is, in the realm of social interaction” (2004, p. 353). The connection between storyworld and real-world interaction is crucial in superhero comics, with editorials, letter columns, fanzines, and online sites facilitating critical exchange. The effects of a story like “A Simple Case” thus only emerge from the interaction between the comic and its readers.

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A significant portion of the published reception of Batman #44 centres on police brutality, as my survey of 31 online sources published in the fall of 2015 or shortly thereafter and assembled through a Google search conducted on August 30 and 31, 2019, indicates.6 11 articles appeared on news sites or as online versions of newspapers or journals (The Guardian, The New Pittsburgh Courier, Rolling Stone, Ebony, MSNBC, etc.), 5 are blog entries by comics aficionados, and 15 are reviews from comics-related websites (,,, etc.). Many of them address police brutality as a central theme, even though it is less prominent in the story than the reception suggests. That police brutality suffuses the reception is not surprising. In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012, as well as the killings of Michael Brown (Ferguson), Eric Garner (Staten Island), Tamir Rice (Cleveland), and others that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, the issue was already part of the national dialog before serving as a pretext for “A Simple Case”. More concretely, an article by Spencer Ackerman in the Guardian (September 15, 2015) set in motion a broader debate about the comic’s treatment of police violence. Titled “Batman confronts police racism in latest comic”, Ackerman’s piece cemented the connection between Batman’s storyworld and the public discourse on extratextual violence against African Americans through an explicit byline: “New issue wades into the conversations about race, poverty and gentrification roiling in the U.S., responding to a new political consciousness among fans”. Ackerman further quotes the comic’s main writer Scott Synder, about Batman’s transformation from “a symbol of punishment, or a symbol of revenge” (master narrative), to “a symbol of inspiration in the face of tremendous fear” forced to question “the methods that he thought would work: finding a criminal, making an example of the criminal, throwing the criminal in jail” (counternarrative).


comic book treatments of police brutality include Miller, Azzarello, and Kubert’s Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 (1/2016) and Pak and Kuder’s Action Comics #41 and #42 (8/2015; 9/2015).

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Ackerman reads “A Simple Case” as a counternarrative: “Comics critics say they are hard pressed to remember Batman ever addressing institutional racism and its socio-economic dimensions as bluntly” in a genre where police corruption “is rarely shown to disproportionately impact black people”. Characterising the story as “a meditation on the meaning of a rich, white vigilante who attempts to solve intractable urban problems by beating up bad guys”, he cites blogger Emma Houxbois’s assessment that it holds “white readers accountable for their complicity in the real-world situations that the comic analogises”. These statements resonated with online commentators, many of whom supported the message but some of whom refused to accept the story’s deviation from the master narrative. As Snyder told Ackerman: “Of course you want Batman to beat this officer up, and be like, ‘How could you?’ But the point of the issue is that wouldn’t solve the problem. Batman throwing the officer off a roof, or throwing the officer in jail, it wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter at all. And that’s the thing I think is ultimately infuriating”. Snyder conjures up the master narrative here and then refutes it without fully erasing it as a narrative possibility. If the “violent graphics and extended fight scenes” of the comic book narrative can create “a retributive emotional resonance” (Phillips and Strobl 2013, p. 7) in the reader, “A Simple Case” foregrounds Gotham’s injustices and Batman’s inability to deal with them. While Synder claims an overall positive reception, with only “a few people […] saying that we were being social justice warriors” (Broadnax 2015), a vocal minority was indeed infuriated—not because of the problems the comic addressed but because it addressed them at all. Of the responses I surveyed, 19 were generally favourable and only 4 were critical of the depiction of police brutality; 8 were inconclusive or sidestepped the issue. But this tally does not tell us which notions of crime and justice were debated, how these notions were articulated, and which elements of the story the commentators emphasised or downplayed. We must therefore investigate how commentators enlisted elements of the master narrative and/ or constructed counternarratives to authorise their preferred readings of the comic. The dominant reading is that the comic “eschews many […] elements you would expect from your typical Batman adventure” (Hayden

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2015). While “at first, it feels like a very standard story” (McElhatton 2015), it eventually pits the perspective of the poor against the genre’s mainstream notion of crime causation, which favours individualistic rather than social, political, economic, or cultural explanations (Fennell 2012; Phillips and Strobl 2013). Bald Eagle Comics-migratio highlights the story’s counternarrative potential: “A usual Batman book explains the ‘what’ and the how’ but usually not the ‘why.’ This is not a story about Batman. This is not a story about Gotham. This is a story about why crime exists in our own society” (2015). Reviewer Quinn concludes: “we piece together a powerful counter narrative of [… the] systemic denial to public goods and services, civil rights movements and the fierce response from the powers that be, police brutality combined with lack of training and disconnect between the police force and the neighbourhood, and the not so benign effects of the paternalistic ‘benevolence’ of gentrification” (2015). Noteworthy about these responses is their sense of the story’s deviation from narrative conventions and the effects that this deviation has on the comic’s message— Quinn even uses the term “counter narrative” in his analysis. Those who embraced “A Simple Case” as a counternarrative did so largely without rejecting the master narrative, which supports the assertion that the relation between them “is not necessarily oppositional” (Lundholt et al. 2018, p. 1) and confirms that counternarratives can juggle multiple storylines (Bamberg 2004, p. 363). Krayewski, for instance, evokes the master narrative by defining the Batman mythos as “a story about a vigilante who takes justice into his own hands. The criminals Batman pursues don’t get due process. No one really questions whether Batman uses too much force. He bristles at the idea of oversight from police officers, let alone the kind of civilian oversight seen as one of the policy solutions available to limit police brutality” (2015). He then acknowledges that “A Simple Case” challenges this narrative by addressing the need to “investigat[e] the excessive use of force by a police officer and the broader implications of it”. But the story’s ultimate, and unrealised, counternarrative potential, according to Krayewski, is the impulse to “investigat[e] Gotham’s, and our, misguided conception of Batman as a hero in the first place”.

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Krayewski’s stance towards “A Simple Case” can be described as liberal within the spectrum of American politics, as it emphasises systemic change and calls for stricter legal consequences when police officers break the law. Other reviewers were less critical, celebrating the comic for inscribing police brutality into Batman’s storyworld. That the story enables as well as encourages different interpretations becomes obvious when we turn to the more resistant readings that accuse Snyder and his co-creators of being social justice warriors and position themselves in an antagonistic relationship to the story, disputing its legitimacy as a counternarrative in the Batman universe. While these readings ostensibly reaffirm the master narrative, they frequently launch reactionary missives against “A Simple Case” and its liberal interpreters, supporting Lieve Gies’s suggestion elsewhere in this volume that opposition to hegemonic narratives can come from all political sides. Writing in the online magazine The Federalist, John Trent casts his analysis as a counternarrative to the mainstream reception of the instalment, which itself had commended the story as a counternarrative to the superhero’s master narrative. “The latest ‘Batman’ doesn’t depict police brutality”, his title announces. Trent criticises Houxbois’s assertion of white accountability, and while he avoids overtly racist language, the reason for his rejection of race-conscious interpretations is nonetheless clear: “This event [Howler wounding Peter] is […] just one specific example of a police officer shooting an African-American. It is hardly cause to be claiming Batman is confronting institutionalized racism or even claiming the GCPD is racist” (2016). Trent justifies this position by reiterating the views of American conservatism, which emphasise personal choice and individual responsibility, as part of the superhero’s master narrative of crime causation (Phillips and Strobl 2013, p. 104): “Howler’s actions are hardly racist. He responded to a crime in progress and shot a suspect who had failed to heed his multiple warnings” (2016), Trent states, reiterating Howler’s justifications without acknowledging Batman’s dismissal. Trent finally ignores the narrative’s complication of individualist explanations of crime and its potentially subversive emphasis on context: “Duggio’s own actions bring on the real-world situation analogised in the story. He made his choices, and they involved making deals with criminals, assaulting another individual, and

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committing arson. ‘White readers’ are not responsible or complicit for the actions another individual takes”—a claim that had entered into the public debate through Ackerman’s article. While Trent’s critique of Batman #44’s presentation as a counternarrative is based on a misprision of the story, blogger Douglas Ernst fashions himself as a political opponent of DC and Marvel Comics: “I resent the industry’s relentless attempts to shove activist propaganda down its readers’ throats. I refuse to buy a product that is specifically designed to flog me over the head with a racial guilt baton” (2015). Far more extreme, however, are the comments below Paul Kersey’s “Holy Social Justice Warrior, Batman”, published in the right-wing online journal The Unz Review.7 Kersey complains that instead of “hunting black thugs[, which] would […] immediately trigger the modern reader/viewer to interpret the supposed hero as the racist villain, […] Batman is now a crusader against gentrification, police brutality, institutionalized racism and firmly committed to the cause of Black Lives Matter” (2015). He ends with a racist rant: But such is the culture in 2015: We must glorify blacks and blame any and every shortcoming individual blacks face on the evils of white racism and the lingering residue of bigotry; blacks collective inability to live up to the standards established by whites can only be considered the fault of the latter group for failing to lower the achievement bar to one the former can reach. And the actions of a rich, white vigilante trying to solve the problems of urban America are only palatable to our SJW-dominated culture when Batman wages war on the oppressors [the leftist historian and political scientist] Howard Zinn has identified as the true enemy… white people.

These sentiments triggered 131 comments that collaboratively propose a vision of white supremacy and endorse a race war against American minorities, especially African Americans, but also Jews and homosexuals. As an example of participant creation (Bamberg 2004, p. 364),


originally appeared on a website called Stuff Black People Don’t Like; the link has been disabled.

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these comments develop an extremist counternarrative against the comic and its liberal reception and seek to normalise and naturalise a range of racist attitudes. They constrain Batman’s agency and reduce his range of actions (Bamberg 2004, p. 360), attacking the superhero’s portrayal as a “social justice warrior” and demanding not merely a return to vigilantism but an embrace of violent assaults against America’s ­non-white population. One commentator alleges that “[m]ainstream media and education” propagate “anti-white racism and anti-white agitprop” and “wag[e] a war against whites that results in very real violence and very real murder” (Boycotting Hollywood).8 Against such alleged agitprop, Inferior Infidel advances a counternarrative by referencing cases of black-onblack crime as evidence of race-based pathological criminality, ironically citing a mainstream news site to underscore his point.9 While there is nothing in “A Simple Case” that supports this specific reading, the fact that the comic includes newspaper articles about the living conditions in the Corner and about police brutality sanctions Inferior Infidel’s enlistment of media coverage to advance his or her position. These comments decode the storyworld not just as an analogy to the extratextual world but as a narrative with actual repercussions on life beyond the comic (“results in very real violence and very real murder”). Another comment counters the comic’s portrayal of police brutality and institutional racism. “[T]his Batman storyline portrays the negro as a criminal engaged in multiple Felonies before the cops shoot him”, it declares, inscribing an explicitly racist claim into the

8I cite comments without correcting spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors, to preserve the tone of each comment. In a few instances, I use brackets to demarcate slight editorial interventions necessary to adapt a quote to the larger sentence structure in which it is embedded. 9Another commentator claims “that blacks commit violent crime all out of proportion to their numbers. That most inter-racial crime is committed by blacks. And that a city with a large number of blacks is going to see a large number of gangbangers, drivebys, and flashmobs…and these days, more assassination of cops. The people who are producing this graphic novel are doing the propaganda work for those radical and criminal elements who want to destroy the police” (R_ Moreland). Cf. also: “Blacks commit vast amounts of crime and the ‘civil rights’ movement and white guilt has escalated and mutated so badly that it is now considered racism to enforce ANY kind of Law or Rules on blacks, it is even racism to defend yourself if your attacker is black” (Anonymous).

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master narrative of personal responsibility before launching into a diatribe: “I would assume these backwards liberal retards would have the cop be some inbred, neo-Nazi bloodthirsty racist murderer and the negro would be an innocent child skipping along with some skittles on his way to donate his to a children’s hospital”. Phrased in the language of white supremacy, the comment maligns liberals as the enemy of white America, a position supported by another commentator’s complaint that the “cops” have “become the villains these days, in Gotham, Baltimore, Ferguson and increasingly across the Homeland” (Californian). This homeland is threatened by what Ex-New Yorker calls a “VICTIM NARRATIVE [that] has finally reached the roof tops of Gotham. We all know the program. White people MUST BE MADE TO FEEL GUILTY for other people’s failures. Remember….everyone is oppressed and suffering and it is ALL OUR FAULT”. While Ex-New Yorker casts this victim narrative as a counternarrative to an alleged master narrative of white guilt (“we all know the program”), the fact that the victim narrative is dispersed across reactionary discourse—e.g. Trent’s “racial guilt baton”—foregrounds its function as a trope in the right-wing master narrative and its role in the constitution of the kind of anti-egalitarian and discriminatory counterpublic that Lieve Gies finds at work in the British tabloid Daily Mail. This narrative includes paeans to the superhero’s vigilantism. One anonymous commentator uses Batman to elevate George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin, to the status of “self-styled vigilante” (Anonymous). Recalling “a citizen group called the Guardian Angels” in New York City, another respondent writes: We need a modern White version of that. They go into niggerhoods that border Human areas and patrol. Protect the Human encampments from the invading Morlocks. Do it legally, and call the police to actually grab the criminal n*gs, but be out there in force watching & filming these things. Corral them into their areas and let them self-destruct. Time to dust off the idea of citizen militias. We have been invaded. (Anonymous).

This statement heightens the hegemonic paradox in and beyond superhero comics. If carried out by forces whose authorisation comes from

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the people (“citizen militias”), vigilante violence is justified when society is “invaded” by vilified Others (“criminal n*gs” and “Morlocks” to be corralled like animals) and when the authorities cannot be trusted (“be out there in force watching & filming these things”) to defend the homeland. This glorification of vigilante violence has a long history in the United States and is sanctioned by current presidential rhetoric. It reaffirms a national master narrative as much as it contests the counternarrative advanced by “A Simple Case”. Its flip side are laments of “white America” as a nation of sick and self-hating people (Anonymous; AnonymousX) that needs white supremacists to take the law into their own hands to make America great again. These and other self-styled “race realists” frequently employ the motive of race war to claim a “state of exception” (Agamben 2005; Bainbridge 2012; Comerford 2015) that would justify the suspension of the rule of law. “I’ve been awakened from my sleep. I see exactly what you fellow realists comment on, on a daily basis where I live”, Inferior Infidels states; “I truly wish I could yearn for the day that our people react to the race war that has been perpetrated against us. When I say react, I believe you all know what I mean here, even though with the amount of stupid DWL’s [disingenuous white liberals] we’re surrounded by, that this will probably be something that never comes to fruition […]”. This is a different victim narrative, a narrative in which the real victims are white Americans facing extermination in a war allegedly perpetuated by racial minorities in cahoots with white liberals. The ominous tone and ­quasi-religious rhetoric (“I’ve been awakened”) prepare the ground for violent counteraction: I think it’s the very same reason why we have people like Dylann Roof that know that they are solo in their actions in this vast land we live on. He knew he was alone. I know that other than sincere realists that we have here, which are far and few between, that I am far and few between where I live. […] I wake up daily with the feeling that we’ve already lost this war, that we’re merely living out the after death of it all. (Inferior Infidels)

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This statement is disturbing in its adulation of a mass murderer who killed nine black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, and who confessed to wanting to start a race war with this atrocity. Equally troubling is the fact that the rhetoric, while different in sentiment from “A Simple Case”, is compatible with some of the darker depictions of the caped crusader.

Conclusion Superhero comics can fan the flames over the law question by serving as a “conversation-starter” and “a call to arms” (Dooley 2015). They frequently propose a particular stance on issues of crime and justice, but only in the reception is the validity of this stance affirmed, rejected, or otherwise gauged. The reception becomes part of the comic’s agency as it motivates readers to position themselves within broader symbolic and semiotic universes and the spectrum of political ideologies. The ­meaning-making practices of the responses are substantial, suggesting that superhero narratives leave room for interpretation that readers use to bring competing convictions to bear on the story. Assessing the impact of these narratives, one could argue that they enable readers to indulge in fictitious violations of the law through identifying with the superhero’s actions. Perusing these stories would then be an act of vicarious transgression (cf. Phillips and Strobl 2013, pp. 83–84). But “[r]eading superhero comics is about both transgression and reassurance”, Petty suggests: “a game in which moral lines and boundaries are regularly approached, toed and tested, yet which are (almost) always retreated from […]. The thrill of exposing oneself to transgression is experienced vicariously while the safety and comfort of life within the law is reaffirmed” (2015, p. 152). Kersey’s article and the racist comments it spawned undoubtedly violate the moral lines and boundaries that superhero comics conventionally test. Whether calling for a race war means leaving the realm of vicarious transgression remains, however, an open question. One could argue that such online comments are not real-life actions and therefore qualify as a form of

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vicarious rather than actual violence. But many comments move away from a discussion of the comic and towards a discourse that authorises mass murder. As Young reminds us, popular culture does “not cause aggression so much as provide a script or narrative which suggests when violence is appropriate, against whom, for what reasons and with what effects, together with images of those against whom violence is permitted and prohibited” (qtd. Phillips and Strobl 2013, p. 6). What if superheroes serve as “avatars who enact the reader’s righteous anger” (Fennell 2012, p. 324) by no longer embodying a socially responsible but rather a racist and white supremacist vigilantism? What if even counternarratives enable supremacist master narratives that pose as scripts for answering the law questions in the most undemocratic and racist terms? What if the subversion of hegemonic master narratives leaves us with a less egalitarian and less humane world?

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Comerford, C. (2015). The hero we need, not the one we deserve: Vigilantism and the state of exception in Batman Incorporated. In T. Giddens (Ed.), Graphic justice: Intersections of comics and law (pp. 183–200). London: Routledge. Coogan, P. (2006). Superhero: The secret origin of a genre. Austin: MonkeyBrain. Dooley, K. (2015, September 11). “Batman” #44 is one of the best and most powerful comics of the year. Multiversity Comics. Ernst, D. (2015, September 16). Batman #44: Bruce Wayne and readers beaten with racial guilt baton. Douglas Ernst Blog. https://douglasernst. blog/2015/09/16/batman-44-bruce-wayne-and-readers-beaten-with-racialguilt-baton/. Fennell, J. (2012). The aesthetics of supervillainy. Law Text Culture, 16, 305–328. Ferrell, J., & Sanders, C. R. (1995). Cultural criminology. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Finger, B., & Boring, W. (1948, July/August). The origin of Superman. Superman #53. Finger, B., & Kane, B. (1948, June). The origin of the Batman. Batman #47. Giddens, T. (2015). Natural law and vengeance: Jurisprudence on the streets of Gotham. International journal for the semiotics of law—Revue internationale de sémiotique juridique, 28(4), 765–785. Gordon, I. (2017). Superman: The persistence of an American icon. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Hatfield, C., Heer, J., & Worcester, K. (Eds.). (2013). The superhero reader. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press. Hayden, C. (2015, September 15). Batman #44: A departure from typical Batman fare, and better for it. Bleeding Cool. https://www.bleedingcool. com/2015/09/15/batman-44-a-departure-from-typical-batman-fare-andbetter-for-it/? Kersey, P. (2015, September 16). Holy social justice warrior, Batman: The dark knight now battles police racism, gentrification, and sides with Black Lives Matter. The Unz review. holy-social-justice-warrior-batman-dark/. Krayewski, E. (2015, September 21). Even Batman addresses police brutality in latest issue. Reason. Loeb, J., & Sale, T. (1998). The long Halloween. 1996–1997. New York: DC Comics.

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Lundholt, M. W., Maagaard, C. A., & Piekut, A. (2018). Counternarratives. In R. L. Heath et al. (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of strategic communication (pp. 1–11). Wiley. McElhatton, G. (2015, September 10). Batman #44. https://www. Miettinen, M. (2011). Representing the state of exception: Power, utopia, visuality and narrative in superhero comics. In M. Stochetti & K. Kukkonen (Eds.), Images in use: Towards the critical analysis of visual communication (pp. 269–288). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Miller, F., Janson, K., & Varley, L. (2002). Batman: The dark knight returns. 1986. New York: DC Comics. Petty, J. (2015). Violent lives, ending violently? Justice, ideology and spectatorship in Watchmen. In T. Giddens (Ed.), Graphic justice: Intersections of comics and law (pp. 147–163). London: Routledge. Phillips, N. D., & Strobl, S. (2013). Comic book crime: Truth, justice, and the American way. New York: New York University Press. Quinn, R. (2015, October 9). Batman #44 and why white allies aren’t heroes. The resist daily. Reynolds, R. (1992). Super heroes: A modern mythology. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press. Reyns, B. W., & Henson, B. (2010). Superhero justice: The depiction of crime and justice in modern-age comic books and graphic novels. In M. Deflem (Ed.), Popular culture, crime and social control (pp. 45–66). Emerald: Bingley. Sharp, C. (2012). “Riddle me this …?” Would the world need superheroes if the law could actually deliver “justice”? Law Text Culture, 16, 353–378. Siegel, J., & Shuster, J. (2018). Superman. Action Comics #1 (June 1938). Action Comics: 80 Years of Superman (pp. 14–27). New York: DC Comics. Snyder, S., Azzarello, B., Jock, C., & Loughridge, L. (2015, November). A Simple Case. Batman #44. Stein, D., & Thon, J.-N. (Eds.). (2015). From comic strips to graphic novels: Contributions to the theory and history of graphic narrative. Berlin: De Gruyter. Trent. J. (2016, March 11). The latest ‘Batman’ doesn’t depict police brutality. The federalist. Vollum, S., & Adkinson, C. D. (2003). The portrayal of crime and justice in the comic book superhero mythos. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 10(2), 96–108.

8 Sympathies and Scandals: (­ Counter-) Narratives of Criminality and Policing in Inter-war Britain John Carter Wood

Introduction: Narratives (and ­CounterNarratives) in Inter-war Britain There are many sources for crime “narratives,” i.e. the stories that are told about crime, about criminals, and about the criminal justice system. These stories are often “about” things besides crime itself and are built on assumptions about moral norms, concerns about the social order, beliefs about human psychology, and attitudes towards state institutions. There are many sources for crime narratives, but the modern period saw the rise of various media, particularly the press, that have become central to their expression and circulation. I will focus on two examples of these public narratives—as opposed to more private narratives that circulate among family and friends or even behind the scenes within institutions (and which may or may not match their public

J. C. Wood (*)  Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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pronouncements)—in Britain in the 1920s: sympathetic reporting on convicted murderers awaiting execution and criticisms of the police. “Narrative criminology” emerged as a self-described scholarly approach to understanding crime in the late 2000s (Presser 2009), committed to “the study of the role the telling and sharing of stories play in committing, upholding and effecting desistance from crime and other harmful acts” (Sandberg and Ugelvik 2016, p. 129). “Narratives” are understood as temporally ordered, morally weighted statements about things that have happened to—or actions that have been taken by—particular people (Presser 2016, p. 138).1 Important questions are raised: How do people who interact with crime explain to themselves and to others what they are doing and why they are doing it? What narratives are used to define the meaning of crime-related actions or the senses of identity of those affected by them? It has been argued that developing this kind of criminology requires both more case studies and a clearer exploration of “the relationship between social practice, situational context, socio-economic structure and stories” (Sandberg and Ugelvik 2016, p. 132). Thus far, however, there has been little engagement by narrative criminologists with crime history, continuing an established tendency in criminology more generally (Lawrence 2012, 2019). Incorporating historical perspectives on changing cultural norms, social patterns, and institutional structures is essential, not least since narrative criminology’s interests are not entirely new. Attention to stories about criminals and “justice” and analyses of “moralised” narratives about “criminal” behaviour have been central concerns in the social historiography of crime in Britain since the 1960s: such approaches have greatly expanded since the 1990s and are now part of other national historiographies (Elder 2010; Hobsbawm 1969; Knepper 2016, pp. 145–171; Thompson 1971; Vyleta 2007; Wood 2006). Nineteenth-century violence, for example, has been explored through attention to the “narratives” and “counternarratives” that justified or condemned it and to the ways that violent acts themselves can be analysed in linguistic terms (Wood 2004, 1See

also the introduction to this volume.

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pp. 8–26). There is, thus, a convergence between the interests of crime historians and narratively minded criminologists, even if narrative criminology’s radical embrace of subjectivity—and disinterest in “what the world and agents in it are really like” (Presser 2016, p. 139)—is also methodologically questionable (Bucerius and Haggerty 2018), as it seems to limit the possibilities for judging the relative accuracy of narratives offered by different social actors and for providing important contextualisation for those narratives (a topic to which I return in the conclusion). In inter-war Britain, newspapers were the leading medium for the creation of crime narratives. This was a golden age for press spectacles, and newspapers had an unprecedented cultural influence that would only be challenged (especially by television) after the Second World War. Newspapers had existed in some form since the seventeenth century, but it was a rise in literacy and the growth in “human-interest” reporting by late nineteenth-century “new journalism” that created the modern mass press. The newspaper “revolution” was led, in Britain, by Lord Northcliffe (founder of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror ) under the motto “get me a murder a day” (Williams 1997, pp. 50–57). Inter-war newspapers treated crime, in part, as “popular entertain­ ment” (Pugh 2009, p. 102), depicting a colourful menagerie of criminal threats: war veterans, foreign gangsters, “hooligans,” “motor bandits,” “razor gangs,” and “dope fiends” (Emsley 2005a, 2008; Kohn 2003; Shore 2014). Murder influenced the period’s social imagination and its “celebrity culture,” as ordinary people became household names via a connection to high-profile cases; however, there was also an awareness that homicide rates were comparatively low by international and historical standards and a widespread faith in the institutions of the British justice system, which was often contrasted favourably with their allegedly less effective (and more oppressive and corrupt) counterparts abroad. This combination—fear of crime and confidence in the state—set the stage for some key narratives about crime: on the one hand, those of threat and danger and, on the other, those of the legitimacy of the police and court systems. Such narratives created spaces for counter-narratives to emerge.

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In this chapter, I will focus on sympathetic reporting on those awaiting execution for murder and on criticisms of the police. Both reporting on condemned criminals and the police scandals in the late 1920s featured narrative tropes that contradicted some other narratives related to punishment and to policing: the assumed legitimacy of execution and a widespread idealisation of the police in Britain. I will address these two topics in turn, first focusing on press coverage of condemned murderers and then turning to a series of late 1920s accusations that the police were abusing their powers. My aim is to show recurrent strategies, vocabularies, and structures in such narratives and to locate them within a particular social, cultural, and institutional context. Whether—and how—these might be considered “counter-narratives” is something to which I’ll return at the end.

Sympathy for the Condemned In Britain, the death penalty meant hanging, and by the m ­ id-nineteenth century it was almost entirely limited to the crime of murder. For centuries, executions had been public events, but their relocation behind prison walls in 1868 coincided with newspapers’ growing predominance: the public image of capital punishment became largely a press construction until the practice was ended in 1965 (Seal 2014, pp. 33–77; Tulloch 2006). The 1920s can be described as an important turning point on the journey towards abolition. The decade saw several controversial executions, the foundation of a key abolitionist organisation (the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, in 1925), parliamentary debates, and signs of a (slightly) shifting public opinion. Parliament debated abolition in 1928 and a subsequent parliamentary select committee recommended a five-year moratorium on executions; this was not taken up, but some restrictions on the practice were instituted. Public opinion is difficult to gauge, but it is likely that—as in the later post-war period—a substantial majority of Britons opposed the abolition of the death penalty (Seal 2014, pp. 147–148). In the first half of the twentieth century 130 women and 1080 men were sentenced to death in England and Wales, an average of roughly

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25 per year; 9 per cent of the women and 57.5% of the men were executed (Ballinger 2000, p. 1). Between sentencing and execution (usually a matter of weeks or at most a couple of months), the condemned offered an intense focus for newspaper reporting. Apart from the violent details of the cases for which they had been sentenced and the inherent drama deriving from their situation, the question of whether they would be reprieved or not (through a decision of the Home Secretary) added additional excitement that mounted week after week. More often than not, the sentence was carried out, and between 1900 and 1929, over four hundred men and eight women were executed in England and Wales, meaning that there were always condemned individuals on whom the press could devote attention (Emsley 2005a, p. 169). Those facing execution preoccupied the press in complex ways. Newspapers—and media generally—have largely been seen as narratively legitimating the death penalty, at least for those viewed as especially threatening or culpable, and as tending to dehumanise criminals (Ballinger 2000; Vasiljevic and Viki 2013). But there were other narratives, as some recent research has emphasised. Lizzie Seal has stressed that the press attention to “friends, relatives and lovers” of those awaiting execution “humanised the condemned, placing them within a web of relationships” and enabling “access to their interior lives” (Seal 2014, p. 41). Such empathy developed more strongly in the 1940s and 1950s; however, it was already common in the 1920s and even earlier (Wiener 2007). More specifically, there were many standard narrative strategies that newspapers used to report on condemned murderers. This was particularly so at the more sensationalist end of the newspaper spectrum, i.e. those newspapers that focused (even almost exclusively) on “human-interest” reporting of crime, “tragic” accidents, and scandals. In this chapter, I consider two newspapers that have hitherto been little examined by historians, Thomson’s Weekly News and The World’s Pictorial News in the late 1920s. It was in this period that capital punishment, though still broadly seen as legitimate, became subject to a greater degree of political and media debate. I have examined all issues of these two weekly newspapers in the years 1925–1929, and the following elements were recurrent themes in articles about the condemned:

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• creating a life story that explained their backgrounds and origins; • suggesting an explanation for the crime (often on the basis of then-popular psychological theories); • interviewing people close to the condemned person or even publishing articles “by” them (though likely ghostwritten); • publishing excerpts of their prison letters (giving their own perspectives); and • showing photographs of them (often with children, wives, girlfriends, etc.). These elements of narrative strategies were ubiquitous across parts of the inter-war press, and here I can only give a short overview by presenting examples from these newspapers in the late 1920s. Newspaper narratives of murder mostly dealt with men since they made up, by far, the bulk of murderers. A typical example of tabloid coverage is a page of the World’s Pictorial News from March 7, 1926, that featured the stories of two condemned men, George Thomas and Lock ah Tam (in some newspapers referred to as “Lok Ah Tam”). The former was a Welsh miner who had stabbed his “former sweetheart” to death; the latter had fatally shot his wife and two daughters after his son’s coming-of-age celebration in Birkenhead, near Liverpool. Reporting on Thomas highlighted his “shattered nerves,” which had been caused by a mining accident at Senghenydd in 1913 (which had seen 400 fatalities) and his military service during the war. Appeals to “shell shock”—the term then used for post-traumatic stress disorder— was a common defence in criminal cases and theme in newspaper stories (Emsley 2008). The traumatising impact of Thomas’s military service was emphasised: “he was concerned in several hairbreadth escapes, was shell-shocked, and returned home with a shattered nervous system.”2

2“Thomas—Emotional lover. Shattered by mine disaster and war,” World’s Pictorial News, 7 March 1926, p. 7. Note: the newspaper articles I cite were published without named authors. For clarity I will cite newspaper articles (and archival sources) with full titles in footnotes.

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As was typical, the perspectives of family members and friends were integrated into the reporting, especially those of Thomas’s mother. As one article put it: The most pitiable figure in this tragedy of love is Mrs. Thomas…. George Thomas was her main support. She visited him in prison a few days ago and satisfied herself that he was in excellent health. His cheerfulness he imparted to his mother, who says he is hopeful that the petition for mercy will be successful.3

The story on Lock Ah Tam, a Liverpool shipping agent of Chinese origin, focuses on his appeal and petition for mercy, which was being widely signed in the Liverpool area. The petition had been put forward by the Ellesmere Port Conservative Club, “of which body,” the paper noted, “Lok Ah Tam was a highly respected member.”4 The odd, motiveless nature of the crime was repeatedly stressed, suggesting a sudden mental breakdown (his defence was one of insanity). A front-page article in Thomson’s Weekly News, written by an unnamed “intimate Chinese friend,” described the condemned man’s business success, generosity, and peaceful nature; it also highlighted an incident some years before in which he had been assaulted by two Russian seamen and struck on the head: combined with a drinking problem subsequently brought on by a business failure, this head injury ensured that he “was by no means in his right mind” when he committed the crime.5 Similar themes emerged in articles from 1929 on Sidney Harle, an Englishman who had killed a four-year-old girl in France in circumstances that remained murky. Harle had served in the war, married a French woman, and settled in France. His wife claimed he had been subject to “fits of madness” due to malaria and shell-shock: indeed, the front-page headline of the World’s Pictorial News described Harle

3Ibid. 4“Lok

Ah Tam’s plea of madness. Chord that snapped at a birthday celebration,” World’s Pictorial News, 7 March 1926, p. 7. 5“Truth about my friend, Lock Ah Tam,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 13 February 1926, p. 1.

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as a “victim of war.”6 Although a child murderer, Harle’s depiction was largely sympathetic, with attention given to the fact that police had had to rescue him from an enraged mob and had then roughed him up themselves. As a reporter explained: “on reflection people are now inclined to extend sympathy to him as a victim of war conditions” and to blame medical officials, who were reproached for neglecting Harle’s obvious symptoms of madness.7 Such personalising elements were central to a series of articles on Ignatius (“John”) Lincoln, sentenced to death in 1926 for fatally shooting Edward Richards in the course of a robbery in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. His prison letters featured prominently in the stories written “by” his “sweetheart,” Lilly Brown, which cast him in a sympathetic light.8 One article highlighted the “poignant reunion” of Lincoln and his mother and discussed responses to an appeal for donations to Lincoln’s legal defence fund. As Brown wrote: Letters have come from “Thomson’s Weekly News” readers all over England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales sympathising with John’s case and sending postal orders for varying amounts as donations. One young lady, who sent a small sum, mentioned in her letter that she was similarly placed to me. “My boy is at present serving a life sentence,” she wrote. “But when he comes out he’ll find me at the prison gates to greet him. So don’t lose heart in your case, but fight on.”9

Such appeals to support legal defences and campaigns for mercy were common and often successful, and readers often sought such personal connections with the people featured, stressing bonds forged through common suffering (Wood 2009). After Lincoln’s execution, the front 6“Cell talk with Sidney Harle. Accused Englishman not monster but victim of war,” World’s Pictorial News, 27 July 1929, p. 1. 7Ibid. Similar themes appeared in “Englishman’s plight in France,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 27 July 1929, p. 12. 8E.g., “My fight to save ‘John’ Lincoln. Pathos of his letters to me from the condemned cell,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 6 February 1926, p. 3. 9“My prison visit with Mrs. Lincoln. Poignant reunion of my boy ‘John’ and his mother,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 13 February 1926, p. 3.

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page of Thomson’s Weekly News featured a story “by” Brown recounting her last visit with him, giving a detailed, sympathetic depiction of Lincoln’s condition and mental state.10 It shared the front page with a further article about George Thomas—the Welsh miner discussed above—written “by” his mother.11 Louie Calvert, one of only two women executed in England and Wales in the 1920s, had murdered her landlady, Lily Waterhouse, in 1925. Waterhouse had believed Calvert was stealing from her and had pressed charges with the police. Calvert strangled her. After Calvert’s conviction, her husband started a petition for her reprieve, something on which the press focused.12 In prison, she confessed to another murder (of a man) some years earlier. Her case has been cited as evidence that criminal women are depicted as unfeminine and as deviants from established gender norms: sociologists and some historians have argued that accused women were “doubly damned,” violators not only of law but also of social expectations and treated correspondingly harshly (Ballinger 2000; Lloyd 1995; Wykes and Welsh 2009, pp. 63–64). However, while the presence of moral double standards and gendered narratives in crime coverage can be shown in many individual cases, systematic quantitative surveys of verdicts and sentencing in different periods over three centuries (in both Britain and the United States) question the “doubly damned” thesis: women have not as a rule been treated more harshly by the justice system than have men and may even have been treated, on average, more leniently (Doerner and Demuth 2014; Godfrey et al. 2005; King 1984). Anette Ballinger has depicted the press as relentlessly denying Calvert’s femininity, casting her as a bad wife and mother, and she has even suggested that after sentencing her case “barely attracted a comment” in the press (Ballinger 2000, p. 131; 2011). However, papers such as Thomson’s Weekly News and The World’s Pictorial News employed


last visit to ‘John’. What upset my sweetheart most at our farewell interview,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 6 March 1926, p. 1. 11“Condemned Welsh miner’s pathetic request,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 6 March 1926, p. 1. 12“Louie Calvert petition,” World’s Pictorial News, 20 June 1926, p. 3.

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all of the typical methods I have described: Calvert was presented to some degree sympathetically, and her roles as wife and mother were emphasised, especially her devotion to her young son. Several prison letters were published or quoted, and she was the subject of the usual sort of biographical survey. Articles were written about Calvert “by” her husband that were adorned with pictures of him and their children.13 It was suggested that Calvert’s sole concern in the condemned cell was for her children, and her caring motherliness was stressed as her execution neared.14 The strategies noted here were common. Without excusing murderers’ crimes, newspapers offered humanising and sympathetic narratives: the condemned were given a life story, and a set of explanations were offered about what led them to commit their crimes; moreover, they were depicted as embedded in social relationships and were granted a kind of individuality (if circumscribed) via photographs and the publication of prison letters. Hanging was broadly accepted in this period, and, indeed, no fundamental criticism of capital punishment as such was apparent. The prevalence of sympathetic narratives was, however, striking. Before considering whether they can be counted as ­“counter-narratives,” I turn now to a different set of stories.

Scandals of the Powerful Generally speaking, the British police had a positive—even idealised— reputation in the early twentieth century. Although seen sceptically by parts of the population when introduced in the early nineteenth century, the figure of the unarmed “bobby” later came to embody distinctively “British” virtues, contrasting with the allegedly more oppressive and violent police forces in other countries, such as France or the United States (Emsley 1992). 13See,

e.g., “Strangled widow sensation. My interview with wife in condemned cell,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 12 June 1926, p. 1. 14“My wife’s one thought in the condemned cell,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 19 June 1926, p. 11; “My farewell visit to my wife,” Thomson’s Weekly News, 26 June 1926, p. 10.

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However, the 1920s witnessed several scandals in which British police, especially in London, were accused of systematically abusing their powers, particularly in the context of interrogations and in the policing of public morality (Wood 2010). A key narrative in this context involved the originally American phrase “the third degree.” By the late nineteenth century, “to give someone the third degree” had entered American slang to describe a harsh—even abusive—police interrogation. Before the First World War, British journalists used it to condemn American methods and to express confidence in the superiority of their own country’s policing. Fiction, too, played an important role in popularising the term “the third degree,” particularly the 1908 play with that title by Charles Klein, an English-born playwright who had relocated to the United States (Klein 1908). Based loosely upon a true Chicago case, it tells the story of a young man wrongly accused of a murder; confused and under police pressure, he signs a confession. His loyal wife hires a lawyer who discovers evidence that clears his name. Re-titled “Find the Woman” in Britain, a novel and three silent film versions of Klein’s play were also produced by 1927, and, like the many other so-called crook plays of the time, they encouraged the notion that police regularly compelled confessions through threats of violence. (British police officials complained about the impact of such fictional depictions on public opinion.) Across the 1920s, with mounting accusations of intimidating questioning and other questionable practices, British confidence about their police eroded. Some believed that with the First World War police practice had altered to the detriment of civil rights. The narrative of “the third degree” changed: rather than a way to distinguish British from American policing it was increasingly used in newspapers to critique British police activities themselves (Wood 2010). “The third degree” referred to police interrogations, but it came to symbolise broader concerns: unreliable police evidence, the rough handling of demonstrators, the over-zealous policing of “indecency,” and intimidation during questioning. The press eagerly reported on allegations of wrongful arrest and poor treatment, especially those involving socially prominent or “respectable” people. There were a number of convictions of respectable men of indecency offences that were

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then overturned on appeal. The press narrative emerged that police were needlessly harassing innocent people in a misguided over-use of their powers. In 1927, a series of “failed” street-offences cases—either dismissed by a magistrate or quashed on appeal—heightened concerns about police evidence, tipping the scales towards the calling of an inquiry into arrest procedures (Slater 2012). These kinds of problems were also increasingly framed within a narrative of “third-degree” policing. The year 1928 saw a perfect storm in anxieties about the police. In early 1928, each month brought new accusations of police misconduct. Concerns were most dramatically driven by cases involving women. In mid-March, the newspaper The People claimed that Beatrice Pace, the widow of a recently deceased Forest of Dean farmer, had been questioned “for thirteen hours” and reduced to “a state of collapse.”15 By the next week, the case was on the front page and questions were being asked in Parliament about police procedures.16 After Pace was charged with her husband’s murder in late May, opposition MPs condemned what they called a “wicked system” of “third-degree methods,” accusations that were vehemently denied by the Conservative Home Secretary, William Joynson-Hicks.17 Pace—who was given widely sympathetic treatment by the press, despite the murder charges against her—was acquitted in early July, and the People, facing a libel suit by the detectives, settled out of court and published a retraction. But unease about Pace’s treatment set the stage for a further scandal (Wood 2012a). In April that year, a 22-year-old woman, Irene Savidge, was arrested along with a prominent journalist and former Labour politician, Sir Leo Money, by plainclothes constables for public indecency in Hyde Park (Clayton 2009). Their case was dismissed by a magistrate, setting in motion an internal investigation in which detectives questioned Savidge for five hours in mid-May. The original arrest had raised anxieties about excessive policing, but Savidge’s accusations regarding police bullying


the rack of third degree,” The People, 18 March 1928, p. 2. till I could have screamed,” The People, 25 March 1928, p. 1. 17HC Deb., vol. 217, 23 May 1928, c. 1890–1892. 16“Questioned

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during her interrogation caused a wave of outrage. The Labour MP who aired the charges in Parliament insisted that Britons had to offer “resolute and determined opposition to anything in the nature of the ‘Cheka,’ a Turkish system, Star Chamber methods, or what was known in the United States of America as the Third Degree.”18 The intense publicity brought by the Pace and Savidge cases put the government under particular pressure. The Home Secretary launched two parliamentary inquiries: one into Savidge’s charges and another into police methods generally. The first ended in division: a majority report found no police wrongdoing, but a minority report excoriated the police.19 The lack of agreement increased interest in the broader inquiry, the Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure, which began its sittings in September and reported the following year. Public concerns remained acute, fuelled by the conviction of two London constables who had brought false charges against a young woman named Helene Adele after one of them tried to sexually assault her (Wood 2014). Towards the end of July—in the immediate wake of the divided Savidge inquiry—the World’s Pictorial News began a serialised novel “The Third Degree”; however, the paper assured that the novel had been purchased by the paper “long before recent events focussed public attention upon police methods.”20 Whether true or not, this was another example of how fictional and factual narratives combined to generate public concerns about police powers. The issue of police powers and the scandals that emerged around them in the 1920s is complex, involving an intense interaction between various institutional actors, including the police, the press, the Home Office, and the leading political parties (Wood 2012b). The idealisation of the police as an exemplar of Britishness had emerged as a powerful narrative from the late nineteenth century onwards (Emsley 1992; Shpayer-Makov 2011); however, in the 1920s, scandals about the


and Miss Savidge: Judicial inquiry,” Daily Herald, 18 May 1928, p. 1. of the Tribunal…in regard to the interrogation of Miss Savidge by the police, July 1928 (Cmd. 3147). 20E. C. Buley, “The third degree,” World’s Pictorial News, 22 July 1928, 6, 12, p. 14. 19Report

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treatment of “innocent” people reversed some of the central elements of the legitimising narrative of a benevolent police force: rather than a guardian and protector of the public, the police themselves were re-defined—both in the press and by opposition politicians—as, themselves, a threat to it.

Theoretical Discussion This chapter set off from the question of whether two kinds of narratives— sympathies for the condemned and critiques of the police—can be considered “counter-narratives.” This is a difficult question given the ­ complexities of such narratives. As has been noted, “­counter-narratives only make sense in relation to something else, that which they are countering”; such relationships are “forever shifting,” stressing the ­ ­“fluidity” of the categories of “narrative” and “counter-narrative” (Bamberg and Andrews 2004, p. x). Analyses of “counter-narratives” have focused on stories individuals use to explain their own lives by creating a narrative “coherence” to ground their sense of identity and to “position” themselves socially (Bamberg 2004, p. 366). The narratives presented here were largely created by journalists to describe other people and focused less on identity than on accusations of police misconduct and depictions of people sentenced to death. Identity was not irrelevant (What was “British” policing? Who deserved sympathy?) and the voices of the condemned or of alleged victims of the police were also present; however, such stories differed from the autobiographical perspectives often central to studies of “counter-narratives.” Still, they were part of a dense narrative web— mainly in the media but likely spilling out into everyday interactions and conversations—that expressed “what is shared as the cultural background of sense-making” (Bamberg 2004, p. 368). There were many ambivalences in such narratives: criminals could be described sympathetically without questioning the logic of capital punishment; specific police actions could be critiqued through idealisations of the police. Such narratives emerged within controversial contexts involving competing claims about factual matters, seeking to give

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the impression of “consistencies across time, places, and action” while being characterised by the “challenging and confrontational nature of everyday interactions in which stories are contested, followed by other stories that modify the claims made, shifts into new domains, and the like” (Bamberg 2004, p. 355). This is not, in itself, a problem for attributing the status of counter-narratives, since “inconsistencies and equivocations” in narratives can, indeed, be their most analytically interesting aspects (Bamberg 2004, p. 365). As Hannah Thurston (in this volume) similarly stresses, stories related to capital punishment need not reject it entirely in order to be considered “counter-narratives,” even if they are, ultimately, complicit in maintaining the system that they ostensibly seek to question. Still, pointing to such issues raises the difficult question of distinguishing “counter-narratives” from, simply a collection of different narratives. Unfortunately, we know little about the behind-the-scenes construction of newspaper stories, but they were probably substantially ghostwritten and definitely constructed to maximise their dramatic impact. For some, this might not be an issue. Narrative criminology has expressed disinterest in the “truth” of narratives, emphasising instead “what stories do” (Presser 2016, p. 139). This can be a valuable shift in emphasis, though it should be kept in mind that stories “do” nothing in themselves—devoid, as they are, of their own agency—but rather are used by people to do many things, making an actor-oriented perspective essential: amid the clashing perspectives and interests, and often dramatic events, that surround criminal trials, it is important to keep in mind those who create narratives, the aims they are pursuing, and what elements their stories leave out (issues that the editors of this volume importantly stress in their introduction). It is also questionable whether the veracity of narratives can, or should, be entirely ignored, even if some historians have taken a similar stance (Siemens 2007, pp. 41–42). The issue is less “truth” in an absolute philosophical sense than stressing the need to sift through various competing claims to determine which were more or less reliable: we may not be able to know the truth of everything, but many things are knowable. Moreover, it is only by seeing where narratives departed from a truthful accounting, for example, that one can ask why that might have been so. There is better and worse

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evidence, and even if some ultimate uncertainty remains—especially in increasingly distant historical contexts—it is often possible to weigh particular claims with some degree of reliability. Inaccuracy was not a random phenomenon and understanding its patterning is crucial. For example, my detailed study of the case of Beatrice Pace, who was noted above with regard to claims she had been harshly questioned by police detectives investigating her husband’s mysterious death, showed that some of the key claims about her in the press—as well as those that she made herself—were untrue (Wood 2012a, pp. 160–161). The police and prosecution knew information damaging to her character: she had admitted privately to at least one extramarital affair and had induced at least two miscarriages (a crime). This information ran strongly counter to the dominant press narratives about Pace, which depicted her as a doting and faithful wife who was also defined by her role as a mother. However, none of this information was ever revealed to the public. Many other wild (sometimes contradictory) claims made in the press about the status and progress of the police investigations appear to have been routinely unfounded. Thus, even if questions remain about many aspects of this case, and about many other criminal trials, a careful and detailed study can reveal patterns of inaccuracies in narratives offered by the press, police, or other protagonists and raise important questions about the process of how stories are created. As noted, counter-narratives are relational. Sympathies for the condemned may be seen in contrast to the generally unquestioned legitimacy of capital punishment as expressed in the British mainstream press. The goal of the sympathetic strategies was, clearly, to heighten drama and sell newspapers; however, they may have also enabled an emotional connection to the condemned or at least humanised them and provided explanations for their actions. Allegations of police misconduct, likewise, countered a prevalent idealisation of the police. However, some critiques employed precisely the same idealisations, arguing that the war had brought a departure from previous policing models or focusing on individual rather than systematic failings, e.g. via the trope of the “rotten apple” (Emsley 2005b). The “policing idea” (Bowling and Sheptycki 2012) itself remained sacrosanct. Still,

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the police scandals changed public perceptions and led to parliamentary inquiries. Depicting the police as a threat to the public marked a major narrative shift. Such “counter-narratives” were not entirely new; however, some newspapers were already specialising in such stories in the late nineteenth century (Wiener 2007). There was also a long tradition of critiques about the police: indeed, by the late 1920s the more critical perspective on the police may actually have become dominant. If so, it was the (mainly conservative) defences of the police that were this period’s “counter-narratives.” Indeed, as the introduction to this volume stresses, determining what is “hegemonic” and what is “subversive” in any given context—and, indeed, I might add, determining what is neither—can be a complicated issue, demanding sensitivity to the specificity of particular contexts and the diversity of audiences when it comes to the telling of stories. It is also the case that the power of narratives—or of ­ counternarratives—on their own is limited. As noted, few newspapers ­questioned capital punishment itself and police critiques employed many (unquestioned) national myths. Narrative criminology evinces a particular interest in how narratives “make criminologically relevant things happen” (Presser 2016, p. 139), and a historical perspective can highlight the contextual factors determining which narratives are influential. Crucially, translating narratives into action requires the intervention of political actors. It took the formation of activist groups in the 1920s and pressure by abolitionist MPs to turn ambivalence about hanging into a political debate; it would take forty more years of campaigning to end capital punishment, largely against public opinion (Hammel 2010). Complaints about the police were made politically relevant in Parliament by the Labour Party and a smaller group of more libertarian Tories (Wood 2012b). Even then, however, little changed in police policy, and the main effect of the resulting parliamentary inquiry was to allow the scandal to blow over. The police—much like judicial systems of punishment—proved remarkably immune to institutional reform. Good stories are, ultimately, not enough.

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References Ballinger, A. (2000). Dead woman walking: Executed women in England and Wales, 1900–1955. Aldershot: Ashgate. Ballinger, A. (2011). Feminist research, state power and executed women: The case of Louie Calvert. In S. Farrall (Ed.), Escape routes: Contemporary perspectives on life after punishment (pp. 107–133). Abingdon: Routledge. Bamberg, M. (2004). Considering counter narratives. In M. Bamberg & M. Andrews (Eds.), Considering counter-narratives: Resisting, making sense (pp. 351–371). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Bamberg, M., & Andrews, M. (2004). Introduction to the book. In M. Bamberg & M. Andrews (Eds.), Considering counter-narratives: Resisting, making sense (pp. ix–x). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Bowling, B., & Sheptycki, J. (2012). Theorising global policing. In B. Bowling & J. Sheptycki (Eds.), Global policing (pp. 8–28). London: Sage. Bucerius, S. M., & Haggerty, K. D. (2018). Review of Narrative criminology: Understanding stories of crime, L. Presser and S. Sandberg (Eds.). British Journal of Criminology, 58(2), 504–506. Clayton, H. (2009). A bad case of police savidgery: The interrogation of Irene Savige at Scotland Yard. Women’s History Magazine, 61, 30–38. Doerner, J. K., & Demuth, S. (2014). Gender and sentencing in the federal courts: Are women treated more leniently? Criminal Justice Policy Review, 25(2), 242–269. Elder, S. (2010). Murder scenes: Normality, deviance and criminal violence in Weimar Berlin. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Emsley, C. (1992). The English bobby: An indulgent tradition. In R. Porter (Ed.), Myths of the English (pp. 114–135). Cambridge: Polity. Emsley, C. (2005a). Hard men: The English and violence since 1750. London: Hambledon and London. Emsley, C. (2005b). Sergeant Goddard: The story of a rotten apple, or a diseased orchard? In A. Srebnick & R. Lévy (Eds.), Crime and cultures: An historical perspective (pp. 85–104). Aldershot: Ashgate. Emsley, C. (2008). Violent crime in England in 1919: Post-war anxieties and press narratives. Continuity and Change, 23(1), 173–195. Godfrey, B. S., Farrall, S., & Karstedt, S. (2005). Explaining gendered sentencing patterns for violent men and women in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period. The British Journal of Criminology, 45(5), 696–720.

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Hammel, A. (2010). Ending the death penalty: The European experience in global perspective. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Hobsbawm, E. J. (1969). Bandits. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. King, P. (1984). Decision-makers and decision-making in the English criminal law, 1750–1800. Historical Journal, 27(1), 25–58. Klein, C. (1908). The third degree: A play in four acts. New York: Samuel French. Knepper, P. (2016). Writing the history of crime. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Kohn, M. (2003). Dope girls: The birth of the British drug underground. London: Granta. Lawrence, P. (2012). History, criminology and the “use” of the past. Theoretical Criminology, 16(3), 313–328. Lawrence, P. (2019). Historical criminology and the explanatory power of the past. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 19(4), 493–511. Lloyd, A. (1995). Doubly deviant, doubly damned: Society’s treatment of violent women. London: Penguin Books. Presser, L. (2009). The narratives of offenders. Theoretical Criminology, 13(2), 177–200. Presser, L. (2016). Criminology and the narrative turn. Crime, Media, Culture, 12(2), 137–151. Pugh, M. (2009). We danced all night: A social history of Britain between the wars. London: Vintage. Sandberg, S., & Ugelvik, T. (2016). The past, present, and future of narrative criminology: A review and an invitation. Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal, 12(2), 129–136. Seal, L. (2014). Capital punishment in twentieth-century Britain: Audience, justice, memory. London: Routledge. Shore, H. (2014). Rogues of the racecourse: Racing men and the press in interwar Britain. Media History, 20(4), 352–367. Shpayer-Makov, H. (2011). The ascent of the detective: Police sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Siemens, D. (2007). Metropole und Verbrechen: die Gerichtsreportage in Berlin, Paris und Chicago: 1919–1933. Stuttgart: Steiner. Slater, S. A. (2012). Lady Astor and the ladies of the night: The Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and the politics of the Street Offences Committee, 1927–28. Law and History Review, 30(2), 533–573. Thompson, E. P. (1971). The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century. Past & Present, 50, 76–136.

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Tulloch, J. (2006). The privatising of pain: Lincoln newspapers, “mediated publicness” and the end of public execution. Journalism Studies, 7(3), 437–451. Vasiljevic, M., & Viki, G. T. (2013). Dehumanization, moral disengagement, and public attitudes to crime and punishment. In P. G. Bain, J. Vaes, & J. P. Leyens (Eds.), Humanness and dehumanization (pp. 129–146). Hove: Psychology Press. Vyleta, D. (2007). Crime, Jews and news: Vienna, 1895–1914. New York: Berghahn. Wiener, M. J. (2007). Convicted murderers and the Victorian press: Condemnation vs. sympathy. Crimes and Misdemeanours: Deviance and the Law in Historical Perspective, 1(2), 110–125. Williams, K. (1997). Get me a murder a day! The history of mass communication in Britain. London: Arnold. Wood, J. C. (2004). Violence and crime in nineteenth-century England: The shadow of our refinement. London: Routledge. Wood, J. C. (2006). Criminal violence in modern Britain. History Compass, 4(1), 77–90. Wood, J. C. (2009). “Those who have had trouble can sympathise with you”: Press writing, reader responses and a murder trial in interwar Britain. Journal of Social History, 43(2), 439–462. Wood, J. C. (2010). “The third degree”: Press reporting, crime fiction and police powers in 1920s Britain. Twentieth Century British History, 21(4), 464–485. Wood, J. C. (2012a). The most remarkable woman in England: Poison, celebrity and the trials of Beatrice Pace. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Wood, J. C. (2012b). Press, politics and the “police and public” debates in late 1920s Britain. Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, 16(1), 75–98. Wood, J. C. (2014). The constables and the “garage girl”: The police, the press and the case of Helene Adele. Media History, 20(4), 384–399. Wykes, M., & Welsh, K. (2009). Violence, gender and justice. London: Sage.

Section III Crime Narratives in Social and Criminal Justice

9 ‘Let’s Put Human Rights Right’: (Counter) Narratives About Human Rights in the UK Popular Press Lieve Gies

Introduction It is tempting to think of any opposition to hegemonic narratives as the embodiment of the voice of the marginalised and the oppressed. Laclau and Mouffe refer to ‘the dominant tendency in the discussion of new social movements, which consists in the a priori affirmation of their progressive nature’ (2001, p. 87). A good example is Nancy Fraser’s influential concept of ‘counterpublics’. Counter publics are groups which in response to their exclusion from the mainstream public sphere resort to setting up their own inclusive spaces for debating and articulating political strategies. While Fraser (1997, p. 82) herself was quick to clarify that ‘I do not mean that subaltern counterpublics are always necessarily virtuous’, the extent to which some of these alternative publics are profoundly anti-egalitarian and discriminatory deserves to be sufficiently explored. The Internet has become an echo chamber for L. Gies (*)  School of Media, Communication and Sociology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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counter publics who, adopting a vocabulary of oppression and emancipation, claim to defend the ‘little people’ against their marginalisation at the hands of the establishment (Gerbaudo 2018, p. 746). It is not just fringe forums where such narratives can be heard: one of the hallmarks of populism more generally is that it pretty much spans the entire political spectrum (Postill 2018). The point that ‘counter’ does not necessarily mean ‘progressive’ or ‘virtuous’ will be illustrated in this chapter with reference to media stories about human rights. The human rights doctrine is inherently ambiguous as it can be simultaneously perceived as a tool for emancipation and domination. Thus, Merry (2006: 39) ponders: Is human rights law simply a strategic weapon used by powerful groups to legitimate their power grabs – a window dressing for real politik? Is it a form of neoimperialism by which the West claims to save the benighted, savage peoples of the rest of the world while actually pursuing its own interests? (…) To what extent does it provide an emancipatory tool for vulnerable people such as women, racial minorities, or indigenous peoples? (…) Clearly, there are no simple answers to these pressing questions.

In other words, human rights can be seen as both a ‘hegemonic’ and ‘counter’ narrative as their meaning is in constant flux. Human rights stand for respectable statehood without which countries cannot expect to take their place in the international community. By the same token, as Merry intimates, they can be used to legitimise a particular world order. Yet, depending on the context, human rights can still provide an effective narrative for challenging power: donning the mantle of universal human rights and ‘vernacularising’ them to suit a particular setting can boost localised struggles for equality (Merry 2006). The ambiguities besetting human rights explain why they attract resistant narratives from across the entire political spectrum. They have the capacity to be framed as both too right wing and too leftist in the media, depending on the story that is being narrated. The focus here is on narratives in the UK popular press which counter the legitimacy of the centrepiece of human rights law, the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). When the centre-left Labour Party came

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to power in 1997, one of the flagship initiatives of the new government was to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK domestic law. Its principal effect was to make it possible for people in the UK to claim their Convention rights in the domestic courts rather than travelling all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. From the outset, the new Act faced opposition from a tabloid press which feared that it would lead to the creation of more stringent privacy laws and severely reduce the scope for celebrity scandal and gossip (Gies 2014). The attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing War on Terror fuelled hostile stories dismissing the HRA as a ‘terrorists’ charter’. The fact that the legislation derives from European law—albeit, it should be stressed, one that is separate to the law of the European Union—has also been grist to the mill for the Europhobic press. The unifying theme of anti-HRA stories in the press is the alleged overreach of human rights law, an excess which, according to the reporting, can only be contained by repealing relevant laws and even withdrawing from the European Convention. The consequences of such a scaling back of human rights for the weakest in society are seldom considered in the coverage. While these ideas could be dismissed as typical tabloid rabble-rousing, the same cannot be said when they become in effect government policy. The Conservative Government has at various stages considered repealing the HRA by replacing it with a new Bill of Rights until Brexit led to political paralysis and eclipsed virtually every other government policy. What started out as an apparent counter narrative opposing the prevailing human rights regime consequently came full circle when it in turn became the new, populist orthodoxy.

What’s in a Name? Narratives and Counter Narratives Before clarifying what we mean by counter narratives, it is important to emphasise that no narrative operates in a vacuum; instead narratives are defined by their relationship with each other. The very idea

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of ‘dominant’ and ‘counter’ narratives is underpinned by this concept of relationality. The co-presence of competing, fragmented, composite and contradictory narratives is commonplace (Presser and Sandberg 2015, p. 11). Indeterminacy and ambiguity reign as there are many different ways of narrating a sequence of events and provide an answer to the ‘what happened?’ question. One particular narrative rarely tells the ‘whole story’ and indeed may deliberately fail to do so as part of its underpinning ideology. Thus, there is often fierce competition and contradiction between stories. Even without being faced with one narrative setting itself up as deliberately and visibly countering another story, the audience is presented with the difficult question of who to believe and decide which story is the most compelling. Of course, the audience, just like the speaker, is guided in this process by values and beliefs that transcend individual narratives. These ideas are situated at the level of grand narratives, which, as Bamberg (2004, p. 360) explains, ‘have a tendency to ‘normalize’ and ‘naturalize’ (…) In this sense, master narratives surely constrain and delineate the agency of subjects, seemingly reducing the range of their actions’.1 With Bamberg, I argue that the line between dominant and counter narratives is not always clear-cut: any narrative is likely to include elements taken from both the dominant paradigm and from repertoires of resistance. With such apparent internal contradictions and tensions, a narrative can occupy different positions on the dominant/counter spectrum. After all, as Berger (1997, p. 19) points out, ‘texts require readers to fill in a lot of blank areas and (…) different readers fill in these blanks in different ways’. Another complicating factor is that: [i]n some stories the narrator is present, whereas in others the narrator is more or less “hidden”’ (Berger 1997, p. 17). Any uncertainty over the identity of the narrator is capable of muddying the water even further. To use a different kind of terminology, Laclau and Mouffe (2001, p. 112) observe ‘the impossibility of an ultimate fixity of meaning’ in relation to discourse, leading to only ‘partial fixation’ taking the form of ‘nodal points’ which 1Intriguingly, he points out that such grand narratives can be practically very useful, without being necessarily hegemonic: ‘complicity with them does not automatically resort in being complicit with or supportive of hegemonic power-knowledge complexes’ (Bamberg 2004, p. 360).

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always leave scope for ‘floating signifiers, incapable of being wholly articulated in a discursive chain’ (Laclau and Mouffe 2001, p. 113). Human rights, the central example in this chapter, have spawned a rich tapestry of narratives. The values embodied by human rights have become largely normalised in the global polity: even governments which blatantly violate human rights will resort to strategies of denial (Cohen 2001) in an attempt to uphold the appearance of adhering to a set of values that are considered so important as to amount to a secular religion (Dwyer 2001). This means that even counter narratives opposing human rights will still display some elements of compliance with the core values underpinning the master narrative. One example is the debate as to whether something genuinely qualifies as a human right: media stories ridiculing some human rights claims, typically those that seek recognition for a particular identity, as not really being about human rights still adhere to the core ideology of human rights. Indeed, in some ways, such narratives may even present themselves as a staunch defence of human rights against the incursion of ‘imposter’ human rights claims (e.g. involving sexual, gender and racial equality) that are perceived to be adulterating ‘genuine’ human rights (e.g. freedom of expression, right not be tortured, etc.). In that sense, to quote Bamberg (2004, p. 363), such stories are ‘in between being complicit and countering established narratives’.

Methodology What follows further below is an analysis of the way in which the HRA is framed in a particular corpus of newspaper articles. Frames are a specific type of narrative that distinguishes itself through its functions and scope. Framing analysis is a well-established tradition (e.g. Gamson and Modigliani 1989; Entman 1993; de Vreese 2012) in the social sciences and it is often applied to news media. The classic definition of framing is that it involves selecting ‘some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described’ (Entman 1993,

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p. 52). Frames, as narratives, therefore broadly fulfil four specific functions: ‘problem definition, causal analysis, moral judgment and remedy promotion’ (Entman 2007, p. 164), although not necessarily all at the same time (de Vreese 2012). Put differently, frames are stories that specifically focus on these four elements in a way that other narratives do not necessarily do. Frames generally seek to influence by attempting to direct the way in which audiences perceive certain issues. Salience or the foregrounding of specific aspects of a story to the detriment of others involves the dual process of promoting one facet of the story and downplaying others, directing the audience’s attention to the elements favoured by the story. Hence, in the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment for prisoners story discussed below, the preferred meaning (Hall 1980) is that human rights are to blame for the lack of access to IVF treatment for patients. Frames can be organised into categories by identifying recurring patterns through thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006). Expressions of a frame can vary widely and include metaphors, keywords, particular imagery, lexical choices, entire text fragments and so on. Also, what is latent and left unsaid in the text is potentially significant in establishing how a particular issue is framed. The analysis in the next section will highlight ‘instances of consistent one-sided framing’ or ‘patterns of slant’, also known as ‘content bias’ (Entman 2007, p. 166). The very negative portrayal of the HRA observed in the sample is consistent and one-sided, amounting to a clear political slant with a relatively straightforward political message. That such a bias exists is already well documented in the literature: my aim is therefore not to prove the existence or extent of the bias by analysing a large sample of newspaper articles but to illustrate how such narratives manage to be both ‘counter’ and reactionary in their perspective on human rights. My focus is on the Daily Mail, a tabloid that is particularly outspoken in its negative attitudes to the HRA and is therefore very well suited to this kind of analysis. I am not including positive media stories that can be found in a few other newspapers (e.g. The Guardian ): this does not mean that such positive stories should be ignored. For the purpose of this study, however, they do not represent that ‘something important’ in relation to the research question (Braun

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and Clarke 2006) I am looking for, i.e. specific narrative framing devices used to cement the idea that the HRA is a bad law. The particular sample I am analysing consists of articles published in the Daily Mail over a four-year period, from June 2015 to June 2019, affording an insight into recent coverage, which interestingly also overlaps with the Brexit era. During this period, a total of 216 articles mentioning the HRA anywhere in the text were published in the Daily Mail. This amounts to an average of just 54 articles per year, which is a significant reduction compared to the yearly average of 100 articles published over the last twenty years (see below). A possible explanation is that since the Brexit referendum was announced in the Conservative Party’s 2015 election manifesto, the Daily Mail, prominent among the Eurosceptic press, has instead been consumed by the issue of the UK’s exit from the European Union. However, as we will see, Brexit is not just a distraction. It has also strengthened the call for a repeal of the HRA as part of the desire to dissociate the UK from other European institutions. Of the 216 articles, 59 were selected for closer analysis on the basis that the articles reflected a range of negative opinions about the HRA. Not all of these articles were devoted mainly or entirely to the Act: many of them contained just a few sentences, which in many cases was nevertheless sufficient to express a negative evaluation of the HRA. Immersion, involving ‘repeated reading’ (Braun and Clarke 2006, p. 87) and coding of the selected sample, shows that the corpus, in essence, tells the same story over and over again. There is, in other words, just one overarching (counter) narrative animating the coverage in the Daily Mail. One of the articles, quoting then Prime Minister David Cameron, captures the essence of this story in just a few words: ‘Let’s put human rights right’ (Cohen 2015). It is cast in the mould of one of the most classic stock narratives, built around the notion that an intolerable wrong has occurred and needs to be rectified, involving the transformation of one particular, undesirable state of affairs into its polar opposite (Propp 1968). The corpus as a whole offers a number of variations on this story by placing more or less emphasis on different components of the principal frame, such as the ‘wrongness’ of the wrong, its root causes and the actions that are required to restore ‘balance’, that is, bring justice.

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Human Rights Discontents in the UK Tabloid Press Uniquely for an otherwise dry piece of legislation, the UK’s HRA has become something of an obsession to the popular press. Over a ­twenty-one-year period,2 in the Daily Mail alone, the Act featured in no fewer than 2068 articles, which roughly equates to an average of 100 articles per year. By contrast, the Irish equivalent of the HRA, the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 (ECHRA), was only referred to in 149 articles across the entire Irish press.3 Even allowing for the fact that the Irish ECHRA is five years younger than the HRA, meaning that it has been in the news for a shorter period of time, and the fact that the Irish newspaper market is much smaller, it is still abundantly clear that the HRA has generated an inordinate amount of coverage, making it a prominent talking point in the UK press. What is it about human rights that renders the HRA so objectionable to many press critics? The Act did little more than make the ECHR, an European Charter championed by none other than Winston Churchill in the aftermath of the Second World War, part of UK domestic law. In other European countries, the ECHR, on which the HRA is based, is largely uncontroversial: in fact, it is rarely discussed in the European press (Gies 2019). Critics on the left have argued the HRA has been ineffective in protecting civil liberties against draconian anti-terrorism laws, suggesting that in their eyes the Act is by no means a radical piece of legislation. On the right, by contrast, a common refrain is that the Act and its implementation are too heavily weighted in favour of liberty and hampers efforts to combat terrorism and other social ills. While not all the coverage is negative, it has been noted that in the right-leaning press, especially the tabloids, the reporting overwhelmingly paints the Act in a very negative light (Gies 2014; Mead 2019; Mooney 2012). Content-wise, the articles offer mere variations on the


was searched for ‘Human Rights Act’ for the period 19 June 1999–19 June 2019. Nexis search term was ‘European Convention on Human Rights Act’ and the period searched was 1 December 2002–19 June 2019. 3The

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same theme: the misuse of the HRA by specific groups to the detriment of others who are considered more worthy and more deserving of human rights. When human rights law finds itself in the eye of a political storm, it is, predictably, big news: examples include the hugely controversial issues of prisoners’ voting rights and the extradition of terrorism suspects. At the other end of the spectrum are what one might call fait divers, the small but potentially potent everyday human rights anecdotes and titbits that make up the steady stream of negative human rights stories. An infamous example involves the widely covered story of a fugitive who during a police standoff was given Kentucky Fried Chicken by police wishing to protect his human rights (Gies 2014). While the link with human rights is often tenuous and the facts asserted in these stories may be questionable, the point is that together with the more ‘serious’, i.e. fact-based, reporting they make up a narrative repertoire which in its totality frames the HRA as inherently flawed. The overarching story related in the corpus can be usefully illustrated through an in-depth analysis of one particular article. The article does not only showcase the story in rich detail but also contains all the elements of a frame as defined above. The headline reads: ‘Violent thug wins right to fertility treatment in jail as law-abiding couples face IVF rationing’ (Doyle 2018). The article relates the story of an offender who, while serving a prison sentence for serious assault, challenged the government’s decision to deny him and his partner access to fertility treatment by successfully claiming that the decision constituted a breach under article 8 (right to family life) of the ECHR. The narrative rebukes human rights law for protecting the ‘undeserving’ at the expense of the ‘deserving’: indeed, the headline unequivocally pits the ‘violent thug’ against ‘law-abiding couples’. The underlying message is that human rights are once again at the centre of a wrong-headed, even absurd government policy. The article quotes the Tory MP (and former Brexit Secretary) David Davis who described the decision to grant the offender IVF as ‘ludicrous’, adding: ‘This is an insult to law-abiding families who are unable to obtain IVF. This is yet another example of the crazy Human Rights Act which ought to be radically changed or got rid of ’. All of the principal ingredients of framing are there: the problem the article defines is the rationing of IVF treatment for law-abiding

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couples (note that single parents are not included); the cause it pinpoints is human rights law allowing prisoners privileged access to scarce IVF treatment; the moral judgement is that this is wrong and ‘crazy’; and the prescribed solution is a radical change or repeal of the HRA. Interestingly, the article does acknowledge that ‘many childless couples are denied IVF because of cutbacks’ but this is not pursued any further. The ‘real’ reason as to why many patients are denied the opportunity to undergo fertility treatment, some might argue, is not the ‘crazy Human Rights Act’ but the austerity policies pursued by Mr Davis’ own government. However, such structural problems are glossed over by pointing the finger of blame at the HRA. The ideological bias is clear: it is not the dismantling of infertility services through funding cuts—a favoured Conservative policy—but ‘ludicrous’ human rights that are to blame for the obstacles ‘law-abiding’ childless couples face. Moreover, human rights are portrayed as a zero-sum game in which the protection of society’s ‘outcasts’ (Bauman 2004) is always at the expense of the law-abiding. The moral of the story is that human rights should only be reserved for law-abiding citizens and be denied to others who through their conduct or actions are no longer worthy human rights subjects. The narrative manages to be simultaneously compliant and resistant: it does not advocate the outright rejection of human rights but it does defy their universality by seeking to expel different categories of ‘undesirables’ from their realm. It is clear from the corpus that a number of actors can be slotted into the roles of the ‘guilty’ and the ‘innocent’. The overall picture is that of an unholy alliance between unworthy human rights claimants and the legal establishment which is cynically exploiting the HRA to the detriment of the ‘innocent’. The ‘innocent’ range from very specific groups, for example, British soldiers on the battlefield, to generic categories such as the ‘law abiding’, the ‘tax payer’ and the British nation more generally. On the other hand, the unworthy claimants in the stories are almost invariably ‘criminals’ of various ilk, especially ‘foreign criminals’, sex offenders, asylum seekers (who are often labelled ‘criminals’) and terrorists. Hence, the coverage gives credence to the idea that the HRA is in effect a ‘villains’ charter’, that is to say, it only benefits lawbreakers.

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In a few of the stories, the category of wrongdoers is widened to include vexatious claimants, corroborating the complaint that human rights are being used for some very trivial matters. One article reports that an Iraqi citizen was using the HRA to sue the Ministry of Defence over his varicose veins (Brown 2016). Another piece (Tozer 2015) casts a mother and her daughter in the role of vexatious claimants for suggesting that the girl’s human rights had been breached by her school when it sent her home for sporting a ‘leopard print’ hairstyle that failed to conform to the school uniform policy. However, the harshest criticism is reserved for lawyers and judges who are portrayed as the indirect beneficiaries of the HRA, aiding and abetting spurious human rights claims. Lawyers are accused of enriching themselves by pursuing cases that widen the remit of human rights well beyond what legislators intended, while judges are accused of a power grab, using the HRA as a pretext for increasing their constitutional powers to the detriment of the elected representatives in Parliament. The coverage is particularly scornful of human rights lawyers who bring claims against soldiers for human rights breaches. One article refers to ‘Left-wing lawyers who plague soldiers with vexatious claims’ (Slack 2016b), another one speaks of the HRA being used ‘by politically motivated ambulance-chasers such as Birmingham-based Phil Shyster (sic) to hound brave British soldiers over fictitious claims of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan’ (Littlejohn 2016). The term ‘human rights industry’ is repeatedly used to characterise the lucrative human rights work lawyers take on, conjuring up the image of a production line of never ending claims (e.g. Pendlebury 2016). Indeed, this is precisely the metaphor used in the following report (Jones 2016): Observing the conveyor-belt of cases during my week at a London magistrates’ court, I was staggered by the inventiveness and downright cheek with which foreign criminals, in cahoots with taxpayer-funded lawyers, sought to exploit the Human Rights Act.

Another article talks of ‘an apparently never-ending merry-go-round of “unlawful detention” claims, often pursued by no-win, no-fee solicitors

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on behalf of immigrants and refugees with criminal records’ (Davies 2017). Human rights lawyers are accused of hypocrisy (Adams 2017) and being ‘holier-than-thou’ (Pendlebury 2016). Judges, by contrast, stand accused of a different kind of greed: in the coverage it is not money but power that is their ulterior motive. There is especially strong criticism of judges at the ECtHR in Strasbourg who are pejoratively referred to as ‘Euro judges’ or ‘Euro Court’. The word ‘meddling’ is repeated used, as in: ‘to end meddling by foreign judges’ (Slack 2016a). Domestically, the HRA is described as having given judges a pretext for appropriating powers that rightfully belong to elected politicians. One article devotes much space to a speech by a senior judge criticising his colleagues for indulging in ‘judicial aggrandisement’ through the way they are implementing, inter alia, the HRA (Doughty 2015). The accompanying comment article contends that: ‘measures such as the Human Rights Act let them [judges] invent laws as they fancy’, a sentiment that is also echoed in another article, this time about the ECtHR: ‘they [ECtHR judges] make up the law as they go along, seeking to exercise arbitrary power over peoples and parliaments’ (Cohen 2015). Judges’ lack of accountability, along with the erosion of national and parliamentary sovereignty through the expansion in judicial powers, is the main bone of contention in these comments. Framing, as we have already seen, is not just about the definition and diagnosis of a problem; it also seeks to prescribe a solution. In this instance, the solution—repeal of the HRA—requires political intervention, a theme that resonates strongly in the coverage. With the Labour Party, the architects of the HRA, no longer in government, the ball is squarely in the camp of the ruling Conservatives. Yet, almost a decade into their time in government, the desired solution has still not been achieved as the HRA remains on the statute book. The articles express both eager anticipation about the prospects of a better future without the HRA and frustration about the length of time it is taking to achieve this goal. Replacing the HRA with a ‘British’ Bill of Rights with a much-reduced role for the ECtHR was one of principal ambitions of the Cameron Government. Policy-wise, this was overtaken by the much more pressing issue of delivering the UK’s exit from the EU, presenting the government with obstacles that have proved virtually

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insurmountable. Yet, in the coverage, Brexit is not seen as an impediment but as an opportunity to also sever links with the ECHR. In the words of one commentator (Littlejohn 2016): ‘The Brexit vote has given us a golden opportunity to extricate ourselves not just from the EU but every single European institution which works against our best interests. (…) Now we’re heading for the exit, there’s nothing stopping us’. A lack of action on this front is considered a ‘broken promise’, as is clear from the following comments: ‘While we remain in the EU and chained to the pernicious Human Rights Act (another broken Tory promise), we are powerless to prevent mass immigration, both from within and without Europe’ (Littlejohn 2015a). Unsurprisingly, the coverage is also very critical of the Labour Party’s stance on human rights and is at pains to paint the HRA as the pet cause of the left. One headline reads: ‘Labour refuse to rip up rights to tackle terror’ (Stevens 2017), rehearsing the familiar theme that the HRA introduced by the Labour Government hampers efforts to combat terrorism. Attempts to paint the HRA in a more positive light are dismissed as ‘human rights propaganda’ (Drury 2015). Another article excoriates the ‘usual Left-wing troublemakers’ (Littlejohn 2015b), the ‘Left-wing establishment’ (Adams 2017) and ‘activist left-wing human rights lawyers’ (Slack 2016b) as the HRA’s staunch advocates. In conjunction with repeated reminders that the HRA was enacted under Tony Blair’s Government, the Act is portrayed as the failed and discredited project of the New Labour era. The Act is described in one article as ‘the most pernicious piece of legislation ever to find its way onto the statute book’ (Littlejohn 2016). Other unflattering epithets include ‘racket’ (Littlejohn 2015b, 2016), ‘disastrous’ (Daily Mail Comment 2016), ‘crazy’ (Doyle 2018) and ‘gravy train’ (Daily Mail Reporter 2016).

Conclusion The story that is recurring in the Daily Mail corpus—‘put human rights right’—has three main focal points: a diagnostics frame which pinpoints a range of different problems, from the unavailability of infertility treatment to vexatious lawsuits against soldiers, but invariably diagnoses the

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HRA as their root cause; a moral judgement frame which excoriates the HRA for the various social ills it is allegedly causing; and a politics frame which looks to the political process for resolving the ‘problem’ that is the HRA. The overarching story bears all the hallmarks of a populist counter narrative challenging the powerful and the ‘establishment’ (politicians, judges, lawyers and so forth) to abandon a malfunctioning, lopsided law that is only benefiting a tiny, undeserving minority in a way that not just neglects but positively harms the interests of the silent majority.4 The idea that the HRA is a ‘good’ law is positioned in the corpus as the hegemonic narrative, as the orthodoxy that needs to be torn down to expose the fundamental injustice at its heart. Being a counter narrative, the story also reliably incorporates some of this orthodoxy. As one article puts it: ‘Everyone supports human rights but not everyone supports the Human Rights Act’ (Drury 2015). The gist of the coverage is that human rights generally are not the problem, as long as they are restricted in scope and number; it is their privileged treatment of lawbreakers and lawyers that needs fixing. The content bias displayed in the coverage is the persistent silence regarding the fact that the Act guarantees a number of basic rights, some of which are lacking from the common law, which have the potential to benefit everyone in society. The right to privacy and a family life, freedom of religion, the right to be brought before a judge promptly, and so forth, are universal. The coverage does not explain that it is not just ‘villains’ but also ordinary, ‘law-abiding people’ who bring legal action based on the HRA. Another significant omission is that the coverage fails to explore how some of the so-called victims of the human rights ‘racket’ are not necessarily powerless or innocent individuals. Take the example of military personnel: while the coverage is outraged about ‘brave’ soldiers being ‘hounded’ by lawyers, it is entirely silent about the serious human rights breaches that have in the recent past been perpetrated by British soldiers, for example, in Iraq and Afghanistan. 4Indeed,

to quote from the coverage again: There is a plethora of national and supra-national legislation protecting the rights of the foreign criminal: the Human Rights Act, the Dublin Convention, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice. But none protecting the rest of us. (Liddle 2016)

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It therefore simply fails to acknowledge that human rights law can be extremely important to obtain justice for these victims. As a counter narrative, such stories do little more than advocate a more punitive, a more authoritarian, a culturally more inward-looking and more unequal society in which the rights of the many, including the most vulnerable, would be significantly reduced and widespread discrimination would be positively encouraged (e.g. no rights for ‘foreign criminals’), all in the name of providing a deterrent against abusive human rights claims brought by a very tiny minority. It also thrives on nostalgia, holding out the promise of a return to a glorious national past, that of the Magna Carta,5 conveniently forgetting that individual rights did simply not exist in those feudal times. With such populist rhetoric actively being espoused by the government of the day, it can hardly be called a defiant narrative owned by a counter public; it actually embodies a new orthodoxy potentially legitimising the erosion of human rights standards.

References Adams, G. (2017, November 18). The human rights hypocrites. Daily Mail. Bamberg, M. (2004). Considering counter narratives. In M. Bamberg & M. Andrews (Eds.), Considering counter-narratives: Narrating, resisting, making sense (Vol. 4, pp. 351–371). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing. Bauman, Z. (2004). Wasted lives: Modernity and its outcasts. Oxford: Polity. Berger, A. A. (1997). Narratives in popular culture, media, and everyday life. London: Sage. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. Brown, L. (2016, October 19). Iraqi sues MOD over his varicose veins. Daily Mail. Cohen, S. (2001). States of denial: Knowing about atrocities and suffering. Cambridge: Polity. Cohen, T. (2015, June 16). PM vows rights reform in spirit of Magna Carta. Daily Mail. 5Referenced

several times in the sample. See e.g. Cohen (2015) and Martin (2015).

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Daily Mail Comment. (2016, May 21). Britain cannot keep taking EU’s millions. Daily Mail. Daily Mail Reporter. (2016, October 4). Riding the human rights gravy train. Daily Mail. Davies, B. (2017, December 16). Human rights insanity. Daily Mail. de Vreese, C. H. (2012). New avenues for framing research. American Behavioral Scientist, 56(3), 365–375. Doughty, S. (2015, June 24). Why our meddling judges have never been more powerful. Daily Mail. Doyle, J. (2018). Violent thug wins right to fertility treatment in jail. Daily Mail, 27 December. Drury, I. (2015, December 2). The human rights propaganda aimed at ­four-year-olds. Daily Mail. Dwyer, C. (2001). Human rights—Values for a godless age. Christian Law Review, 28–37. Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43(3), 51–58. Entman, R. M. (2007). Framing bias: Media in the distribution of power. Journal of Communication, 57(1), 163–173. Fraser, N. (1997). Justice interruptus: Critical reflections on the “postsocialist” condition. London: Routledge. Gamson, W. A., & Modigliani, A. (1989). Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power: A constructionist approach. American Journal of Sociology, 95(1), 1–37. Gerbaudo, P. (2018). Social media and populism: An elective affinity? Media, Culture and Society, 40(5), 745–753. Gies, L. (2014). Mediating human rights: Media, culture and human rights law. Abingdon: Routledge. Gies, L. (2019). British human rights scepticism through the lens of European newspapers. In M. Farrell, E. Drywood, & E. Hughes (Eds.), Human rights in the media: Fear and fetish (pp. 78–97). Abingdon: Routledge. Hall, S. (1980). Encoding/decoding. In S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe, & P. Willis (Eds.), Culture, media, language: Working papers in cultural studies, 1972–79 (pp. 128–138). London: Unwin Hyman. Jones, D. (2016, August 20). Dispatch from Britain’s deportation madhouse. Daily Mail. Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (2001). Hegemony and socialist strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics (2nd ed.). London: Verso.

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Liddle, R. (2016, March 14). Why does Britain only ever deport the wrong people? Daily Mail. Littlejohn, R. (2015a, August 28). 8M immigrants? Can I bring a friend? Daily Mail. Littlejohn, R. (2015b, June 12). Murdered? No, Menezes was a casualty of war. Daily Mail. Littlejohn, R. (2016, July 15). Now get us out of the human rights racket, too. Daily Mail. Martin, D. (2015, June 1). Fury as UN official likens us to Nazis over human rights. Daily Mail. Mead, D. (2019). ‘They offer you a feature on stockings and suspenders next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders’: Do we learn more about the media than about human rights from tabloid coverage of human rights stories? In M. Farrell, E. Drywood, & E. Hughes (Eds.), Human rights in the media: Fear and fetish (pp. 9–43). Abingdon: Routledge. Merry, S. E. (2006). Transnational human rights and local activism: Mapping the middle. American Anthropologist, 108(1), 38–51. Mooney, A. (2012). Human rights: Law, language and the bare human being. Language & Communication, 32(3), 169–181. Pendlebury, R. (2016, October 13). Why did the human rights luvvie quit? Daily Mail. Postill, J. (2018). Populism and social media: A global perspective. Media, Culture and Society, 40(5), 754–765. Presser, L., & Sandberg, S. (2015). Narrative criminology: Understanding stories of crime. New York: New York University Press. Propp, V. (1968). Morphology of the folktale. Austin: University of Texas Press. Slack, J. (2016a, December 29). Tory vow to scrap Human Rights Act is delayed again. Daily Mail. Slack, J. (2016b, October 6). We’re coming after you. Daily Mail. Stevens, J. (2017, June 8). Labour refuses to rip up rights to tackle terror. Daily Mail. Tozer, J. (2015, September 8). It is her human right to have leopard-print hair, says mum of girl, 13, kicked out of school. Daily Mail.

10 Files as Prototypical Master Narratives Mechthild Bereswill, Henrike Buhr and Patrik Müller-Behme

Introduction “Due to a consistent approach, it was eventually possible to foster E. here”. This statement is found in a development report of July 1968, signed by a senior care-worker which we have taken from an individual West German residential care case file.1 The report refers to a young person who has been placed in a home for girls since July 1967. It formulates an assessment of this placement’s influence on the adolescent.


footnote 6 for references.

M. Bereswill (*) · H. Buhr · P. Müller-Behme  Institut für Sozialwesen, Universität Kassel, Kassel, Germany e-mail: [email protected] H. Buhr e-mail: [email protected] P. Müller-Behme e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 M. Althoff et al. (eds.), Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment,


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According to this assessment, the institution’s expectations did not materialise and support was nevertheless possible. This unexpected success is explained by the “consistent approach” adopted by the home’s staff. This formulation gives the impression that a “consistent approach” is fundamental to the educational practice in the home. Neither this statement nor further statements in the examined document reveal what concrete educational ideas and measures are connected with the described “approach”. Analysing the material from today’s perspective, however, it is evident that the education and placement of minors in homes from the 1950s to the 1970s in West Germany was characterised by violent practices. Placement in a home usually took place for regulatory reasons, up to and including the prevention of anticipated deviance. Thus, children and adolescents were labelled as deviant and delinquent by youth welfare offices and in many cases placed in closed educational homes. For more than ten years now, this practice has been the focus of an extensive debate on the forms of education carried out there and their consequences for the people formerly accommodated in such homes. In 2009, for example, a round table was set up on the basis of these facts to clarify questions of injustice and to develop recommendations for compensation payments (AGJ 2010). However, the opening quotation from a residential care case file not only is relevant in the context of a fundamentally questionable practice of child and youth welfare. Such written assessments of young people’s development are also typical of administrative actions taken during the placement of children and young people. This still applies today, because case files document the manageability of a given case and the associated decision-making processes. The present article is based upon analyses of this administrative action as documented in the case files of residential care institutions in West Germany from the 1950s to the 1970s. Case files are personal files kept on a person from his or her admission until his or her release. They contain different documents created by the persons involved in the respective case. Accordingly, they provide an insight into processes of administration and interaction that seek to legitimise and delegitimise certain measures.

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The German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) project “Management of the Case/Die Verwaltung des Falles” (283908306), which ran from 2016 to 2018, analysed case files from former educational homes of the Hessian State Welfare Association (Landeswohlfahrtsverband, hereafter LWV). This research aimed to reconstruct institutional practices on the basis of the documents in the case files and to establish structural characteristics of the written procedure followed in case administration. Thus, for example, administrative patterns of action were identified in which ongoing processes of labelling young people and an increase in discipline are intertwined (Bereswill et al. 2020). Such processes show that documents in the form of files are powerful artefacts that not only safeguard actions, but also generate new ones. Files are the “occasion, result, promotion or inhibition of human action” (Weber 1984, p. 22).2 The direction that sequences of actions take is by no means predictable, but rather fluctuates over the course of a case file and is characterised by breaks, turns and gaps. In this action-theoretical perspective on files, an approach grounded in narrative theory that does not presuppose certain forms of narration, but instead allows narratives to be reconstructed in interactions, is a productive way of proceeding (Bamberg 2004, p. 353). Zaft (2011) has also argued for a narrative-theoretical analysis in his comprehensive study on case files. From our point of view, however, the question of the extent to which files—as a conglomerate of differently documented text contributions and as the result of complex authorship—can actually be reconstructed as narratives remains unresolved. In the following, we therefore first present a textological perspective on the genre of the individual case file (1). We then explore the possibilities for analysing individual case files as narratives as well as the limitations (2). Next, we examine in detail the progression of a selected individual case file in order to analyse the emergence of conflicting patterns of interpretation and narrative strands (3). Looking ahead, we discuss file-shaped

2Our translation. Original quote “Anlaß (sic!), Ergebnis, Förderung oder Hemmung menschlichen Handelns”.

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interaction processes as strictly regulated by bureaucracy and at the same time contingent with regard to the negotiation processes of social order and social control. We therefore conceive of files as unfinished and fragmented master narratives (4).

The Transdocumentary Textuality of Individual Case Files From a methodological perspective, case files are non-reactive data material that has been generated in the course of human administration and not specifically produced by research (Bick et al. 1984). Case files combine reports, minutes, expert opinions, forms and ego documents as well as short memos on individual incidents. Through this heterogeneous collection of documents, a case file provides access to social acts. However, this access is incomplete. Furthermore, the documented events are “irrevocably past and with them, in addition to the non-linguistic elements of action, the concretely expressed, effective ‘admixtures’, the fabric of mutually assumed subjectivity and intentionality, which are mutually perceived by the interpretation partners at the moment of the event” (Soeffner 1989, p. 82).3 It is therefore not possible to deduce these documents’ effect on social action directly from the files. Nor do files tell a “true story” about the course of a given commitment to an institution from a person’s admission to their release. Thus, the statement quoted at the beginning of this article that a young person was fostered “after all” does not refer to the actual development. Such a statement is primarily a time-bound and context-dependent interpretation of a situation by those responsible for the purpose of reporting. It is addressed to a specific addressee—in this specific case, the responsible welfare authority.

3Our translation. Original quote: “unwiderruflich vorüber und mit ihnen neben den nicht-­ sprachlichen Handlungselementen die konkret geäußerten, von den Interpretationspartnern im Ereignisaugenblick gegenseitig wahrgenommenen effektiven ‘Beimischungen’, das Gewebe wechselseitig unterstellter Subjektivität und Intentionalität”.

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Nevertheless, time- and context-specific documents make it possible to reconstruct how meaning is generated intertextually between documents. For example, the creation of statements in expert opinions can be reconstructed on the basis of previously prepared documents and the concrete effect of an expert opinion can be traced in artefacts created at a later point (Bereswill and Müller-Behme 2018). The question of how measures in reformatories are justified and implemented aims at interpretative schemes and their condensation into narrative strands (Keller 2008) that make routines and administrative procedures plausible. Accordingly, the documents in an individual case file link what is said with what is to be done or has been done, for example, sanctions, employment measures, holidays, transfers or releases. In addition, documents make possible formally recorded communication not only between different actors in the administrative bureaucracy, but also within an institution. They do so by constructing an institutionalised person with certain characteristics and behaviour. Such links interact in several ways: the authors of a document interact with documents already in the file and respond to their messages; selected documents and the entire file ensure interaction between different actors in welfare education and administration; and documents interact in a reciprocal relationship with each other as their statements condense into narrative strands about welfare education and their addressees. The documents of an individual case file act at an interface where concrete events (e.g. escapes, offences, accidents, behaviour) need to be transformed into knowledge relevant to action (e.g. reports, recommendations, expert opinions, minutes). Conversely, knowledge (such as recommendations in expert reports) is translated into action (e.g. starting and completing vocational training). This process is based on the generation of knowledge that is context-specific and can be dropped or pushed into the background. Michael Bamberg describes this selective and changing handling of narratives as socio-culturally pre-structured framings (2004, p. 360), referring to the connection between social identity and changing master and counter-narratives. From Bamberg’s perspective, a file could also be analysed as the narrative construction of an attributed social identity. For our research perspective on the interactive interplay of different documents, however, his perspective

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is stimulating because it sharpens our view of the transdocumentary dimensions of files. The interactive references between different documents and different authors in no way follow a clear distinction between master and counter-narratives. On the contrary: our detailed analyses of fourteen individual case files show clearly that individual case files do not represent a stringent or consistent course of events. Rather, they constitute conflicting and in part contradictory statement events, which, however, share a common focal point: the legitimate management of a case. Our study’s theoretical focus therefore lies on the knowledge transdocumented in case files and dropped again, which is used to legitimise and execute decisions on the administration of children and adolescents’ placement in residential care. We reconstruct the production and interactive circulation of administratively communicated knowledge between the actors involved in the administrative process. The production of such administrative narratives about an institutionalised person as well as about their relatives and other people takes place at an interface between social-bureaucratic rules and patterns of action and overarching technical and everyday knowledge. With reference to Gérard Genette (2015, p. 9), we define the knowledge produced in this process as “transdocumentary” knowledge. “Transdocumentality” is a literary term that conceptualises the visible or invisible relationship between texts (Genette 2015, p. 9). This brings into focus the meaning that invisible or implicit relations have for the production of interpretation patterns and narratives through supposedly loosely arranged document collections. The administrative actors are able to close narrative gaps and thus produce arguments that fit the narrative. Such fits are neither consistent nor complete. In the best-case scenario, they can be reconstructed not only from the actual text of the documents, but also via their relations and with reference to the contextual knowledge of the researchers evaluating the individual case files. There is thus a transdocumentary relationship between extremely heterogeneous documents that manifests in visible or hidden references to these documents’ content. Visible references include, for example, literal quotations from one document in another, comments, references or even the transferral of entire text passages from one document to

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another without further identification. The significance of the interplay between individual documents for the individual case files’ overriding objective of administrating of the placement and education of children and young people in public institutions (the educational homes of the time) is less obvious. Individual case files represent the institution’s perspective on the person accommodated, their family and wider social environment. They also provide insights into the structure and communication network of the institutional actors involved in the case. Documents such as reports, motions or expert opinions combine these positions into a fragmentary narrative, but they represent primarily the perspective and interests of the respective authoring institution as well as the formal need to legitimise administrative actions. In this sense, an individual case file represents a prototypical master narrative that centres around normality, deviance and the establishment of order. However, individual case files also contain self-descriptions of the persons concerned and views that stem from the social environment. Letters from parents, relatives or friends, for example, show their view of the institutionalised person and their situation. These positions do not fit seamlessly into the institutional perspective, which undoubtedly remains dominant. They create contradictory or different perspectives on the case. It would be too easy to generally classify such artefacts as counter-narratives, as our reconstructions below will make clear. Rather, the relationship between master narrative and counter-narrative needs to be reconstructed for each individual case, including the question of which actors produce ­counter-narratives, how they fit into the transdocumentality of a file, and what function they take on in the process.

The Narrative Structure of the Individual Case File When the entire progression of an individual case file is viewed in a differentiated manner, the person reading it needs to perform a significant amount of reconstruction and interpretation of his or her own due to the differences, contradictions and gaps between documents.

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This interactive performance structures the reading experience of the file’s different readers and authors. In order to legitimise their decisions or recommendations, they need to fill gaps and construct reference contexts. Authors and readers always refer to a common meaning that research can reconstruct. This means that the described interactive performance also applies to the scientific analysis of files, albeit under different circumstances. In contrast to the research perspective on the construction modalities of files, which does not entail any further action, the central task for the actors in the administration is to determine which recommendations, decisions and courses of action should result from reading a file (Bereswill and Müller 2018). The described transdocumentary negotiation processes inevitably produce competing and conflicting perspectives, which do not always succeed in balancing and smoothing out the narrative, but which obviously are not mandatory for the administrative side either. Against this background, we conceive of an individual case file as a social-bureaucratic master narrative that has the prototypical structure of a conflicting narrative. Zaft (2011) likewise understands the connection between documents in case files as a narrative. In the context of his educational-historical investigation, he defines a story as follows: “The Story organises the moments of events, or narrative units that tend to be rather unclear by arranging the actions, facts and conditions in such a way that a connection between the beginning and end of the story becomes apparent: the story must plausibly explain a difference between state a and state b that can be depicted on the time axis” (Zaft 2011, p. 115).4 In contrast to this narrow conception, Keller also speaks of narratives. From the perspective of the sociological discourse theory of knowledge, these are understood as structuring aspects of statements and discourses. A nar-

4Our translation. Original quote: “Die Geschichte organisiert die Geschehensmomente bzw. tendenziell eher unübersichtlichen Erzähleinheiten, indem sie die Handlungen, Sachverhalte und Zustände so (an)ordnet, dass ein Zusammenhang zwischen Anfangspunkt und Endpunkt der Geschichte erkennbar wird: Die Geschichte hat eine auf der Zeitachse abbildbare Differenz zwischen Zustand a und Zustand b plausibel zu erklären”.

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rative establishes the coherence of the discourse over time (Keller 2008, p. 251). Both perspectives agree that a narrative takes on the function of structuring narrative units, that is, statements and discourses. In doing so, a connection between the beginning and the end must become discernible by establishing a plausible difference between the initial state and the end state (see the introduction in this volume). If we apply these criteria and leaf through an individual case file, it becomes clear that the file is predominantly chronologically ordered. A further pattern is linked to this chronological order: a large part of the case files can be roughly divided into the three phases of admission, stay, and release or transfer. A single case file thus has a beginning, a middle section and an end. As an ordering factor, it is also important to note that the institutionalised person usually is only involved in writing the file to a very limited extent (e.g. in the form of ego documents) or not at all. First and foremost, the institutionalised person is written about, and the aim is to change him or her through education. Irrespective of whether this goal is achieved normatively or not, the narrated initial situation of an individual case file is generally different from its end. However, the end can also remain open and by no means always has one and the same format. Nevertheless, a case file and the documents it contains follow very specific principles of order that arrange it into a narrative. From our perspective, however, the moments in which the action fragments of a file are linked into a coherent case are highly contingent. There is no continuous structuring function in the sense of a narrative authority that generates a related case history from the individual text elements across the entire file and presents it to the reader as a coherent narrative. Nor is this authority required, since the goal of managing the case can be achieved even without a plausible narrative. At certain points, individual texts, such as expert opinions or reports, which have a major impact upon decision-making processes, take on the task of bundling the course of events into a narrative. This dynamic transtextuality produces complex forms of conflicting narratives. However, these conflicting narratives seldom fundamentally threaten the enforcement of a master narrative, because the administrative writing that characterises files ultimately serves to legitimately enforce disciplinary measures.

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A Changed Prediction The following section will present a case analysis that has been condensed on the basis of the detailed examination of a selected individual case file. This case file originally was used in a comprehensive qualitative file analysis of 112 case files titled “The Management of the Case”. The examined case files came from different institutions of the LWV and were selected following a quantitative preliminary examination of 1000 files (Bereswill et al. 2013). The analysis took place on the basis of an evaluation guide. The individual documents in the files were analysed in an evaluation procedure based on the coding procedure of Grounded Theory, using seven evaluation dimensions (Böhm 2010).5 Subsequently, selected documents from fourteen individual case files were subjected to a second, more detailed cycle of analysis. These in-depth analyses were carried out in interpretation groups to ensure the intersubjective validity of the results. The investigation’s focus lay on the reconstruction of written records in the context of placement decisions and measures taken during a placement. Written actions include the already described interactions and interpretations performed by all authors as part of their complex interaction with the specific recalcitrance of documents. Almost all cases evaluated reveal incomplete documentation, inconsistent bureaucratic decision-making processes and surprising twists and turns. In quite a few cases, there are open or latent conflicts between different decision-making bodies or between the home and the relatives of the institutionalised young people. For example, the father of a young person writes to the responsible minister and complains about a collective punishment imposed upon the girls in the home. This letter, which is documented in the file, is countered by a document in which the young person states, in the same manner as in a police protocol, that the punishment did not cause her harm and that her father generally tended to complain quickly. Finally,

5These seven dimensions were: date, title, author/addressee, event/trigger, legitimacy, function, process.

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a letter from the higher education authority urges the home’s management to refrain from such punishments in future. In another case, the home’s head care-worker continuously lobbies for a young person not to be released to his parents because the family relationships are too conflicted. As part of this interpretation of family cohabitation, in particular of father and son, the home’s head relativises criminal offences committed by the boy against his father (theft and attack with an air rifle). There are detailed educational descriptions and psychological interpretations of the boy’s attitude (“defiant”). It is predicted that the adolescent will be able to free himself from his attachment conflicts in the long term and complete an apprenticeship. In spite of ongoing interventions by the adolescent’s mother, the adolescent is not released to his family but on the contrary is temporarily accommodated in a closed unit in order to prevent him escaping back to his family. Finally, an expert report underlines the young person’s ability to be trained, while the mother insists on clarifying his poor state of health. When a heart defect is diagnosed, the adolescent is immediately discharged, even though the family previously are constructed as an unfavourable and development-inhibiting environment throughout the file. The following, more detailed case study likewise documents a contradictory case history. The assessment of the head teacher quoted at the beginning of this article already suggests that the progression of the case in the file may show contradictions.

“Due to a Consistent Approach, It Was Eventually Possible to Foster E. Here”6 On 4 July 1967, a municipal Youth Welfare Office in Hesse requested that Fürsorgeerziehung (corrective education) be carried out in the case of the eighteen-year-old E. The reasons given by the Youth Welfare Office related on the one hand to the fact that E.’s mother worked


documents cited below all originate from a file in the archives of the LWV and for reasons of data protection will not be listed individually in the following.

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outside the home and often left the young person alone, and on the other hand to the contacts and behaviour of the adolescent herself. She frequently spent time in bars and discotheques and was in contact with young people known to the authorities. She also repeatedly had been drunk and aggressive and had threatened her mother. She was hospitalised in the neurological department of a university hospital on suspicion of an LSD addiction in order to investigate the possibility of withdrawal treatment. In the eyes of the Youth Welfare Office, freiwillige Erziehungshilfe or voluntary educational assistance no longer was appropriate for the above-mentioned reasons, and corrective schooling was applied for in order to ensure a consistent education.7 Only a short time after her admission to a closed home for girls, the young person wrote to all the relevant departments and asked to be discharged. The answer of a social superintendent of the LWV’s education authority, documented in the file, is that “the question of your release cannot yet be determined. When the home management can make a proposal for your release will depend essentially on your behaviour in the home and on your development”. The home management considers this negative answer from the superior authority as an educational opportunity to “approach her now. We do not expect too much”. Those responsible in the home thus doubt that E.’s placement will have any effect, but at the same time argue against her release. The pejorative, defensive and at the same time restrictive attitude towards the young person forms part of a negatively connoted narrative about her. In a first report to the educational authority of the LWV, the home management describes the adolescent’s behaviour as quarrelsome, uncontrolled, ruthless and dominant: “She immediately seeks to make contact with negatively minded girls in the group, does not let anyone have their say and immediately causes quarrels if she is not accepted. Totally unbridled in her whole being, she asserts herself ruthlessly and always tries to force her will on others”. 7A distinction is made between corrective education (Fürsorgeerziehung, hereafter FE) and voluntary educational assistance (Freiwillige Erziehungshilfe, hereafter FEH). The FEH was applied for at the Landeswohlfahrtsverband Hessen and presupposed the agreement of the persons having custody, while the FE was applied for and decided by a guardianship court even against the expressed will of the persons having custody.

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By emphasising that E. almost automatically seeks contact with girls who are also “negatively attuned”, a parallel is constructed with the attributions made by the City Youth Welfare Office, which describe E. as “bad company” in order to justify her corrective education. This construction of negative characteristics and behaviour is further consolidated when the young person is described as opaque, dishonest and unstable and her recurring flight impulses are emphasised: “E. is simply not comprehensible, she lacks any insight and any feeling for truth and reality. She talks!!- even when she is alone in the room, she talks to herself. Since E. is also very unstable, she is very busy with the thought of escaping from here”. This first report, in which the adolescent is constructed as displaying conspicuous behaviour, being unstable and resistant, serves the home management and the higher welfare authority as the basis of legitimation for continuing her institutionalisation. In a letter to the responsible district court, a plea is thus made for further corrective education. At the same time, the letter emphasises that up until now it has been difficult to convince the young person to enter the home. Two months later, the Youth Welfare Office writes to the home and informs it that the young person wants to start training as a child carer. However, this training is not possible in the home, which is why she has requested to change home. The home reacts to the letter with incomprehension. Their response documents that E. is continuing to contact the responsible authorities and again stresses the young person’s lack of development in the home: “If you wish to transfer the girl, please do so soon. This is because it is a very special burden for the group careworker. But E. would then have achieved what she wants, namely to get around everywhere. A real wish for a career is not yet apparent from our side”. Here, the home management’s anger about the intervention of the Youth Welfare Office becomes evident in the request to the authority superior to the home to implement the desired transfer of the girl without delay. The reason given is that E. is a troublemaker, disturbing the order in the home, and it is assumed that the young person has succeeded in deceiving the Youth Welfare Office. Even without this being stated explicitly in the letter, the thread running through the stories in

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the file about the young person from the perspective of the home is evident here: she is constructed as inaccessible and manipulative. Against the background of this now entrenched classification of E. as resistant to development, the home pleads again to continue her placement in the closed institution. The Youth Welfare Office agrees to this proposal in writing and E. is not transferred. However, this does not settle the dispute about the young person’s possible transfer or release. This is made clear by a note stating that the young person has been on holiday with her uncle. This uncle is himself head of the Youth Welfare Office and wants to place E. in a job. Soon afterwards, the uncle writes to the home and apologises. The intended position has been filled by the responsible institution, but he wants to continue looking for facilities nearby. Handwritten notes on the document reveal that following this letter, there was a telephone consultation between the home and E’.s relative. Here, the uncle again promises to place the young woman in work, but then withdraws this promise in another letter. Finally, the welfare authority writes that because of the failed attempts at placement, the authority and the Youth Welfare Office are now looking for a job for E. In this context, the authority again requests that the home provide a development report. In this report, the adolescent’s development since the first report is recapitulated and the view of it adapted to the changed situation, in which the “consistent approach” of the staff in the home towards the young people is now cited as decisive for the fact that E. could now “be supported after all”: “Due to a consistent approach, it was eventually possible to foster E. here. Again and again she tried to play >sick