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Full programme including abstracts

Seminar May 2016

Crime as counterculture

Thursday and Friday 5.-6. may 2016

Organisers:: Tyge Krogh, Peter Edelberg, Claus Bundgaard Christensen

Place: Schæffergården, Jægersborg Alle 166, 2820 Gentofte


Thursday 5th of May

10.45- 11.15 Check in, coffee

11.15 – 11.25 Peter Edelberg (University of Copenhagen): Welcome

11.25 – 12.20 Pieter Spierenburg (Erasmus University): European homicide from a global perspective

12.20 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.25 Tyge Krogh (Danish National Archives): Danish early modern criminal cultures

14.25 – 14.30 Break

14.30 – 15.25 Heather Shore (Leeds Becket University): Defining the “Underworld” over Time: Space, Place and Constructions of Criminality

15.25 – 16.00 Coffee break

16.00 – 16.55 Bolette Frydendahl Larsen (Lund University): Becoming oneself through shame: Social relations and identity formations at a Danish Re-education Home for Girls in the interwar years

16.55 – 17.00 Break

17.00 – 17.55 Mette Seidelin (Danish National Archives): Child sexual abuse inside the family and the construction of the offender and victim 1930-67

19.00 Dinner


Friday 6th of May

07.00 – 09.00 Breakfast

09.00 – 09.55 Johan Lund Heinsen (Aalborg University): Maritime Cultures of crime (1600-1800)

09.55 – 10.00 Break

10.00 – 10.55 Claus Bundgaard Christensen (Roskilde University): White-Collar Crime and the Black Market in Denmark 1939-1950

10.55 – 11.30 Coffee break

11.30 – 12.25 Sofie Lene Bak (University of Copenhagen): Sex crime and war (c. 1935-55)

12.25 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.25 Mark Roodhouse (The University of York): The Spiv: Linking Overworld and Underworld in 1940s Britain

14.25    – 14.30 Break

14.30 – 15.25 The network ‘The Cultural History of Crime in Denmark’ concluding discussion



Pieter Spierenburg (Erasmus University): European homicide from a global perspective

This paper re-assesses the transformation of homicide in Europe, as outlined in my History of Murder, with an eye on publications that have appeared since then. Moreover, it attempts to place European developments within a global context, offering some tentative comparisons. Because the state of research into violence in the non-Western world is a little better for recent periods than for the more distant past, the paper is divided into an early modern and a modern section. My main focus will be on male-on-male fighting. The first part opens with a discussion of homicide rates, concluding that the evidence for a long-term decline still is solid. Quantitative data for the non-Western world in this respect are lacking for the early modern period. The subject of male honor, on the other hand, has been studied in many non-Western societies and hence allows me to establish the global context more firmly. In Europe, the spiritualization of honor constituted a crucial intermediary factor between the decline of (lethal) male fighting and the rise of the state. The early modern section concludes with a brief discussion of types of and motives for violence.
The second section begins with the quantitative dimension again. There are scattered data for parts of the world in the nineteenth century, but as far as reliable homicide rates are concerned, a truly global perspective can be outlined from about 1950 only. Based on qualitative evidence the global history of murder can be traced back a little further in time. The discussion of the modern period is guided by the contrasting themes of marginalization and resurgence, which can be understood in a double sense depending on the geographic focus. In European history these two chronologically followed upon each other. First, as homicide had ceased to be a day-to-day affair in urban and rural communities, the remaining acts of murder turned into sinister or sensational exceptions. Then, from about 1970, homicide was on the rise again, for reasons over which criminologists still disagree. On the other hand, this recent rise was relatively modest. Hence, the conceptual pair of marginalization vs. resurgence can also be viewed as referring to the contrast between Europe, where lethal violence still is largely confined to a few unpacified sectors of society, and the non-Western/ postcolonial world, in many parts of which lethal interpersonal violence is endemic.
The paper concludes with a brief theoretical discussion. Next to the work of Norbert Elias (civilization theory; established and outsiders), that of Pierre Bourdieu will be discussed. Traditional male honor once constituted a symbolic capital valued by all, but its appreciation became increasingly restricted to groups lacking other forms of capital.

 Tyge Krogh (Danish National Archives): Danish early modern criminal cultures

The paper will on the one hand look at property crime in Copenhagen and Zealand from the 1690s to the 1750s– what was stolen, by whom, how were the stolen goods sold, and are there signs of organized crime? On the other hand it will look at two institutions: the mercenary army, which was responsible for the majority of the crime in the capital, and the defiled and disreputable ‘nightmen’, whose houses were the hub of property crime in the countryside. Both institutions were societal constructs, which put the soldiers and nightmen under economic and social conditions that encouraged property crime. Based on this, the paper will ask to what degree the state/society was responsible the crimes committed.

Heather Shore (Leeds Becket University): Defining the “Underworld” over Time: Space, Place and Constructions of Criminality

This paper will explore a range of issues raised in my recent monograph, London’s Criminal Underworlds, c. 1720 – c.1930: A Social and Cultural History (2015). The aim of the paper is to attempt to share some of the problems and challenges that I faced in researching and writing this book. The original proposal for the book was to explore the evolution of the idea of the underworld and, to some extent, more modern constructions of organised crime, over a broad chronology. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book that finally emerged did not fulfill this somewhat ambitious aim. Whilst the book provides an exploration of representations of the underworld and criminal confederacy, at its centre are the case studies that reconstruct connected criminal lives. Moreover, the process of thinking about the underworld and considering the ways in which criminal lives and criminal networks have been defined in the past, has been a useful one. In this paper I will focus particularly on the ways in which we might frame our histories of the underworld and organised crime. To do so I will consider themes of print culture and the publicity of crime; networks and community; and space and territory.

Bolette Frydendahl Larsen (Lund University): Becoming oneself through shame: Social relations and identity formations at a Danish Re-education Home for Girls in the interwar years

In this paper I will study the effects of shame in educational practices with delinquent and wayward adolescent girls under residential care in interwar Denmark. To be sent to a reform school and thus be labelled as wayward or delinquent were often associated with shame. In addition to this shame, shaming practices such as isolation and confessions were actively used to correct pupils at reform schools.
Through a close reading of letters written by adolescent girls at Vejstrup Reform School for girls as well as case records written by different groups of professionals at Vejstrup, I wish to explore effects of shame in educational practices in general and particularly the connections between diagnostic labelling processes and shame. I take the point of departure in queer affect theoretical perspectives on the connections between shame and norms. In these perspectives affects are seen as social rather than individual and negative affects is thus seen as effects of social relations and norms (Love 2009, Ahmed 2004, Probyn 2005).
I differ between integrative and dis-integrative shame (Braithwaite 1989) and demonstrate how in some cases shaming practices led to a transformative process in which young girls through confessions and performances of shame (re-)entered into the norms of the reform school whereas shaming practices in other cases led girls to reject these norms.
Identical educational and punitive practices thus had different effects when used towards different pupils. The letters and records from Vejstrup Reform School indicate that the girls handled shame in relation to their experienced expectations towards them as well as in relation to previous and current experiences of stigma.
As part of the educational work at the reform school the staff assessed the potential of improvement in moral and conduct in each pupil. The categories ”incorrigible” and ”psychopath” were used to characterize a lack of such potential. For pupils labelled as incorrigible or psychopaths, shaming practices were likely to lead to her disintegration from the norms of the reform school. I suggest that we understand the dis-integrative outcomes of shame neither as a result of stigmatizing labelling processes alone nor as an effect of the girls’ own agency and values, rather we must understand the relation between agency and labelling processes as dynamic.

Mette Seidelin (Danish National Archives): Child sexual abuse inside the family and the construction of the offender and victim 1930-67

According to the Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie, being a victim is not an objective phenomenon. Instead he argues that it depends on the participants’ definition of the incident. When it comes to child sexual abuse inside the family, Christie’s thesis is remarkably suitable from a historical point of view. What today is regarded as the natural roles in incest cases – with the parent as the perpetrator and the younger party (the child) as the victim – was earlier in history a matter of negotiation. Both the perception of the incident (rape or consent?) and the two parties were influenced by the norms of gender, age, class and sexuality. And since the Danish Criminal Code even allowed for the option to punish the younger party above the age of 18 from 1930 and until 1967, the assessment of both parties’ share in the crime was highly important.
In this article I will analyse how the roles of the child and the parent were negotiable in the period of 1930-1967, and how the norms of society had an impact on the perception of both child and parent. My study is based on 406 prison rolls and 70 criminal cases relating to persons convicted of having sexual relationships of various kinds with their biological child or stepchild. This material makes it possible to study how the different actors in the cases perceived the abuse and the two parties. These actors range widely from family members, employers, neighbours and the two parties themselves to the police and judges, whose perceptions of the crime and the two parties likewise are reflected in the interrogations. This article can therefore contribute to the history of crime, gender and childhood.


Johan Lund Heinsen (Aalborg University): Maritime Cultures of crime (1600-1800)

In the last two decades, an increasing number of studies have examined the antagonisms of maritime social environments in the early modern period. They have unearthed traditions of resistance and radicalism among the lower classes of the emerging Atlantic economy. Central to these studies is the interpretation of crimes at sea (piracy, mutiny, but also more common transgressions such as desertion, theft and insubordination) as expressions of anti-authoritarian traditions among the motley crews of early modern ships.
In contrast, Danish maritime historians have often seen crime on-board ships as either isolated desperation in the face of the stark realities of shipboard life, or have neglected the issue altogether, portraying sailors as obedient subjects within paternalistic power structures. This article aims to nuance such views by arguing for the existence of traditions of resistance to maritime power structures among lower class subjects in the Danish-Norwegian maritime empire. Such traditions can be seen in collective criminal acts on-board the decks of ships in the Danish navy.
The sources for this re-examination are twofold. The paper considers the writings of lower class subjects themselves, principally the memoirs of Icelandic soldiers Jón Ólafsson and Árni Magnússon and Norwegian sailor Nils Trosner. All three experienced life in the navy, and in their writing they sympathize with collective criminal acts. I will argue that the similarities between such narratives stem from their shared relation to traditions of storytelling on the lower decks; stories in which crime could be heroic.
Such maritime storytelling could in itself also constitute a criminal act if interpreted as incitement to mutiny. Therefore the article also examines a few select ships on which such storytelling altered shipboard relations. Chief among these cases is the ship Havmanden, which in 1683 was the site of a violent mutiny. The mutiny can be traced back to acts of storytelling across the divide of the common sailors and the convicts from the naval prison of Trunken.

Claus Bundgaard Christensen (Roskilde University): White-Collar Crime and the Black Market in Denmark 1939-1950

This paper will investigate the connection between white-collar crime and black market in Denmark during World War 2 and the post war years. A sharp increase in crime during the occupations years resulted in a moral panic and a tendency for harsher penalties in the courts, especially for theft, violence and black market offenses. The trend towards tougher sentences became even more apparent during the last seven months of the war when Danish police were rounded up by the Germans and municipal security guards tried to control civilian criminality. The article will focus on how Black Market Crime was combated but also criminality in connection with regulations regarding price and production control and rationing.  The last type of offenses is especially interesting since it confronted the police with an unusually type of offenders such as business people and the middle class in general. The connection between White-Collar criminals and organized crime presented the police with complex new challenges. The contribution will be based on extensive police archives that where handed over to the National Archives in 2014, court archives from the capital of Copenhagen and police archives from the provincial towns of Esbjerg and Aalborg.

Sofie Lene Bak (University of Copenhagen): Sex crime and war (c. 1935-55)

There is no such thing as a universal correlation between crime and war. Yet empirical studies of the extent and nature of the disturbances of civil society and social structures caused by war are surprisingly rare. My paper (and subsequent article) is part of a larger research project on the process of brutalization and the decline of moral values – endemic in all countries involved in World War II – explored in a Danish context.
Through a series of case studies the project uncovers the disturbances of civil society and social structures empirically, and investigates how much and for how long the anomaly of the German occupation 1940-45 affected the lives and opportunities of women and children in particular.
The case study in question focuses on the development in crime committed against women and children, as marks of the ultimate violation of moral standards.
In Denmark during World War II it was expected that crime rates would develop in a way similar to World War I, which caused a fierce but short-term increase in crime – first and foremost among the usual offenders: young men. These expectations were not met.
Not only was the increase in criminal offences much more dramatic than during World War I, rates only decreased slowly after the liberation in 1945. Furthermore, criminal offences increased among all age groups and – what was most disturbing – the number of female offenders trebled.
The paper will discuss criminological studies of the German Occupation of Denmark, which have previously denied that there was any real increase in sex crimes during the German Occupation. The significant increase in reported sex crimes is explained by the moral panic of the authorities and public towards homosexual prostitutes in Copenhagen, and with a press obsessed with violent sex crime cases against children in the years following the war.
The paper poses the question: can these logical and comforting bear scrutiny? And what can an expanded time perspective reveal about the chronic consequences of the war?
Through a careful review of national and local crime statistics, the paper concludes that the number of reported cases of sex crimes began to rise before the war. By 1943 the number of reported cases had increased by 44%. The attention and intolerance of the authorities and public towards sex crimes were heightened even before the war, and the statistics are a testament to changed criminal policy and public norms and behaviour. Sensational cases of paedophile offences that caused public alarm are not a substantial explanation.
On the other hand, criminal homosexuality constituted only a minor part of sex crimes in the period 1938-1949, on average only 7%. Thus, criminal homosexuality in Copenhagen cannot account for the increase in sex crime offences during and immediately after the war.
In conclusion, the paper will point to correlations between changing sexual norms and crime statistics.

Mark Roodhouse (The University of York): The Spiv: Linking Overworld and Underworld in 1940s Britain

The British writer Bill Naughton brought the spiv to widespread public attention in 1945. Like many contemporaries Naughton noted the increasing number of unlicensed traders hawking illegal goods on the streets of major cities. As a lorry driver in South London, Naughton lived and worked alongside these penny capitalists. Calling themselves wide boys in the late 1930s, Naughton discovered that spiv was now their moniker of choice. Underworld figures  looked down on these petty criminals who were, from their perspective, one step above the mugs they all preyed upon. On the margins of the criminal underworld and with links to legitimate street traders, these young male entrepreneurs illustrate the debt that the criminal underworld owed to a wider working-class entrepreneurialism that informed its practices and values. It provides a useful corrective to subcultural approaches to crime that emphasise cultural separation and autonomy rather than differences in emphasis.