Conference report by Andrea Beckmann
Venue: Albert Hall, Nottingham
A conference of the British/Irish section of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control
This conference has been a long time coming and was challenging to organise as COVID put the brakes on this event twice and of course also impacted on people’s ability to attend, but – third time lucky- the friends and comrades that gathered really enjoyed being back together and to strengthen and inspire each other in relation to different struggles for Social Justice.
The general theme of ‘Othering’ that was going to inform the initial call for papers was inspired by a conversation had on lovely Lesbos Island between John Moore, Amelie Rosa and me during the EG conference there. After the initial theme suggestion appeared to be welcomed as explored through different informal conversations held during our most recent general EG conference in beautiful Barcelona in 2019- we settled for the general theme as it seemed to be finding much approval.
The conference call for papers, initially circulated in late 2019, therefore invited contributions that challenge the destructive operations of ‘othering’ in diverse contexts, aim for the abolition of their facilitating structures and ideologies and aimed to explore ways of engaging in critical and creative praxis in the struggle to overcome these.
‘Othering’ as the overarching theme was then contextualised in relation to potential parallels that could be seen between the 1920’s and our current times as different social and institutional contexts generate possibilities for othering practices to come into operation, to expand and to become institutionalised.
The year 2020 – the year in which the conference initially should have taken place – marked one hundred years since the beginning of the 1920’s, a period characterised by economic and political unrest in the aftermath of World War I and the crash of the stock market. Instead of an abolition of nation states and capitalism, importantly, the 1920’s saw the rise of fascism that relies on systematic strategies and measures of ‘othering’ that serve as expressions of visions of a purified social body.
The venue for this conference was Nottingham’s Albert Hall. While it was originally established as a Temperance Hall in 1873, it became a Methodist mission and was for a long time Nottingham’s largest concert hall and a venue for political rallies, amongst them was one of Oswald Mosley’s speeches to the British Union of Fascists.
Then – perhaps to some appearing like a parallel to the so-called Spanish Flu of one hundred years ago- the Corona virus pandemic began to unfold.
The initial official political and media discourses in the UK adopted war metaphors (e. g. ongoing martial term ‘lockdown’) and was later substituted with a form of repressive collectivism that constitutes and targets scapegoats. Overall, the United Nations’ poverty expert Philip Alston attacked the UK government’s coronavirus response as “utterly hypocritical” after successive administrations implemented policies of austerity and public-sector cuts. The UK government published the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 on the 10th of February 2020 and in the aftermath the conference had to be postponed twice and an additional call for papers “Redressing the harms and violence of ‘othering’ – within and without plague times “ was circulated.
In Thoreau’s “ Civil Disobedience” (1849; originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government”), Thoreau expounded his anarchistic views of government, insisting that if an injustice of government is “of such a nature that it requires injustice to another [you should] break the law [and] let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” It is in this spirit that the conference dinner and music entertainment was set in ‘Peggy’s Skylight’
The 1920’s prohibition fostered the development of so-called speakeasies that became lively venues of the “Jazz Age”, hosting popular music and show tunes. In this historic context Jazz acquired a reputation as being immoral and as a threat to the established order.
On the morning of the 22.10.2021 our conference began ‘for real’ and ‘in the flesh’ which was to all a wonderful change from zoom-town.
Andrea, the British/Irish section representative, introduced the event and welcomed the delegates to two days of intense engagement against the oppression of different forms of ‘othering’ and the dehumanization that these operations engender, both in relation to the targets of ‘othering’ but also in relation to the agents of distribution, the dispensers of such harmful and marginalising discourses and practices.
While pandemics of course do present unique challenges to societies, many leaders have now seized broad powers to place their respective citizens under surveillance in the name of ‘protection’ and ‘care’, however, UN rapporteur on extreme poverty Alston stated that globally “the most vulnerable have been short-changed or excluded” by official responses to the disease. “The policies of many states reflect a social Darwinism philosophy that prioritises the economic interests of the wealthiest while doing little for those who are hard at work providing essential services or unable to support themselves”.
In this already difficult context, the proliferation new forms of criminalisation and new powers to arrest as well as of new categories of exclusion are becoming evident as non-vaccinated ‘bodies’ are demonised [e. g. “Unvaccinated people are potential variant factories,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, told CNN], people who are sceptical, critical and/or against vaccination processes are labelled ‘anti vaxers’, ‘anti-vaccers’ and pathologized as ‘nuts’ [Johnson] and people who demonstrate for democracy ‘thugs’ [Patel] while those who demonstrate for the care of our planet are called ‘crusties’ [Johnson].
After some critical and reflective remarks on ‘voluntary infection’ by Andrea, Jehanne Hulsman’s message was shared:
“A message of connectivity and friendship and some signals from the lowlands
First and foremost, I want to thank Andrea for perseverance and ingenuity in creating this beautiful and important program and getting this variety of people together to share the most needed knowledge and progression on thought.
Sadly, due to my role as a caretaker of a household member, I am not there to share this event and be with you in person, but I want to empathize my connection in spirit.
a few signals of the lowlands that I would like to share, some experiences of latest developments in the treatment of persons in prison or custody and the additions to problematic situations because of Covid-enforced regulations.
Some of you might know that I work as a social lawyer in the Netherlands, in civil, administrative, and criminal law. To my surprise as soon as restrictive regulations were implemented on mobility, as few as possible encounters, distancing, work at home, etc, it was clear that this did not apply to the police. The arresting machinery continued as usual, for shoplifting, arguments with a hint of threat, etc. People were still arrested and detained, however the rule was that lawyers could not come to the police station but had to assist their appointed clients by phone. I have always refused this, but the situations have been made very difficult for me, no provisions, no screens, no distance, police wearing no facemasks…
Same in prisons, lawyers basically not allowed. Very hard to make appointments and no provisions. Prisoners were not allowed visitors for a longer period. As compensation they got more telephone time, but the telephones had no privacy, were never cleaned and there were not enough telephones for the periods that prisoners, or detainees were allowed to phone. Staff in the prisons I visited were not tested and did not wear face masks. Many a prisoner was put in quarantine/isolation because there had been a corona contamination on the ward, sometimes resulting in a late release for a prisoner.
Last but not least, for month there has been a huge ongoing scandal on mistakes made by the department of taxes. It now seems an amount of roundabout 37.000 citizens have been victimised by being falsely accused by the tax service of fraud concerning subsidies on child care services. Apparently, the tax department had worked with algorithms in relation to surnames with an immigrant background and had signalled quite a huge number of parents as having wrongfully received those subsidies. The tax department has used every possibility of forcing the parents to pay back the ‘unjustly received’ subsidies. Families have lost their homes, marriages have been torn apart, child care institutions and judges have even placed some kids out of their family home, because of ‘unfitting parenthood’ in regard to the family’s financial situation, and those kids have not yet been returned to their parents, even though it is abundantly clear now, after a huge parliamentary hearing, that the tax department has made during at least ten years–probably in all these cases- the huge mistake to label them as frauds, while they were not.
This is a typical case of the combination of othering and the power of the State, and the failing capacity to acknowledge wrongdoing by that State. The council of Europe has given advise on the state of democracy in the Netherlands in relation to this specific case. For those of you that can understand Dutch there is a documentary of five women that in a monologue recount what this period has done to their lives called ‘alone against the state’ (https://www.2doc.nl/documentaires/series/2doc/2021/alleen-tegen-de-staat.html ).
a heartfelt wish to you all to keep up the good spirits and enjoy this conference,
The presentations began with Session 1: ‘Technologies of othering’ – “To the criminals, I simply say this: we are coming after you.” (Priti Patel https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/conservative-party-conference-2019-priti-patel-law-and-order-638835)
Andrew Henley’s presentation “Criminal records, biopolitics and the moral technologies of ‘othering’: thoughts on the evolving problematics of penalty” drew on research that illustrates how ‘criminal’ records are not merely – dead bureaucratic materials of record – but should be understood as active social processes that do require further theorisation and exploration in relation to their persistent impact of discrimination and stigmatisation.
The paper explored how the unofficial ‘collateral’ damage of both appear central to a system that still labels itself ‘Criminal Justice System’ in terms of operating a kind of moral technology that regulates the life-chances of those stuck with a criminal record. Andy suggested that the boundaries of redemption in late-modern society are governed through a discriminatory biopolitics that makes use of criminal records as a form of moral technology. This biopolitical regime constitutes the ‘deserving law-abiding citizens’ – in contrast to convicted people who are continuously ‘othered’ and whose ‘punishment’ is perpetuated through exposure to various exclusionary conducts.
Chris Brian’s presentation “Making the Surveillable Subject” critically analysed the constitution of the ‘surveillable subject’
Chris referred to the Undercover Policing Inquiry which exposed the previously secret Special Demonstration Squad Tradecraft Manual written by Andy Coles, a former SDS operative. The SDS was a section of Special Branch, the British political police, devoted to undercover operations that operated between 1968 and 2008. This “tradecraft manual” is clearly representing ‘othering’ as mandatory and can be seen as indoctrination based on a cold war ideology.
Coles’s dispenses some of his ‘inside tips’ in this guide on how to lead a double life.: “By tradition,” he wrote in the 1995 manual, new officers would “spend hours and hours… leafing through death certificates” to find a “duff” identity, however, this practice had to cease not because of potential ethical concerns but because of the onset of computerisation which made it easier to search death records.
Nowadays there is a “completely false identity made up for you” and -given the historical context and record of e. g. Mark Kennedy’s abuse of trust in relation to intimate relationships, it is interesting to ponder his suggestions on “the thorny issue of romantic entanglements” that are of course assuming ‘heterosexuality’ as given, writing: “While it is not my place to moralise, one should try and avoid the opposite sex for as long as possible.” But he acknowledged a “lack of interest may become suspicious”, and if left with no other option, it was best to “have fleeting, disastrous relationships”. Exploiting stereotypes to the fullest the manual of deception goes on ‘advise’ that infiltrating “crusty low-life” anarchist groups required a tolerance of a “really unpleasant” lifestyle. “You will be expected to eat food you wouldn’t put in your own bin, drink tea from cups which appear to have grown their own beards and sit on furniture which is alive.” Chris works as part of the ‘Undercover Research Group’ that researches and investigates under cover policing/spying in the UK.
Megan McElhone’ s presentation “‘Middle Eastern Organised Crime’ and the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad: Constructing ‘Middle Eastern’ Identity as a ‘Crime Type’ in New South Wales, Australia” was providing insights into another operation of ‘othering’ processes and their impact. Racialised media and political discourse can be understood as constructing the idea of a deviant and dangerous ‘Middle Eastern culture’ as they produce public knowledges about so-called ‘Middle Eastern Organised Crime’ as a distinct – and allegedly ever-worsening – ‘type’ of ‘crime’.
Megan’s work draws on ‘Bin Laden in the Suburbs: Criminalising the Arab Other’ (2004) by Scott Poynting et al. who based their insights on Said’s work that suggested that Western identity and culture itself can be understood as fundamentally interrelated with and constructed by an othering logic (Said 1985). Poynting et al. (2004) contended that, owing to the media’s stereotypical treatment of already ‘othered’ people as well as their artificial connection of events, disparate fears about Arabs, Muslims, criminals, terrorists, and refugees had become entangled in a threatening entity that they called the ‘Arab Other’. Sydney is according to Megan also represented as being ‘plagued’ by Middle Eastern organised ‘crime’ committed by a new ‘criminal type’, the organised ‘Middle Eastern Arab Other’.
Lisa White and Patrick Williams’ “A Critical Exploration of Drug Narratives in the Policing-Related Deaths of Black Men” was an emotionally deeply moving presentation that explored the processes of framing and interpretation which take place following the deaths of people in custody that are part of the BAME’ (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) populations in the UK. In such contexts police restraint as a feature in the process leading to the loss of life is over two times greater than it is for other deaths in police custody (INQUEST Casework and Monitoring, 2019). As recent years witnessed several high-profile cases in England where the deaths of Black men following police contact have been framed through reference to substance abuse as well as deeply rooted processes of racialised ‘othering’ that connect and simultaneously attach victims of state violence to ‘dangerousness’, ‘gangs’ and ‘criminality’. The presentation aimed to critically explore the processes of framing and associated interpretation which take place following these deaths, their significance, and their consequences in relation to ongoing impunity for acts of state violence carried out by the police.
After lunch Session 2: “‘Othered’ communities” began with a presentation by Shahrzad Fouladvand and Tony Ward on “Othering, vulnerability and human trafficking”. The presentation drew on Jonathan Todres (2009) “Law, Otherness, and Human Trafficking” and suggested that a central reason for the limited success in preventing human trafficking is the dominant conception of human trafficking as a problem in ‘other spaces’ and of ‘other bad people’. Todres argues that “otherness” can be understood to be a main cause of both inaction and the selective responses to human trafficking.
The operations of ‘othering’ construct and continuously reinforce a conception of a virtuous “Self” and a devalued “Other.” This Western modern Self/Other dichotomy shapes perceptions and actions in relation to human trafficking and this presentation further showed that this extends to the victims of the criminalised county-lines substance market as in both cases the victims are selectively ‘othered’ and thereby turned into so-called ‘alpha victims’- willing recruits.
By examining human trafficking through an otherness-aware framework, this presentation critically explored liberal and conservative (Young 2007) as well as exploitative types of ‘othering’ and their associated implications in relation to responses to human trafficking victims. The presentation then introduced the construction of a ‘triangle of ‘othering’ and offering possible avenues but also pointing to sedimented constraints in relation to the de-othering of victims of human trafficking.
The next presentation by Diana Blaj “ ‘Othered’ communities and people in the city of Nottingham: the example of Rroma and ‘sex’-working people” was, at the request of Diana, introduced by Andrea who linked Tony and Shahrzad’s presentation on the trafficking in human beings (THB) as a means of exploitation to work by Van Dijk et al. (2014) who collected data from 24 countries and concluded that the Roma are a minority population that is at risk of forced begging and sexual exploitation in several European Union countries (especially in Bulgaria, Hungary and Croatia). Vidra, Katona and Sebhelyi’s research (2018)who’s focus is Hungary, demonstrated similar findings in other countries and found there to be a frequent lack of state-intervention and of victim-sensitive approaches in relation to THB (e. g. instead of protection of victims, their criminalisation).
The Rroma Foundation (Rromani Fundacija) came into being in November 1993, in Zurich, Switzerland. It was founded at the moment of the wider extension of the European community which was paralleled by a rise of nationalist and racist movements. The foundation states that: “Since the arrival of the Rroma in Europe in the 11th century, the societies in which they settled ignored their culture and traditions. Today, the non-Rroma still do not fully understand the Rroma way of life, and as a result mistrust and discrimination of Rroma greatly contributes to their sub-standard of living. “
This connects to Diana’s experiences with working with and advising Rroma who live in the city of Nottingham. She found that most Rroma do not want to get institutions involved even in cases of violence and that this unwillingness to report victimisation can be directly related to their lack of trust in administrations as Rroma people have been victims of systematic persecution, discrimination, and extermination.
Rroma have always had to live in harsh conditions and are victims of discrimination which matches Diana’s experiences in relation to her work with Romanian Rroma that are predominantly based in the areas of Hyson Green and Forest Fields in Nottingham. Recent reviews of existing research found that Rroma are frequently victims of hate crimes and that they suffer different forms of ethnicity-related victimisation in Europe (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2017, 2016; James, 2014; 2020). A high rate of hate crimes against the Rroma has been found in the UK (Greenfields and Rogers (2020). Rroma continue to be predominantly represented and perceived in stereotypical ways (Powell & Lever 2017) and due to their continuous persecution and ‘othering’, they also are very focused on keeping their own culture and traditions.
As Diana is from Romania and a very open, warm person she has established a better rapport with Rroma from Romania than many others. She advises them about their rights and often tries to persuade Rroma to e. g. send their children to school and/or not to let them marry so early as is frequently customary.
Rroma have been victims of discrimination based on stereotypes since the beginning of their migration. Typically, academic knowledge production contributed to the ‘othering’ of the Roma by ascribing ‘criminality’ to “them”. The grandmaster of the ‘science’ of criminology constructed the Roma as ‘avatus’ [Latin: ancestor], as atavistic throwbacks (Lombroso et al. (1887/2006) as inherently lazy, violent, shameless, promiscuous and also as suspected cannibals.
In some countries within the EU the most drastic and inhuman aspects of the Lombrosian Project were being put into practice until recently as eugenic practices were forced upon the Rroma in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic (Aguilera-Rull & Gili-Saldaña, 2012; European Roma Rights Centre, 2016).
As the presentation had started already a bit later than planned Diana could not speak at any length about her work with POW but she is more than happy to share her knowledge and experience if delegates are interested in her important work.
After this first insight into Nottingham’s marginalised communities, the next presentation was Amelie Rosa Beckmann-Cooper’s film on Nottingham’s Gentrification/studentification “You can’t take my city away from me” which showed forms of structural ‘othering’ and the expulsion of local grown communities in operation in our city of Nottingham. The documentary showed the harmful impact of increased expansion of purpose-built student accommodations that are constructed in order to furnish the commodified ‘student experience’ that is part of the wholesale of English HE in contemporary times. This has become a central part of many cities’ overall gentrification-projects and destroys organically grown local often less affluent communities.
The concept of ‘gentrification’ was coined by Ruth Glass in 1964 and tried to capture the transformation of the demographic, economic, commercial, cultural, and physical character of central London neighbourhoods she observed at that time. The perceived “uplift” she described was not without its problems as she warned already in 1964: “Altogether there has been a great deal of displacement. All those who cannot hold their own—the small enterprises, the lower ranks of people, the odd men out—are being pushed away.” Glass inspired decades of scholarship and Amelie Rosa Beckmann – Cooper’s short documentary illustrates this process of displacement existentially by the insights provided within interviews with diverse people who make up [so far] the elements of the existing community ‘in motion’.
The interconnections between capitalism, government and corporate hegemony are also Joassart-Marcelli’s focus in ‘The $16 Taco’ published in 2021. This critical research into the interconnections between food and gentrification shows many parallels to Sneinton’ market’s gentrification project in Nottingham that was the focus of Amelie’s documentary.
After having seen a documentation about gentrification’s “profit before community” presentation, the day’s presentations were brought to an awful peak in terms of illustrating the lethal consequences of ‘othering’ in action as Steve Tombs’ “Grenfell: the ongoing ‘othering’ of an unwanted community” was shown.
Steve stated that this film was made at the OU for a new first year module, ‘Introduction to Criminology’, as part of a teaching week on Social Murder. David Scott designed the module. The film has only been shown once before to a non OU audience (it’s a rights issue, in a “good” sense, I e that’s what the participants signed up for and one of them, Clarrie Mendy, has since passed so we decided to respect the original agreement) – that was at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill, in the shadow of the Tower, an invitation-only event for the affected community at Grenfell. They were great and really supportive.
The film showed the ongoing existential harms that the survivors of Grenfell still live with, their sense of ongoing injustice, impossibility of closure and of course, it reminded us that all these people who lost their lives and those who suffered irreversible harms did so because of a perceived lack of attractiveness of a building that was home to a less well off, less powerful community in the eyes of wealthy onlookers and instead became a better looking death-trap due to cheap flammable cladding.
The film made a profound impact on all of us, many of us were too upset to talk but we applauded the braveness of the survivors and thanked Steve for sharing this important documentary.
Afterwards we walked to ‘Peggy’s Skylight’ for Jazz and dinner and for drinks at the ‘Angel’.
The second day 23.10.2021 began with Session 3 on “‘Criminal Justice’ and processes of ‘othering’ “ and was due to illness (Andrea, Carly and Helen) and a train-delay (Simone) shorter than planned.
Thus, Simone Santorso’s presentation on “Rehabilitation and dynamic security in the Italian prison: challenges in transforming prison officers’ roles” sadly could not be given as planned.
Rachel Seoighe’s presentation [written with Carly Guest] on “Peripheral punishment, social distance and the closure of Holloway Prison” drew on de/anti-carceral feminist frameworks of analysis (Carlton, 2016; Davis, 2005), as well as on the insights of carceral geographies (Moran, 2012; Turner, 2016) and critically explored the consequences of the closure of Holloway prison.
This closure could be welcomed from an abolitionist perspective, however, it resulted in additional punitive dimensions of incarceration as the women were dispersed and lost the physical access to important relationships and to services provided by outside charities for whom Holloway had been relatively accessible because of its inner-city location.
This ‘peripheral punishment’ takes place in nondescript buildings in contrast to the old expressive penal architecture. They appear indistinguishable from warehouses, not revealing their abhorrent function and thus they – appear designed not only according to neoliberal logics – but on a symbolic level as they ensure that there is minimal affective response from the ‘free’ population.
By centralising affective and collective methodologies in research, the presentation argues that the British state’s peripheral punishment relies on spatial and architectural techniques that generate further social distance between the free and unfree.
Due to illness we had to miss out on Helen Crewe’s “The Long and Bumpy Road: Practices of ‘Othering’ to Prevent Research about Babies in Prison”.
After a short break, Ian Mahoney presented “Populist and vindictive constructions of sexual offending, pluralities of violence, and the implications for criminal and social justice” [written with Kirsty Teague, Matthew Long and Belinda Winder] whereby the authors critically explored the populist treatment and punishment of ‘deviance’ and offending through the lens afforded by the ‘sociology of vindictiveness’ (Young 2003; 2007), underpinned by criminological discourses around labelling of the ‘other’ (Becker 1963; Lofland 1969; Young 1999) as well as Sumner’s (1990; 1994) work on censure.
‘Sex’ offenders are predominantly, if not exclusively subjected to extremely negative and demonising media presentations that are characterised by a ‘punitive and dehumanised monster narrative’ (Harper 2018). The presentation explored the interaction between vindictiveness and populism in the administration of ‘justice’, in order to situate the challenges that these pose not only for punishment, but also the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals convicted of ‘sexual crimes’. The “othering” of ‘sex’ offenders is of course utterly counterproductive as it makes it highly unlikely that anyone who feels so-called “paraphilic desires” for children will seek help to stop themselves acting them out.
Session 4 “Knowledge-production, ‘truth’ claims and the generation of ‘Others’: Harms and potentials for change”
became – due to illness of Andrea who would have presented “’Lived bodies’ and the ‘body’ borne out of criminology: generating ‘others’ and the prevention of socio-cultural and political change “ – shorter than originally planned but provided a fitting end to a conference that aimed for fundamental changes.
Wayne Morrison’s “Criminology, nomos, and the ‘other’ – He Pākehā au: A kōrero, or reflections on the possibility of revitalised critical criminologies occasioned by viewing the iconography of Hobbes in the time of Covid-19” invited the audience to a korero, a heart to heart.
This presentation critically explored the underlying belief- and representational structures that informed the problematic Western ideology of modernity and with it the language, structures and disciplines that appear to organise, stabilise, and limit our life in capitalist, racist, sexist, ableist and speciest nation states up to this day.
The presentation touched on the fact that the Western concept of ‘civilisation’ is always already part of a process of borderline drawing, of mapping, violation, of dehumanisation and dis-connection from an artificially generated ‘Other’, be this other life forms, fellow human animals, ‘animals’ or ‘nature’ conceptualised as something ‘out there’ not part and basis of our collective existence.
Illustrating this Wayne pointed to the iconography of Hobbes and the way in which representations of ‘cannibals’ set in the background as symbolic of ‘savagery’ in need of Western ‘civilisation’ were used.
“Accusations of cannibalism generally serve to define the boundaries of social order, to marginalise the social other. The proliferation of New World cannibalism in Renaissance iconography helped delimit the frontiers between ‘culture’ and ‘uncivilised savagery’.” (Himmelman 1997:183) Whakapapa in Maori means something akin to-the telling of it- and is always interdependent with korero, a heart to heart about the origins and the deeds of the ancestors -Wayne suggests that exchanges, education and representational regimes of Western modernity should not only confront and facilitate the narratives of genocides and other atrocities in the name of ‘civilisation’ but he further encourages a re-working of language, especially terms and his/stories connected to ‘development’, progress and control in order to generate a genuinely inclusive critical ‘global criminology’.