Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Confronting the ‘violence of the archive’: crime, punishment and the modern state

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Call for Papers - The Violence of the Archive

Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Executive Suite, John Henry Brookes Building, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


The archive remains an enduring symbol of state authority, and a critical resource in the production of official knowledge and historical narrations of crime and punishment.

This 1-day workshop will confront the inherent ‘violence of the archive’ as a key site of collective ‘remembering’ and ‘forgetting’. It will consider the various ways in which the modern state has produced, and subsequently projected knowledge with regards to crime and punishment.

Drawing upon insights from the growing field of historical criminology this workshop will explore this dynamic and encourage new perspectives on the relationship between state and (non-)citizen within criminal justice settings; the lived experiences of individuals subject to state authority; the inner workings of closed penal institutions; and aspects of the penal policy-making cycle which remain hidden from public view.

Participants will consider the inherent challenges of using state-sanctioned primary sources that risk obscuring, silencing and reconfiguring lived experience and counter- memories. Accordingly, the temporal scope of this workshop is book-ended by the ‘birth’ of the modern state and the ambiguities of contemporary statehood.


  • Dr Kate West (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Dr Thomas Guiney (Oxford Brookes University).

The workshop aims to:

  • explore the connections between the archive and state narrations of crime and punishment.
  • draw attention to the unfolding relationship between state and (non-)citizen within criminal justice settings
  • encourage greater dialogue between criminology and history, as well as criminologists and crime and criminal justice historians.
09:00–10:00 Arrival: Registration and Refreshments
10:00–10:15 Welcome and Introduction
  • A word on facilities
  • Aims of the workshop
  • Plan for the day

Introductory Session: On Historical Criminology

Henry Yeomans (University of Leeds), Iain Channing (University of Plymouth), David Churchill (University of Leeds): Thinking Historically Across Disciplines: Reflections on the Conceptual Aspects of Inter- Disciplinary Dialogue

10:45–11:00 Coffee Break

Panel 1: Unlocking Closed Penal Institutions

Ben Jarman (University of Cambridge): Tracing the history of child abuse in youth custody: does the archive offer current practitioners anything beyond useless wisdom after the fact?

Helen Johnson (University of Hull): Voices in the archive: Motherhood, identity and the Victorian convict prison

David J Cox (University of Wolverhampton) and Joseph Hale (University of Wolverhampton): 'Major H' and Murder in the Archive: The Governor's Journal of Major Robert John Fayrer Hickey, 187072

Kate Herrity (University of Leicester): Subverting signs: Using historical inspection reports to revisit and rethink prison spaces

12:30–13:15 Lunch

Panel 2: The State, Deviance and Crime Control

Phil Rawsthorn (Edge Hill University): Turning the Enemy

Within into Enemies of the State: The Subversion in Public Life Group 198589

Katherine Roscoe (University of Liverpool): Decolonizing Aboriginal Prisoner Records through Biography

Michael Reeve (University of Hull): The Criminalisation of Everyday Life during the First World War: The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) in Local Court Records

Nikki Weihe (University of Illinois at Chicago) “A Tidal Wave of idleness”: How state actors frame(d) carceral traffic, idleness and work ideologies in U.S. carceral discourse

14:45–15:00 Coffee Break

Panel 3: Recovering Lost Narratives of Crime and Punishment

Phil Thomas (University of Glasgow): On the Roof of the Prison with Fist Raised to the Sky: Resisting Enforced Narratives of Crime and Punishment

Richard W. Ireland (Aberystwyth University): Reality and Myth in Popular Punishment

Kate West (Oxford Brookes University): Seen But Not Heard?: Listening to Images of Women’s Imprisonment

Craig Stafford (University of Liverpool): Analysing Female Prison Registers: Strangeways Prison, Manchester, 18691875

16:30–17:00 Concluding remarks
17:00+ Reception
(following the workshop speakers and attendees welcome to join us for an evening meal in Headington, Oxford)

If you would like to attend this event please email Dr Kate West ( k.west@brookes.ac.uk) and Dr Thomas Guiney ( tguiney@brookes.ac.uk).