2018 – BSC Annual Conference – Birmingham – Transforming Criminology: Rethinking Crime in a Changing World
It was possibly our hottest conference ever. The temperatures soared and the papers presented were sizzling.
- Conference details
- BJC Virtual Issue
- Turning conference papers into publications
- Postgraduate Posters Summary
British Society of Criminology Conference committee:
- Dr. Adam Lynes (Academic Lead / Chair of conference)
- Melindy Brown (Vice-Chair)
- Professor Elizabeth Yardley (Head of Centre for Applied Criminology)
- Cristiana Cardoso (Conference Administration)
- Kevin Hoffin (Social Media Guru)
- Saabirah Osman (Social Media Guru)
- Dr Aidan O’Sullivan (Post Graduate Lead)
- Claire Dobson
This award was made to Professor Frances Heidensohn. She was nominated by Marisa Silvestri and Rachel Condry.
It’s that time of year again when we come together as a group to celebrate our achievements and this certainly looks set to be an impressive year. For those of us lucky enough to have ever won anything these awards recognise a snapshot of our accomplishments, be it for the best paper or for the best book. But the Outstanding Achievement award is so much more than this – so much more than an individual piece of work. This award recognises the production over time of a significant body of work which amounts to an outstanding and sustained contribution to enhancing the discipline’s interests on the national or international stage. We are absolutely delighted to announce Professor Frances Heidensohn as this year’s winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award. Frances has made an outstanding contribution to the discipline itself and to those who work within it – these are distinct things. Being an outstanding academic both in intellectual terms and on a personal level is a rare combination indeed and when we find this, we should celebrate it. [ Full nomination available here]
In accepting this prestigious award Professor Heidensohn gave the following speech:
Thank you so very much. I am most grateful to the BSC Executive for selecting me for this award, to my proposers, Marisa Silvestri and Rachel Condry, to Charlotte and Helen from the BSC who have been extremely helpful in organising my presence here, and for inviting my family and my friend Jan Jordan from New Zealand to join me & support me tonight.
It is great to see so many friends & colleagues are here too.
It is especially appropriate to receive this award in Birmingham, my home city, where I was born and grew up. lndeed, l lived on the east side of the city and took the 56 bus past the BCU campus and on to school in Edgbaston.
But this isn’t the time for anecdotes nor too much reminiscence but for some reflection on the two themes bringing us together tonight: careers & conferences and particularly the theme of this 2018 conference `Transforming Criminology’.
So what should one say in an acceptance speech? My previous experiences were in the USA where one has to be grateful, glowing and remember you are a foreigner (that was so a few years ago, nowadays?). As everyone does these days,I googled ‘awards acceptance speeches’ to see if named websites offered any helpful advice. You won’t be surprised to learn that they are almost all US-based (in assumptions and culture). Their main advice seems to be look your best. They are contradictory too – don’t thank too many people says one, thank everyone in case you offend some one advises a second.
You decide which one I followed.
Inevitably, I found a site which offered to write the speech for me at a price! They charge £365 for the luxury service, although only £45 for the streamlined one. Does that mean no frills, like flying with Ryanair? I didn’t wait to discover, but decided to write my own and to show how my own career in criminology is reflected in a series of conferences.
And that is quite a neat segue into my own speech as it is how my career started – by following my own template. Briefly, as a young researcher at the LSE I became interested in two key questions: why were the rates of recorded crimes committed by women so low when compared with men’s, and further, why was there such indifference to this issue among academic criminologists & policy makers, otherwise usually engaged by topics of such significance?
You can thus discern that the first aim in my academic life was to change, indeed transform, the subject so that key questions I saw as important would be addressed.
My first published article voicing these concerns appeared exactly 50 years ago in June 1968, to enormous indifference. That summer I also attended my first criminology conference, at Cambridge, where equally no one showed any interest in the topics which fascinated me. What did then cause much discussion were the stirrings which lead to the first of the York Deviancy Symposia, the first manifestation of major shifts in criminology in Britain.
However, all the lively debates were fascinating but irrelevant as to the queries I had raised. Reaction, indeed any discussion, emerged slowly, although I did meet the marvellous Carol Smart at one of the Symposia. The 1980s did see some networking and key figures appeared – Pat Carlen, Betsy Stanko, Mary Eaton – and so did important work, as did Allison Morris and Loraine Gelsthorpe. I extended my own research projects into policing and international comparative criminology.
The 1991 Mt Gabriel Conference for me, and I am sure many of who us were there, was the most vital step forward in the development of Feminist perspectives in criminology as it brought together, in an out-of-season ski resort in the Laurentian mountains, scholars and practitioners from around the world. It was there I forged a friendship with the wonderful, much-missed Nicky Rafter and we went on to edit and publish the Conference papers together.
All criminologists have their war stories and I have my share of tales of being locked in cells when interviewing in prisons, of being on patrol in downtown Dallas where the officers I was with were always just about to raid a crack house. Some episodes were very poignant and stay with me: even after 50 years, the sad spectacle of the girls’ borstal wing at Exeter which housed young mothers and their babies and where a solitary inmate walked up and down in the rain rocking the prams of crying babies. We certainly raised issues and put them on public and academic agendas. Every criminology text book now has sections on women and crime, feminist criminology, gender and crime.
That memory and many more leads to the inevitable question: what was it all for ? Was there any point to the research, the papers, the debates? Did any of it matter?
Criminology was, I would argue, transformed by feminist perspectives which were first applied to the study of women and crime, and to related issues in law enforcement, CJS policy etc: but the longer lasting effects have been much wider – the entire victims agenda, the focus on the personal as political in violence in our understandings of coercive control, of domestic abuse, these are all products of the signal changes in criminology.
We are still seeing outcomes.
But have there been improvements in justice and penal policies? There have certainly been many enquiries, committees and reports but myriad problems remain.
One of the first pieces of activism I was ever involved with was the opposition to the rebuilding of the (old) Holloway prison. It was of course rebuilt, was deemed a disaster and was closed in 2016. Is that a good thing? New centres are promised but is there enough funding?
Carol Smart warned in ‘Women, Crime & Criminology‘ of the potential dangers of a Pandora problem drawing attention to questions about women, gender and crime might cause more harm than neglect. Some US scholars have argued that a rise in the female share of arrests and offending is due to a form of ‘severe equity ‘which takes females far more seriously: this view is contested by others, but it could be an unintended consequence.
Feminist perspectives have grown, changed, developed and appear in many new guises, dare I say, even in the vocabulary of ‘Me Too‘. But there is still much to do.
My final example of an important conference is from this year – on 30 April the WCCJ held a very successful event, supported by the BSC, at City University. Mainly younger scholars presented excellent, scholarly and engaged work . It was truly inspiring.
Are there lessons about transforming Criminology?
I’d suggest a few:
- Start with a good idea or concept
- Having an ‘open’ discipline is crucial – criminology has never been based on a single formula, unlike, say economics, where after the banking crises which hardly any of them predicted, the new movements which seek to alter the rigid mindset of economy’s models have not gained wider acceptance
- Seek allies, partners and support: criminology was very slow, compared with sociology to take feminism on board
- Be lucky
The sites offering speech writing templates are very keen on giving advice for the young, most of it about persevering against the odds, but that sounds ‘dull and worthy’ for a conference dinner.
Young criminologists seem to be doing very well and not in need of much advice, but maybe some encouragement?
- I’d say attend conferences and that now covers virtual ones via social media.
- Network as much as possible so that your frame of reference and impact are as wide as you can make them.
- Attend to history – some of the topics which look novel have been looked at before.
- Celebrate ourselves, our colleagues and our subject.
- Think about being public criminologists? This is a tentative suggestion, very much against the ethos of many.
How to sum up: there are many achievements in which I have, I hope, a share together with many friends and colleagues. Women are now interesting, know themselves to be so and engage with exploring those aspects of themselves (NB: ‘woman’ = as inclusionary a term as possible). We have voices and have shown how these can be effectively used. We may not have answered the questions began with, but the discussions continue, are much better informed and are central to our field.
If I have contributed in some way to these developments and you, my peers, consider this worthy of an award, I am most grateful and am delighted to accept it. Thank you.
Victoria Canning is a Lecturer in Criminology at the Open University, UK (soon to be moving to Bristol University). Her book, Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System (2017, Routledge), can be previewed here. In accepting the award Victoria said:
The current architecture of the British Asylum System is increasingly one of harm, where degradation and denigration have replaced a sense of safety or belonging. Destitution has become common place; access to social justice in the form of refugee status has been diminished by reductions to legal aid; and poverty keeps some women tied to violent partners, dependent on spousal visas or financial income. Whilst the Home Office targets traffickers as criminal gangs, their own actions increasingly mirror the ‘gangs’ that they target: threatening deportations, removing autonomy, and moving individuals and families across countries through dispersal policies.
These are not by-products of a broken system. Almost all of the social problems outlined in Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System are the outcomes of socio-political decisions – of carefully orchestrated polices and legislation which work to Other, to deter, to remove. This is structural and institutional violence.
As criminologists, we must question our role in singularly documenting the harms and violences that we see in the lives of people we collaborate with or ‘study’. It is time that we systematically name structural violence when we see it; to use the powers of academia and activism to dismantle violent hierarchies which subjugate those who are most powerless in society, and hold accountable those who inflict harm – states and corporations included. The problems we see are seldom accidental, thus they are not inevitable: they are designed, and as such we can work to dismantle and redesign them.
After the presentation, a spontaneous auction was held for a book that Victoria wanted to highlight. Available from News From Nowhere, ‘Migrant Artists Mutual Aid: Strategies for Survival, Recipes for Resistance’ is available for just £7.00 and all proceeds of this book will go toward the Migrant Artists Mutual Aid legal fund, to ensure all women have representation at immigration tribunals, so that no one is forced to face state representatives alone. Make your own small act of support by buying it.
We are thrilled to have been awarded the BSC National Award for Excellence in Teaching Criminology. Our vision was to deliver an innovative and inspiring module to better equip our students with employability skills as they enter the competitive job market. We prioritised empowering our students to help increase their self-confidence and as a result they produced some incredibly creative and thought-provoking work, that we know will help them to succeed in the future. It would not have been possible without the hard work and vision of the team and our partnership organisations. We are all very proud of team Hallam and our students”- Sarah, Alex and Catrin.
‘Transforming Criminology’ was not just a theme: but a statement of intent. The articles chosen for this ‘Virtual Issue’ contain ten such articles. Ten articles that successfully carry the spirit of transformative criminology.
As always, our Conference featured a range of speakers, lots of time for Q&A, and participation from academics, authors, publishers and practitioners. Below is a list of keynote speakers
Edmond Clark, artist-in-residence (2014-2018) at HMP Grendon.
Dr Ben Crewe, Deputy Director of the Prisons Research Centre and Reader in Penology at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.
Professor Jeff Ferrell, Professor of Sociology at Texas Christian University, USA, and Visiting Professor of Criminology at the University of Kent, UK.
Professor Yvonne Jewkes, Professor of Criminology at the University of Kent.
Professor Michael Levi, Professor of Criminology at Cardiff University.
Dr Thomas Raymen, Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Law, Criminology and Government at Plymouth University.
Professor David Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Birmingham City University.
Conference Update, Birmingham City Conference Committee
Thoughts from the BSC Conference, Susie Atherton, University of Northampton.
Travelling without a map: conference drifting, Stefania Armasu, Elaine de Vos, Rhiannon Lovell, Liam Miles and Jeff Ferrell.
Criminology and policing – meeting in the middle, Gareth Stubbs.