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A New French Journal

Pierre V. Tournier
Traduction de Pascal Décarpes
Cet article est une traduction de :
Une nouvelle revue française [fr]

Texte intégral

1A new idea, even if it sometimes originates in the mind of a particular individual, is never solely that individual’s personal idea since a soil for its growth is needed and other minds, other capacities and varied experiences are necessary for it take shape. The idea of “Champ Pénal / Penal Field” occurred to me during a rewarding week spent in Roscoff (Brittany) in July 2002 at the conference arranged by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). The conference theme was “The utilization of research findings and research worker skills in the human and social sciences”. The seminar was organised by Isabelle de LAMBERTERIE with about fifty researchers from various disciplines taking part.

2By the autumn of 2002, several French or foreign research colleagues, whom I had got to know without having necessarily worked with them, were giving shape to the idea – a project to create an electronic and criminological journal in French and English that would be independent of any existing institution.

Ex nihilo

3We could have developed this project within the Association Francaise de Criminologie (AFC) of which I am the chairman since 1999. But this would have been inconsistent with the notion of full independence for the proposed journal. Furthermore, we wished to include French persons on the editorial board who were not necessarily involved with the AFC as well as non-French persons with links to other organisations in their own countries. It was decided, therefore, to create an entirely new body consisting exclusively of 39 multi-national members. An executive committee was elected with a legal representative, an editor-in-chief (Thierry GODEFROY), an associate editor-in-chief (Benoit DUPONT) and a treasurer (Nathalie PRZYGODZKI-LIONET), as well as an editorial board consisting of an editorial director (Jacques FAGET) and two associate editors (Evry ARCHER and Hilde TUBEX).

4Our concern about transparency and deontological issues led us to take great care over the writing of the articles of association for the journal and its board of management (see below). It has been decided too that the annual general meeting of the board of management (i.e. the 39 members of the editorial board) will be open. Obviously, discussion at the annual general meeting will not focus on the acceptance or refusal of particular papers but on the editorial board’s policy, its trends and its way of working. This will also be the occasion for the periodic renewal of the board’s executive committee and members.

Dissemination of French criminological literature

5One of the major goals with Champ Pénal / Penal Field is that it should be a tool for disseminating French criminological literature in the English-speaking world. Hence the translation of French texts will be financed by the journal in order to make them known to English-speaking criminologists. The journal aims also to diffuse bilingual texts. The selection of articles to be translated will follow a procedure defined by the journal’s articles of association.

6However, there is more to the journal than publicizing works written in French. Account must also be taken of epistemological considerations since many of us, in the Council of Europe and in international conferences for instance, have experienced the difficulty of finding the right word in another language. More generally this means that the expression of thought, the finding of the right formulation, leads often to questions about the meaning of the concepts used by an author in the original language. Just think of a translator who translates the French word “probation” by the English word “probation” quite unaware that the concept has entirely different connotations in France and England & Wales! How can the word “délit”, the expressions “peine correctionnelle”, “aménagement des peines” or “érosion des peines” be translated into English without asking questions about their essential meaning? Indeed, it would be interesting to examine the exact significance of the expression “Champ Pénal” and its translation as “Penal Field” – a matter that has already been the subject of much debate. An American friend will not necessarily think of Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Lacan or whomever. He or she might well have other points of reference.

A “paperless” publication

7The principle of an electronic journal is substantially linked to the initial project. Marc RENNEVILLE, head of the interdisciplinary centre for prison studies (CIRAP, ENAP), introduced us to the organisation REVUES.ORG, its electronic reviews together with its manager Marin DACOS. We were immediately convinced by its editorial principles based on the idea that produced knowledge is a part of mankind’s heritage. Such knowledge should therefore be made available to the largest number possible number of persons without cost. Champ Pénal/Penal Field would certainly have survived without REVUES.ORG but in a far less satisfactory fashion.

8By comparison with other electronic journals, we have the advantage of not having a past, one before the advent of electronic possibilities. Hence, it is not a matter of creating a window on Internet to promote an already existing journal produced by traditional means and to make known online what is to be found on bookshelves. Such journals continue naturally to have their reasons for existence even if criticism can sometimes be directed at their working methods (publication delays, opacity concerning their functioning and financing, prohibitive prices of subscription, etc.). Our ambition is different. We wish to develop a journal that fully integrates the possibilities of online publication whilst still being aware of certain drawbacks. The link to a broadly based organisation such as REVUES.ORG will help us in this thrilling process.

Criminology was mentioned?

9Amongst the 39 women and men on the editorial board, some are at the beginning of a promising brilliant career whilst others have already achieved work recognized by the international scientific community. They work in France, Germany, England, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Italy, Sweden or Switzerland. Their disciplines are diverse and probably no one of them has exactly the same idea about the scope of “criminology”.  Is it a complete scientific field or not? Depending on the answer given to this perennial question, some will call themselves “criminologists”, some will not. But does it matter?

10Everyone will at this point agree that the study of the crime phenomenon and the way in which it is defined and controlled, demands a firm framework based on the law, social and psychological sciences, with philosophy constituting a keystone for the whole edifice. “Champ Pénal / Penal Field” is a scientific journal. But it is not one that is reserved solely for research centres and/or university members since the scientific nature of a contribution is manifested by its content and evaluated in accordance with the rules of existing knowledge and rather than by a “business card”. Moreover, it is a moral duty for research workers to publicize research results for the benefit of public authorities, the media, political and social actors, associations and citizens and the administrators of criminal justice. In consequence, the journal will seek to reach the largest number of readers. In addition, an item “Confrontations” is envisaged for personal contributions and critical points of view on contemporary aspects of political or judicial life, etc. The executive committee will be directly responsible for the management of this section.

An indispensable utopia

  • 1 Association Pénombre, created in 1992 and chaired from 1998 onwards by our colleague Bruno Aubusson (...)

11The spirit of this journalistic enterprise will be manifested if the application of an equation (already applied elsewhere with some success) is maintained – that of “relying on differences to multiply points of view whilst reducing sterile divisions”1.

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1 Association Pénombre, created in 1992 and chaired from 1998 onwards by our colleague Bruno Aubusson de Cavarlay, e-mail:

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Référence électronique

Pierre V. Tournier, « A New French Journal »Champ pénal/Penal field [En ligne], Vol. I | 2004, mis en ligne le 17 mai 2005, consulté le 07 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Pierre V. Tournier

ChP/PF founder, CNRS Research Director, Centre d’histoire sociale du XXe siècle (Université Paris I)

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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