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Dark Heritage, Somber Legacy. Memories and Stories of the Justice System

Proposal submission deadline: 2 May 2022

Editors:

Marc Renneville (CNRS, centre A. Koyré et Clamor)

Sophie Victorien (Clamor UAR 3726 CNRS - ministère de la Justice)

Presentation

Online journal Criminocorpus is issuing a call for papers for a special issue entitled Dark Heritage, Somber Legacy. Memories and Studies of the Justice System (Sombre patrimoine, patrimoine sombre. Mémoires et histoires de justice). The objective is to spark an international collective exploration, embracing all time periods, of the concept of “judicial heritage”, how it hinges on memory issues and where it fits in the writing and transmission of the history of the justice system.

  • 1 Jean-Claude Vimont, “Cent milles briques, aspects du patrimoine pénal de Haute-Normandie”, Trames, (...)
  • 2 “Prisons : conserver ou détruire ?,” Libération, 18 Sept. 2014 https://www.liberation.fr/societe/20 (...)
  • 3 Marc Renneville et Michaël Vottero (dirs), Le patrimoine de la justice, In Situ. Revue des patrimoi (...)

As early as the late 1990s, Jean-Claude Vimont had been setting milestones in favor of studying the penal heritage of Haute-Normandie by questioning his own motivations: “To open a breach in a deeply-repressed past? To raise awareness about a new dimension of heritage? To encourage preservation? Certainly all of the above, but also because it is the duty of social history to explore the dark corners of our civilization.”1 On September 18th, 2014, on the occasion of the European Heritage Days, a collective of historians and architects attempted to raise awareness on France’s “dark heritage” in Libération newspaper: “Should prisons be razed? Should we save the French “dark heritage” – that of detention centers, juvenile penitentiary colonies, all places of internment?”2 In 2022, In Situ. Revue des patrimoines is devoting two consecutive issues to the heritage of the justice system, in an attempt to define the issues along four axes: architecture, archives, decor and furniture, and valorizing the heritage of the justice system3.

To complement this double issue, articles submitted to Criminocorpus may explore one of the following four avenues:

Judicial Heritage. Objects and Boundaries

  • 4 Sarah Gensberger, Sandrine Lefranc, À quoi servent les politiques de mémoire ?, Paris, Les presses (...)

The point here is to question the very notion of “dark heritage”, focusing on a reflexive approach. Why would this heritage be considered “dark”? Do we mean that it is invisible or that not enough light is being shed on it to achieve knowledge and recognition? Does the epithet apply to the whole of the judicial heritage? Why, specifically? How does the judicial world get patrimonialized in practice? Which factors obstruct or foster the patrimonialization process? Research and analysis on memory policies are welcome here, as well as case studies.4

Papers may also address such topics as the boundaries of judicial heritage and the evolution thereof, the inclusion of graffiti, professional practices, accounts from the actors involved, representations, etc.

Destroy ? Preserve? Repurpose? What to Do with Justice Facilities?

  • 5 Michelle Perrot, Les ombres de l’histoire. Crime et châtiment au XIXe siècle, Paris, Flammarion, 20 (...)

Should justice facilities be destroyed or preserved? In the early 1970s, some historians and the philosopher Michel Foucault teamed up to protest against the destruction of the Petite Roquette prison in Paris.5 Suggestions were made for repurposing the facility into a care home, a youth center, or even a school. Issues pertaining to the conservation or repurposing of justice facilities in various countries (into museums, hotels, etc.) may be evoked here, as well as data collected when such places were closed or reappropriated (web documentaries, virtual tours, etc.), with a particular focus on the implementation of these initiatives and their reception by the general public.

Memory Issues and Disputes

The necessary work on history and transmission notwithstanding, justice facilities often spark competition and even memory disputes. The question of memory is a very sensitive one as well regarding places linked to violent news items and criminal cases. Is it acceptable to showcase these “houses of crime”? What is the interest of researchers and the general public in preserving them? Also, is it really heritage conservation when museums – some of which may not be accessed by a younger public – showcase torture implements as well as crime scenes (London Dungeon, Amsterdam's Torture Museum, etc.)?

Passing Down the History of Justice. Places, Objects and Mediations

Is a justice facility the proper place to teach the history of justice? Turning disused justice facilities into teaching spaces for memory and history is a tempting proposition. Camps, prisons, courthouses are frequently repurposed this way, in turn raising questions about the development of “dark tourism”, which is investing crime locations, such as the “Jack the Ripper tours” in London and, more recently, crime-themed walking tours in Paris. What are the practical arrangements made for these places and tours? Who are the targeted publics? Who are the users?

Alongside those places invested with multiple intentions (touristic, pedagogical, commercial…), the storytelling of history is increasingly reliant on images of the law and those answerable to it – photographs, postcards, press cartoons, scholarly works, radio and video shows, documentary and fiction films. Don’t these media and vectors of history possess some heritage value of their own? Our objective here is to collect studies providing feedback and thoughts on these knowledge transmission issues.

Proposal submission deadline (max. 3000 char. + author bio): 2 May 2022

Article submission deadline after proposal is accepted: 1 October 2022

Publication date: April 2023

Contacts : marc.renneville@cnrs.fr and sophie.victorien@cnrs.fr

Notes

1 Jean-Claude Vimont, “Cent milles briques, aspects du patrimoine pénal de Haute-Normandie”, Trames, 1997, n° 2, p. 101-112.

2 “Prisons : conserver ou détruire ?,” Libération, 18 Sept. 2014 https://www.liberation.fr/societe/2014/09/18/les-prisons-font-aussi-partie-de-notre-patrimoine_1103194/ See also “Ne détruisons pas la prison de Clairvaux”, Libération, 21 Sept. 2021. https://www.liberation.fr/idees-et-debats/tribunes/ne-detruisons-pas-la-prison-de-clairvaux-20210920_XYIYBZYWTFCPPFMV6JIAGAS6FM/

3 Marc Renneville et Michaël Vottero (dirs), Le patrimoine de la justice, In Situ. Revue des patrimoines, 2022, n° 46. https://journals.openedition.org/insitu/33244

4 Sarah Gensberger, Sandrine Lefranc, À quoi servent les politiques de mémoire ?, Paris, Les presses de Sciences Po, 2017.

5 Michelle Perrot, Les ombres de l’histoire. Crime et châtiment au XIXe siècle, Paris, Flammarion, 2001, p. 302-303.

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