The Meanings of Violence

The Meanings of Violence

The Meanings of Violence

The Meanings of Violence

Synopsis

The media often makes sense of violence in terms of 'randomness' and 'evil'. But the reality, as the contributors to The Meanings of Violence demonstrate, is far more complex. Drawing on the diverse subject matter of the ESRC's Violence Research Programme - from interviews with killers to discussions with children in residential facilities - this volume locates the meaning of violence within social contexts, identities and social divisions. It aims to break open our way of speaking about violence and demonstrate the value in exploring the multiple, contradictory and complex meanings of violence in society. The wide range of topics include: *Prostitute and client violence *Violence amongst young people at school and on the streets *Violence in bars and nightclubs *Violence in prison *Racist and homophobic violence This book will be fascinating reading for students of criminology and academics working in the field of violent crime.

Excerpt

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John Archer and Jo Jones

Every historical era has experienced some form of crime-generated social anxiety, and it would be both foolish and unwise for contemporary commentators to view present-day crimes of violence as either novel, unique or representative of 'the decline of society'. For every child-on-child murder, paedophile outrage or serial killer that shocks present-day society, historians can point to incidents and figures from the past. Some are notorious, like Jack the Ripper; others are almost forgotten, like 'Sweet Fanny Adams', the details of whose brutal murder lie forgotten in the columns of Victorian newspapers but whose name has lived on and even been abbreviated into the euphemistic phrase 'sweet FA'.

However, the manner in which we are made aware of crimes of violence is, to a large extent, of recent heritage. The Victorian press served an everwidening readership and therefore adopted a popular language, tone and layout in which sensation and fact intertwined to generate and arouse interest, fear and concern in equal measure. The main difference between now and then is the current use of pictorial images to portray the victim, the scene of the crime and the perpetrator. Victorian newspapers, by contrast, only occasionally resorted to crude pictorial etchings of a trial and the defendant, preferring instead to describe in highly explicit detail the killing, the victim's wounds and the character and behaviour of the killer. In so doing they set the agenda for the representation and reportage of crimes of violence that is still largely with us. Violent incidents that contained a human interest story were highlighted or amplified because they suggested wider social threats such as the danger posed by strangers to unaccompanied women, or described the helpless child victim. Such news items continue to make particularly sensational and emotionally charged copy. Crimes of violence came to be defined as social problems and indicative of a wider social malaise. History has therefore an important role to play in establishing how violence is portrayed, represented and interpreted both now and 150 years ago.

The press, since the mid-1850s, has been the most important medium for creating the public's awareness and perception of violent crime. Murders, assaults and other crimes against the person have literally made headline news, and as such these news stories and their associated headlines have provided

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