Encountering Crime in Everyday Publics

This panel takes up the theme of the conference and locates it in the everyday public spaces of the city. The four papers engage with the idea of crime as something that can be encountered, leaving traces, effects, and memories, in a range of contexts with implications for knowledge, memory and justice, including the aftermath of child sexual abuse, the criminalisation of homelessness, practices of memorialisation in public space, and emerging forums for disclosing experiences of street harassment. Together, the papers raise questions about the possibilities of ‘doing justice’ through encounters in our contemporary public spaces.


Alison Young,: ‘Memorialising Crime’


This paper examines the issues arising when the scene of a crime becomes also a site for memorialisation. A number of case studies will be examined, including both authorised and unauthorised memorials, such as those found at the sites of car accidents and overdoses, along with temporary memorials at the scenes of unsolved crimes and ongoing investigations. The paper’s aim is to consider the spectator’s affective encounter with places and their varying modes of placemaking. It considers the city as a accumulation of crime scenes, some marked by permanent memorials, some containing transient invitations to remember, and others rendered invisible once the crime scene tape is removed, and asks what we can learn from this about our encounters with crime in everyday urban life.


Kajsa Lundberg: ‘The Homeless Encounter in Public Space’


This paper scrutinises the visual aspects of the encounter with the homeless as well as the homeless’ encounter with public space. Such analysis is prompted by the recent increase in the criminalisation of homelessness in Australia, which follows a similar trend to many other English-speaking countries.  Aesthetic expectations imposed on people but also on spaces are instrumental in the construction of homeless individuals and their place in and right to public spaces. Through the lens of visual criminology, this paper draws from interviews with volunteers at various homelessness services to consider the visual aspects of our understanding of people experiencing homelessness. Such a commitment to scrutinise the visual aspects of living life in public space contributes to the understanding of the criminalisation of homelessness, opens up for new and better ways of supporting homeless people, and contributes to a paradigm that demands attention to the visual in criminological research.


Bianca Fileborn: ‘Mapping Epistemologies and Geographies of Memoralisation: Street Harassment and Online Disclosure Practices’


Deidre Davis, writing on Black lesbian women’s experiences of street harassment, termed this phenomenon the ‘harm that cannot be named’. Women and LGBTQ+ communities have harnessed the veritable explosion of social media platforms as spaces for resistance and disclosure of this routine public harassment and intrusion. Online projects such as the Everyday Sexism Project and Hollaback, alongside platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, bear witness to thousands of accounts of street harassment and its harms, challenging the notion that such public encounters or entanglements are ‘minor’ or ‘trivial’. In short, such sites become a public record of or memorial to these countless ‘small’ intrusions. While the existence of such spaces may suggest that street harassment is no longer the harm that cannot be named, important questions arise regarding whose and which experiences come to be known or are ‘knowable’. In this discussion I draw on research with those who have encountered street harassment, regarding disclosure in online spaces, and I argue that the construction and remembering of street harassment through these practices can only ever occur in partial and limited ways.


Dr Dave McDonald: ‘The Spatial Haunting of Child Sexual Abuse’


In December 2017 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse came to a close. Throughout the course of this inquiry, the Victorian town of Ballarat was a key site of the commission’s investigations, identifying the vast scale of sexual abuse against children over several decades. This paper examines how this has transformed Ballarat – both in terms of the recognition of prolific institutional child sexual abuse, as well as the space of the town itself. The way in which crime haunts victims and communities is widely recognised. Here I explore how crime haunts in the aftermath of prolific abuse, coverup, denial and silencing, and practices of acknowledgement and memorialisation that seek to do justice in the aftermath. What does it mean to mark out crime scenes after decades of silencing? How do these practices reconfigure such sites? And what ethical questions arise from encounters with these practices of acknowledgment and memorialisation? In this paper I take up these questions to explore the ways in which space is haunted by crime.

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