Criminal Detection and the Weight of the Past

Claire Valier, University of Leeds

This paper describes a theoretical framework for understanding historical and contemporary practices of criminal detection. Criminal detection practices are directed at the apprehension and conviction of the authors of unsolved crimes, hence their temporal orientation is retrospective. From the outset, these practices have played an important part in an emotive 'war on crime'. Given the recent punitive turn observed across western jurisdictions, my work seeks to develop a set of concepts and arguments that elucidate both anxieties around catching criminals and the vengeful moralism seen in calls for harsh punishment. Instead of the future-orientated negative affect seen in 'fear of crime' debates and work on actuarial risk-assessment practices, I foreground the significance of resentment against the past, and develop a notion of 'wounding justice.'

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Updated 05/20/2006