The ‘Cultures of Policing’ workshop was held at Swansea University on 11 April 2014. The workshop brought together leading academics and early career researchers from several disciplines and institutions to investigate policing and police culture during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Callaghan Centre blocks thin

Its concern was to demonstrate the relevance of historical and cultural perspectives to our understanding of contemporary police cultures. Its papers focused on a range of themes, including the transmission of police knowledge over periods of time and between countries and different governing regimes; the democratization of police forces after conflict or dictatorship; masculinity and sexuality in police culture; self-representation by the police whether internally or to the public; representations of the police in narrative literature and the issues this poses to historians.

Chris Williams (The Open University) and Chris Millington (Swansea University) drew on representations in novels and memoirs to investigate police culture in interwar Britain and France respectively.  Two papers focused on the experience of policing in newly democratised regimes: Alice Hills (Durham University) considered the resilience of police forces in the accommodation of regime change in Somalia and Nigeria. Jonathan Dunnage (Swansea University) examined police literature, career reports and ceremonies in post-war Italy to analyse the transformation of the culture of the police after the defeat of fascism. Katharina Hall (Swansea University) examined the character of the ‘Nazi Detective’ in recent crime fiction, with a view to exploring the ways in which the novels engage with the historical reality of the period. Masculinity and policing in the Arab world, with a focus on the deployment of rape of male prisoners as a method of torture in police stations and prisons, was the subject of the paper by Sophie Smith (Swansea University). 

Nadine Rossol (Essex University) summarized the papers.  As well as raising several questions for further investigation, the workshop highlighted in particular how the tools of cultural studies can provide a fresh perspective in the study of policing.  In the light of discussions which took place during the final part of the workshop, the organisers (Jonathan Dunnage and Chris Millington), intend to publish the papers in a special issue of a journal and to apply for a networking grant which will allow the development of a project around many of the themes and issues which emerged during the course of the day.

The organisers thank the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities and the Callaghan Centre for their financial support.