Theatrics of Transnational Criminal Justice

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Example 1: Fully armed police rope down from a helicopter, hovering over open water.
Example 2: An aggressively barking German shepherd is being held back by a darkly dressed constable.
Example 3: New York socialites attend an art exhibition on people charged for crimes against humanity.

These are all examples of the ways in which actors of Transnational Criminal Justice (TCJ) present, or rather, perform themselves. The first is from a recent Frontex recruitment campaign in which the European border control agency uses evocative videoclips on social media to draw in recruits. The second is from a Europol photography contest, where countless Hollywoodesque posters urge Europol personnel to submit their most sensational Europol snap-shots. The third is an example of a chic art exhibition in Manhattan, displaying realist portraits of suspected war criminals facing trial in international criminal courts. Moreover, while all being neatly curated portrayals, they also present a vocational story far removed from the actual workday realities of TCJ – workdays filled with many more mundane bureaucratic dealings than dramatic spectacles.

The proposed special issue critically explores such paradoxical examples of ‘doing’ Transnational Criminal Justice. Through a collective publication in Theoretical Criminology we in other words scrutinize discrepancies between representations of institutional selves and the actual everyday of TCJ using ‘performance theory’. ‘Why do such discrepancies exist?’, we ask. ‘What do they tell us about the state and structure of TCJ?’ And, more generally, ‘what does such dramatization reveal about the nature of penal power in transnational spaces?’ In probing such questions, the special issue draws together a number of distinguished ethnographers on different areas and arenas of TCJ, each researcher uniquely situated to shine a rare light on the backstage reality vis-à-vis the frontstage theatrics of TCJ.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheoretical Criminology
ISSN1362-4806
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

ID: 239955429