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Rumi, the Sufi ‘poet,’ who cared nothing for poetry

We all think of Rumi as a poet and a teacher, and many of us know of his affiliation with Sufism, but likely few of us think of him as an immigrant, a son, a father. His spiritual legacy has transcended virtually all borders—including national, linguistic, religious, and cultural ones—evidenced by the fact he is reputed to be the best-selling poet in the English-speaking world.

Chase F. Robinson frames his examination of Rumi’s life and influence in a section of the book ‘Disruption & Integration, 1250–1525’, a period commonly called the Pax Mongolica, as it was dominated by Mongol conquests and expansion depicted in the map below.

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Map of the Islamic World in 1500 from Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives.

Robinson leads you succinctly through his travels and education; most interestingly, he questions what Rumi would think of his massive rebirth and renown as a poet to modern-day English-reading consumers, and in part finds this answer:

Rumi bristled at the expectations of his thronging followers in the city of Konya (southwest Anatolia), lamenting that he was unable to satisfy their appetite for his wisdom:

It is a habit with me, that I do not desire that any heart should be distressed through me. During the session a great multitude thrust themselves upon me, and some of my friends fend them off. That is not pleasing to me, and I have said a hundred times, ‘Say nothing to any man on my account; I am well content with that.’ I am affectionate to such a degree that when these friends come to me, for fear that they may be wearied I speak poetry so that they may be occupied with that. Otherwise, what have I do to with poetry? By God, I care nothing for poetry, and there is nothing worse in my eyes than that. It has become incumbent upon me, as when a man plunges his hand into tripe and washes it out for the sake of a guest’s appetite, because the guest’s appetite is for tripe.

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Detail of an illustration: an 18th-century miniature of the supposed first encounter of Rumi (on the mule) with Shams of Tabriz, a meeting that would redirect the poet’s life.

Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives is an illuminating text in multiple senses of the word. It both creates a vivid picture of life in many arenas of the pre-modern Muslim world, and brings those worlds to life with lively and historically-significant illustrations.

Follow along in future weeks as we delve into other famous figures profiled in the book. Also, please read our previous post featured on the UC Press blog.

To get a copy of Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives, visit your local bookstore, or purchase online at IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & Noble, or UC Press (to save 30% on ucpress.edu, enter discount code 16M4197 at checkout).


Killing Your Neighbors

by Jon Holtzman, author of Killing Your Neighbors: Friendship and Violence in Northern Kenya and Beyond

9780520291928How do we make sense of the horrific things people do to one another? And how do we reconcile that those who do these horrific things are often, in many ways, actually wonderful people?

For many of us our first passion for anthropology came from an introductory class that led us to understand and appreciate that the lives and the worldviews of people around the globe differ radically from what in our upbringing we took for granted. We learned to celebrate human cultural diversity. Advancing in our profession, however, we are increasingly drawn to understanding how, through multiple schisms, humans exercise power over one another in ways that can be quite awful. As ethnographers, our first field experiences can similarly be revelatory, an immersive process where we learn and accept a radically different life and way of thinking. Later we realize that our “adopted” culture’s worldviews are no less contingent than those of our own, a realization that can turn our anthropological imagination towards a more misanthropic one. Rather than avoiding judgments because all cultures are equally valid, perhaps we should judge each and every one of them–nobody comes out looking good?

Continue reading “Killing Your Neighbors”


The “Six” Boroughs: Manhattan

This is the fifth of the “six” boroughs blog series celebrating Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. We’ve already visited BrooklynQueensthe Bronx, and Staten Island. If you missed the prior posts, we encourage you to go back and read them after you’ve finished reading about Manhattan.


New York City is the cradle of American book publishing (though as this California publisher knows, great books come from all over), and it all started with brothers James and Joseph Harper and their ability to print books at high volumes—thanks to the stereotyping printing process—inexpensively for a mass market.

In what would become Harper’s magazine and the publishing house HarperCollins, the brothers first began their publishing operation two years before the birth of one of the great American writers: Herman Melville. It’s also fascinating to learn that as a great American publisher, Harper & Brothers first rejected Melville and his book, Typee, because it was too fantastic to be true.

Harpers and Harpooners Detail
Detail from the map “Harper’s and Harpooners” featured in “Nonstop Metropolis.” You can spot Herman Melville’s birthplace in the Battery, and see where Harper and Brothers was located.

G.P. Putnam would go on to publish Typee,  which became a best-seller, and Harper and Brothers would pick up Melville’s next six books, including his most famous.

Most people associate Herman Melville with the high seas and a big, white whale, but the Moby-Dick author was quite the urbanite. A native New Yorker, Melville was born in 1819 on Pearl Street in the Battery at Manhattan’s southern end, which he described as the “extreme down-town” and “the insular city of the Manhattoes” who—dreaming of the sea—rushed to the island’s tip.

“There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.
Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries.”—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

But Melville may not have had such romantic feelings for the city that would at times spurn him. Moby-Dick received terrible reviews, as did Melville’s other works, which Paul LaFarge details in his essay “Sailors and Scriveners”:

Moby-Dick was published in 1851 to famously bad reviews, and it sold poorly—but nowhere near as poorly as Melville’s next novel, Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, which is about a young man who brings a great deal of suffering on himself by becoming a writer and moving to New York. Pierre earned Melville $157 during his lifetime and was reviewed by the New York Day Book under the headline “Herman Melville Crazy.” Melville was wrecked . . . By the end of the 1850s, Melville had little reason to love New York City, and yet in 1866 he moved there once again . . .

Like a sailor drawn to the sea, Melville couldn’t leave New York entirely. But perhaps the strongest connection between New York’s publishing industry and the whaling industry is Herman Melville as he tried his hand at both. In the map “Harper’s and Harpooners” featured in Nonstop Metropolisyou can see more of the physical, historical connections between these uniquely different industries.

Harpers and Harpooners Detail2
Detail of the legend from the map “Harper’s and Harpooners” featured in “Nonstop Metropolis.”

Take a closer look below to stroll through Melville’s Manhattan (click on the map to expand it).

Harpers_SolnitNMNY


Dance RecitalJJ SchapiroNonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know and see New York City, in an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

More than Bunnies and Battlefields: The Evolution of Social Policy in the National Park Service

tph 38.4 coverThis guest post by Angela Sirna is based on her article “Tracing a Lineage of Social Reform Programs at Catoctin Mountain Park,” published in The Public Historian’s new special issue on the National Park Service Centennial. The full article appears in TPH 38.4 (November 2016), which can be purchased as a single issue. For more TPH content, become a subscriber via NCPH individual membership or ask your library to subscribe on your behalf.


Sixty miles from Washington, DC, residents can escape the frenzy of the nation’s capital at Catoctin Mountain Park, a small National Park Service (NPS) unit located in western Maryland. There, visitors can hike and camp just mere yards away from the Presidential Retreat, where presidents from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barack Obama have come to relax, strategize, or meet with guests (or where First Lady Michelle Obama can have an all-girls weekend with Beyonce). Visitors can enjoy the same scenery as world leaders, but they shouldn’t plan on catching a glimpse of “Camp Number 3”; it is not open to visitors. Catoctin Mountain Park’s special relationship to American presidential history, however, belies it’s own complicated past.

Catoctin Scenic View
View from Catoctin Mountain Park. Photography by Angela Sirna, 2012.

The federal government established the park during the New Deal through the Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA) program that purchased “submarginal” land (where production is carried at an economic loss) for recreation and conservation purposes, often displacing the local population. The NPS then utilized a succession of work programs to transform the mountain landscape into a park, including the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps (two New Deal programs), the Job Corps (a War on Poverty program), and Youth Conservation Corps (still used by the NPS today). New Deal park planners intended for the RDA to serve underprivileged youth from Washington, DC, and Baltimore. Camp Greentop has been home to the Maryland League for People with Disabilities for over seventy-five (mostly consecutive) years.

"Happy summer days at Camp Greentop." Page from Maryland League for Crippled Children 1939 Annual Report. Source: National Archives.
“Happy summer days at Camp Greentop.” Page from Maryland League for Crippled Children 1939 Annual Report. Source: National Archives.

When we think about the NPS, we tend to think about it as a land conservation and historic preservation agency, or “bunnies and battlefields.” But, parks are about people, too. The NPS has a long history of incorporating social policy into its management practices. Such policies have created complicated legacies often fraught with institutional biases regarding race and class, such as the dislocation of families from park lands or segregation of park facilities. There is a growing body of literature in which scholars have examined some of these instances, but in my article, forthcoming in the November issue of The Public Historian (38.4), I use Catoctin Mountain Park as a case study to chart the evolution of social policy on a national park landscape. It places these changes in the larger context of economic, social, and land use policies throughout the twentieth century. These policies and programs often created complicated relationships between the park and certain groups.

At Catoctin Mountain Park, for example, the creation of the RDA meant the dislocation of farm families from park lands, but the federal government offered little help in finding new places for them to live and farm. In fact, the NPS relied on the assumption that many would remain nearby and could be hired through work relief programs to help build the park. When the camps first opened to organizations serving underprivileged youth in Washington, DC and Baltimore, African Americans were excluded until World War II, when the NPS integrated parks to help bolster morale. And when President Lyndon B. Johnson announced a War on Poverty in 1964, Catoctin became the first site for a Job Corps Center, which brought young men from the lowest economic ladder to live, learn, and work in the park. The center was purposely integrated at a time when the rest of the country was grappling over race relations. The Catoctin Job Corps Center closed in 1969, but despite its short tenure, the center left an important physical imprint on the park’s landscape and provided valuable lessons to the agency as a whole.

President Lyndon B. Johnson talks to corpsmen at Catoctin Job Corps Conservation Center, March 10, 1965. Photograph by Yoichi Okamoto. Source: LBJ Library.
President Lyndon B. Johnson talks to corpsmen at Catoctin Job Corps Conservation Center, March 10, 1965. Photograph by Yoichi Okamoto. Source: LBJ Library.

Why should we care about this history in 2016? What does it mean for the park visitor or manager in this new century of stewardship? In the case of Catoctin Mountain Park, understanding the park’s history of social policy gives us a better appreciation of the park beyond its natural or recreational values. Acknowledging this past is critical for the NPS when reaching out to new groups. On a more general level, the NPS is involved in social policy now more than ever, through programs like the Urban Agenda and the variety of youth programming the agency employs. Oftentimes, old ideas are spun and rebranded as being new without careful consideration of how they worked in the past.


Sirna GRSM

Angela Sirna is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Middle Tennessee State University, where she recently completed an administrative history for Stones River National Battlefield. Her research interests include cultural landscapes and the history of the National Park Service. In particular, she has been examining the Job Corps program in national parks. Sirna has worked as a cultural resource specialist at C&O Canal National Historical Park and Catoctin Mountain Park. Read her full article at tph.ucpress.edu.


Gratitude and Freedom

As we celebrate thankfulness today, we’re reminded of how grateful we are for our hard won rights and freedoms. We are thankful for our rights to religious liberty, free speech and assembly, a free press and privacy, and for the right to petition our government.

To look back at how some of these battles for social progress, equality, and other freedoms were gained, we’ve selected some reading material to continue to inspire and spur change.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading.

activists handbook

The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century
Randy Shaw

This hard-hitting guide to winning social change details how activists can best use the Internet and social media, and analyzes the strategic strengths and weaknesses of rising 21st century movements for immigrant rights, marriage equality, and against climate change.

Looking at the impact of specific strategies on campaigns across the country, from Occupy Wall Street to battles over sweatshops, the environment, AIDS policies, education reform, homelessness, and more, author Randy Shaw shows that with a plan—whether it’s by building diverse coalitions, using ballot initiatives, or harnessing the media, the courts, and the electoral process—positive social change can be achieved.

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The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
Grace Lee Boggs and 
Scott Kurashige

A vibrant, inspirational force, the legendary Grace Lee Boggs participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements—for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and more. In this powerful, deeply humanistic book, her words resonate now more than ever.

Drawing from seven decades of activist experience, and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times, The Next American Revolution offers ways to create the radical social change we need to confront new political, economic, and environmental realities. Hers is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will collectively constitute the next American Revolution.

9780520280830America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century
Gabriel Thompson

Raised by conservative parents who hoped he would “stay with his own kind,” Fred Ross instead became one of the most influential community organizers in American history. His activism began alongside Dust Bowl migrants, where he managed the same labor camp that inspired John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. During World War II, Ross worked for the release of interned Japanese Americans, and after the war, he dedicated his life to building the political power of Latinos across California. Labor organizing in this country was forever changed when Ross knocked on the door of a young Cesar Chavez and encouraged him to become an organizer. In America’s Social Arsonist, author Gabriel Thompson provides a full picture of Ross, recovering a forgotten chapter of American history and providing vital lessons for organizers today.


Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake

by Joyce Goldstein, author of The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home

Happy Thanksgiving! Looking for a last minute dessert recipe? Try this pumpkin cake recipe from Joyce Goldstein.

New Mediterranean Jewish Table Joyce Goldstein

Pumpkin Cake from the Veneto (Torta di Zucca Barucca)

Dense and creamy at the same time, this cake comes from the town of Treviso in the Veneto. The use of pumpkin and citron indicates a Sephardic origin.

Continue reading “Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cake”


The “Six” Boroughs: Brooklyn

This is the fourth of the “six” boroughs blog series celebrating Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. We’ve already visited Queensthe Bronx, and Staten Island. If you missed the prior posts, we encourage you to go back and read them after you’ve finished reading about Brooklyn.


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Detail of “Brownstones and Basketball” map featured in “Nonstop Metropolis.”

Brooklyn’s basketball courts are as much a part of New York’s landscape as are its regal brownstones, where each is often within close proximity to the other. Pick-up games have long been a way to get to know the neighborhood and to play and be friendly with neighbors and strangers.

At Coffey Park in Red Hook, Carmelo Anthony honed his game. Marine Park is where Chris Mullin played, and every Saturday there’s serious pick-up.

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“Brownstones and Basketball” map detail, including Red Hook and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods, among others.

But development since the 1990s has meant more brownstones are renovated and basketball courts are removed, pointing to the loss of something that’s intrinsically Brooklyn. In fact, this last June conflict in the well-off Brooklyn Heights enclave rose when residents attributed Brooklyn Bridge Park’s basketball players—coming from as far as the Bronx and Queens—to “damaging the character of the neighborhood.” Who and what defines that character is up for discussion.

In his essay, “Empire of Brownstone and Brick,” Thomas J. Campanella traces the formation of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods and the history of its brownstones. Here’s an excerpt:

In an era when Brooklyn has become a global “brand” beloved by British celebrities who name kids for the borough, it is the iconic building type of the moraine—the brown­stone—that people think of. Like New Orleans with its shotgun houses or San Francisco with its Victorian “painted ladies,” Brooklyn is among a handful of American cities essen­tialized in the popular imagination by a particular kind of residential architecture. The brownstone townhouse signifies Brooklyn as much as the borough’s eponymous bridge or Coney Island’s Parachute Jump—perhaps more so. . . . But the brownstone represents only old Brooklyn, the city of the terminal moraine. Outwash Brooklyn has a signature style of residential architecture all its own—the Tudor-revival home, with its faux half-timbered walls and slate tile roofs. This style may not be popular among creative-class elites who clamor for brownstones—at least not yet. But it too is saturated with significance and speaks to the varied and ever-changing ways that our homes can suggest longing at once for the future and for some imagined past.

And perhaps Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts describes Brooklyn’s development and changes best in her essay, “Freed But Not Free”:

The city, we’re sometimes told, is composed of villages. Fruits of segregation or identifica­tion, shaped by the churn of developers’ schemes and capital’s march, some of the places now called “Villages”—those cubic blocks called projects—evince the city’s old will to push those it doesn’t wish to see to the margins, where they’ll remain (unless of course those projects sit in now-rich neighborhoods and are doomed, too, to be sold off ). All sit atop settlements that came before. . . . Visiting these sites now, we’re reminded that when building on unsteady ground and stolen territory, perhaps the most important material is time, and the ability to inhabit an expanded idea of history like the one that Columbia professor Saidiya Hartman offers us when she asserts, “I, too, live in the time of slavery, by which I mean I am living in the future created by it.”

The images above and below are details from the map “Brownstones and Basketball,” which locates notable brownstones and public courts throughout Brooklyn. You can find the map and both essays in full in Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas.

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“Brownstones and Basketball” legend

Dance RecitalJJ SchapiroNonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know and see New York City, in an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

Threats to Human Rights in Times of Fear

During his campaign, Donald Trump floated the idea of a Muslim registry and famously called for a complete ban of Muslims entering the United States. Now with recent comments from Reince Priebus and Carl Higbie, talk of a registry is back at the forefront of national discussion—with Japanese internment cited as grounds for how Muslims could be treated today.

Now more than ever it is crucial to look back at the days of internment, for which Congress formally apologized, along with a history of marginalized groups threatened by wartime hysteria and panic. We’ve compiled a selection of titles that look at these events and the lessons—and regrets—to be gleaned from them today.

After CampAfter Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Life and Politics
Greg Robinson

In the years that followed WWII and the internment of Japanese Americans, former camp inmates struggled to remake their lives, excluded from the wartime economic boom and scarred psychologically by their wartime ordeal.

After Camp sheds light on various developments relating to Japanese Americans in the aftermath of their wartime confinement, including resettlement nationwide, mental and physical readjustment , and their political engagement, most notably in concert with other racialized and ethnic minority groups.

 

Justice at War

Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases
Peter Irons

Through exhaustive research of one of the most disturbing events in U.S. history, author Peter Irons uncovers a government campaign of suppression, alteration, and destruction of crucial evidence that could have persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down the internment order. Justice at War documents the debates that took place before the internment order and the legal response during and after the internment.

 

 

 

9780520098602National Insecurity  and Human Rights: Democracies Debate Counterterrorism
Alison Brysk & Gershon Shafir (Editors)

How can democracies cope with the threat of terror while protecting human rights? How do we prevent fears for our safety from turning into panic that put our rights at risk?

Human rights is all too often the first casualty of national insecurity. Comparing the lessons of the United States and Israel with the “best-case scenarios” of the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, and Germany, National Insecurity and Human Rights demonstrates the important options for threatened democracies and that democratic governance,  the rule of law, and international cooperation are crucial foundations for counterterror policy.

 

Atlas of Human RightsThe Atlas of Human Rights: Mapping Violations of Freedom Around the Globe
Andrew Fagan

In the post-9/11 world, governments use the threat of terrorism to justify tightening national security and restricting basic human rights. As intolerance threatens diversity nationally and on a global scale, The Atlas of Human Rights serves as a crucial intervention to preserving and extending freedom.

Inspired by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, author Andrew Fagan considers the nature of the state, national identity, and citizenship, charting both the progress and limitation of free expression and media censorship. Vividly illustrated with colorful maps and charts, The Atlas of Human Rights charts both the progress and limitation of free expression and media censorship. It displays the areas that are beset with wars, conflict, migration, and genocide; details the geographic status of sexual freedom, racism, religious freedom, and the rights of the disabled; focuses on women’s rights, sex slavery, and the rights of the child.

A timely read when thinking of today’s human rights inequities and the consequences of those inequities worldwide.


Communicating Evidence Within the Criminal Justice System

By Corinna Kruse, author of The Social Life of Forensic Evidence

This post is published after the American Society of Criminology conference in New Orleans from November 16–19. #ASC2016 

Have you ever thought about how much communication across professions is needed for the criminal justice system to be able to produce forensic evidence that can be used in court? Or how the criminal justice system overcomes the difficulties inherent in this communication?

Kruse.SocialLifeOfForensicEvidenceThe production of forensic evidence requires, by necessity, the involvement of different professions. In the Swedish criminal justice system, there are specialized police officers who examine the crime scene and recover traces; forensic scientists at the National Forensics Centre who analyze these traces and evaluate the results (i.e. assess how strong conclusions can be drawn from the laboratory results ); police investigators who procure other evidence, for example through interrogation, that will form the context for the forensic evidence; prosecutors who not only lead the investigation and thus direct the police but also assemble the whole of the evidence in a case into a coherent court case; and finally, judges and lay assessors (the Swedish criminal justice system does not use juries)  who assess the evidence as a whole and make a decision on both the defendant’s culpability and, implicitly, on the meaning of each piece of evidence.

The difficulties of lay jurors to understand evidence, in particular probabilistic evidence, have received quite some attention. But what about communicating and understanding forensic evidence with the criminal justice system?

Of course, crime scene examiners, forensic scientists, police investigators, prosecutors, and judges are not laypeople. Still, their professional competences and perspectives differ considerably. Thus, where probabilistic reasoning is for forensic scientists the solution for managing and conveying uncertainty, the expert statements that are the result of such reasoning can be difficult to understand and, subsequently, use efficiently for the police investigators and prosecutors that are conceived of as their main recipients.

What, however, makes these recipients different from lay jurors is that they are part of the criminal justice system, and within the criminal justice system, there are mechanisms – formal and informal – of addressing these difficulties. There, crime scene examiners, due to their familiarity with both police work and forensics, are mediators and translators between the different professions, for example by giving advice about forensic analyses and results to police investigators and prosecutors or by handling contact with the laboratory for them. In addition, there may be informal telephone calls to or from the laboratory, with, say, a prosecutor asking a forensic scientist what the probabilities specified in an expert statement mean or a forensic science calling an investigation leader to discuss the meaningfulness of an analysis they have ordered. In this way, probabilistic evidence is often accompanied by translation work by different people in the criminal justice system actively working towards successful communication between professions.

Because criminal justice systems are made up of different professions, such communication and its inherent difficulties are inescapable. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see in which ways other criminal justice systems address them?


Corinna Kruse is a lecturer in the Department of Thematic Studies—Technology and Social Change at Linköping University.