Distance and proximity. Interpersonal Relations Between Pupils and Educators in the Belgian Reform School of Mol (1927-1960)

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Abstract

This article focuses on interpersonal relations between staff members and juvenile delinquents detained in the State Reformatory of Mol, a disciplinary institution in Belgium, between 1927 and 1960. While historical scholarship provides ample knowledge of the history of disciplinary techniques, coercive practices and subtle resistance by detainees, it fails to address the broader spectrum of social interactions coexisting alongside formal coercion. This article argues that alongside coercive practices, there was a multiplicity of social interactions taking place within the walls of the reformatory. Ego-documents from both pupils and educators provide insight into the micro-interactions between staff members and detainees. The first sections elaborate upon the coexistence of different pedagogical styles among the staff members, depending on their function in the reformatory and on the time period. The subsequent section illustrates how pupils contested their educators’ behaviour, in particular regarding self-restraint. Lastly, it discusses the balance between face-to-face and epistolary interactions in the relation between pupils and the director, both during and after the detention. While this article does not deny the violent nature of carceral relations, it does seek to show that, to address the complexity of carceral relations, it is necessary to acknowledge the coexistence of multiple ways of interactions, their nature, and their changes throughout time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-28
Number of pages24
JournalCrime, Histoire et Sociétés
Volume25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

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