Writing is rupture

I write a lot. For myself mostly. Private blog posts, journal, stories, lists, letters. Anything and everything. It is how I think and grapple with contested ideas. When I was at primary school we had the honour of having Toxteth poet Levi Tafari come and read to us. He told us we could be writers too.

Writing has got me through a lot. It gets me into trouble as well. I can’t write ‘academically’. Perhaps it is to do with my recent Dyslexia diagnosis, but I think it runs a lot deeper than that.

I like writing to be raw, bruising, to take affect in the reader. When people respond to my writing saying they were in tears, or felt unsettled, that they had to read it twice, than it made them reflect about their own trauma and experience, then that is my job done. I write to feel and to connect.

Yesterday I made the decision to release my blog of the paper ‘Criminologist or Criminal. Liminal Spaces and Trauma’. It has received over 2000 reads in less than 24 hours. Thank you so so much. Writing it was cathartic and it has been part of healing. Your comments and feedback have helped me beyond words.

I have ‘lived a life’, and I am unsure why criminology wishes to sanitize itself. Some have asked me if it’s a middle-class discomfort because topics are deemed to be ‘distasteful’. I think this definitely part of it. Many academics like talking about something, but when the power dynamic starts to get broken and the object becomes an active subject talking back, they are deemed to be a problem.

Bearing witness and powerful testimony should make us all bathe in the discomfort. The place of challenge is where we grow as individuals and as a discipline. I will reiterate that it okay to not have all of the answers but that starting the discussions is crucial and necessary work.

As my previous blog post makes clear, I am not an abolitionist because I live in the here and now. If an armed gang broke into my house tonight then I would obviously call 999. If an OCG member breaks their restraining order, I will be phoning the police. Theorizing is great, but in the immediate space of having a knife held to your throat it isn’t very helpful. This is where a lot of my frustration lies.

Men will always compete for resources and many will stop at nothing to get what they want. This is where lived experience and the academy will always be at loggerheads.

Deciding to bare my vulnerability may be seen as courageous by some or as stupid by others, and in all honesty it is likely a mixture of both. The ‘professional’ academic does not reveal too much of themselves. But by sharing our truth our criminology can be more powerful.

Once we learn the art of bearing witness to ourselves we can bear witness to others.

Having a complicated relationship with the criminal justice system and with criminology itself can be a tool of much more invasive interrogation. The space where there is hurt, trauma, fear, frustration, tension. That is a valuable place that can show us where to go next. But it won’t come easily and it cannot be obtained by a linear neatly-packaged discipline. The ruptures are what we need to start again.

I did not come this far to be crushed by anyone. If my Criminology upsets you, that probably isn’t about me. If you don’t want to make more space at the table, ask yourself why that is.

When we tell our stories we allow other people to tell theirs. Thank you for honouring mine.

Gemma x