Welcome to https://tomdaems.com/. Dealing with covid-19 and surviving lock-down not only proved (and proves) to be a major challenge but it also forced many of us to live our private and professional lives increasingly online. Some of you (like me) may have gotten angry or frustrated for failing internet connections or for forgetting to push that “record”-button when preparing an online lecture. And many of you certainly will have missed the chatter and gossip during coffee breaks and wine receptions, in particular in conference season (over the past months I have often thought about Stan Cohen’s hilarious paper “Conference life: The rough guide” which, luckily, still makes me laugh).

Modern communication technology will never be able to replace real human contact. Human beings need face-to-face social interaction: the deviance that surrounds us, from violations of curfews over lock-down parties to refusals to wear face masks, which is usually seen as a sign of utter selfishness, reminds us, somewhat paradoxically, that humans are social beings. However, at the same time many of us (or at least those of us – like me – who don’t belong to the age cohort of the “digital natives”) have come to realize that you can do many things – and that a lot is already happening – in the digital world. With https://tomdaems.com/ I want to use the potential that today’s digital world offers us in order to reach out and further connect with people in different corners of the real world, who – like me – take an interest in questions with respect to criminology, punishment and control.

This website has a typical “portfolio”-outline: it collects and presents my academic writing and offers – whenever possible – links to (free) content. The website is in English – or I should say, it is in “my version” of English, as I am not a native speaker (I am grateful to one of my former professors for explaining so eloquently that “our” non-native English is much more commonly used in Europe than the “real” English and that, despite its imperfections, we should never feel embarrassed for using it – see the interview with Lode Walgrave, at approx. 18:55). The (free) content on https://tomdaems.com/ is in Dutch and English and, occasionally, in French and Spanish. If you see something that does not have a link to (free) content, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The image that you can see on the home page depicts the inside of the iconic Rasphuis, perhaps the most famous carceral institution in the history of punishment and control in Europe. The image is actually a “picture of a picture” : it’s an image of a present that Tony Peters gave to me when I earned my PhD in November 2007. Tony Peters passed away in March 2012 (you can read more about his life and work here or here).

In November 2018 I traveled to Amsterdam to meet and interview Pieter Spierenburg (you can read the text René van Swaaningen and I edited in Dutch or in French). I arrived a little early that day so I went for a walk to see the entrance of the Rasphuis at the Heiligeweg in the center of the city. Interestingly, when I entered the home of Pieter Spierenburg the first thing I noticed in his living room was, again, an image of the Rasphuis.

The Rasphuis was an important building in the history of punishment in Europe and beyond. For some the emergence of houses of correction – like the Rasphuis – is a sign of progress and civilization, heralding a new era of constructive and humane punishment; for others however, its regime of hard labour and its economic purpose reflect and contribute to the rise of capitalism and the exploitation and disciplining of inmates. Whatever your views on this are, it should be clear that the old Rasphuis makes you think about punishment and control. This also holds for the picture at the bottom of this post: behind the preserved entrance of the old Rasphuis there is nowadays a shopping mall. Perhaps its changing function signals a shift from a society of producers to a society of consumers?

Understanding punishment and control helps us to understand society. As Stan Cohen once put it in an essay for New Society, crime and punishment are “…ultimately only markers to what sort of society we live in, and want to live in”. I hope that https://tomdaems.com/ can contribute to such a conversation about criminology, punishment and control.

2 thoughts on “ Welcome! ”

  1. Lovely website and a wonderful invitation to criminology. I do think that those piles of wood need explaining. The Rasphuis, as soon as I was introduced to it on my criminology Masters at Middlesex University, seemed such a powerful image of the confusions of punishment and labour. They endure even now while the building is long gone. Best wishes
    Rod

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much, Rod. Indeed, the Dutch word ‘rasp’ (from the verb ‘raspen’) refers directly to the main activity in the (male) Amsterdam house of correction: the shaving/grating of Brazilian wood as ingredient for paint. Thorsten Sellin’s (1944) classic Pioneering in Penology is still a very good introduction to the Rasphuis (as well as its female counterpart, the ‘Spinhuis’), https://www.degruyter.com/penn/view/title/525982?language=en

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