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  • Border cases. Perception and Representation of Crime and Deviance in the Saxon-Polonian Border Region Since 1949

Border cases. Perception and Representation of Crime and Deviance in the Saxon-Polonian Border Region Since 1949

Research: Sarah Kleinmann

In modernity, crime and delinquency and their containment are a key area of regulation by the state and society. In certain aspects, society constitutes itself through the way it handles this “Other”. How and which action is defined, punished and condemned as crime, offense, outrageous or a bagatelle, is subject to historical change. The same is true of the perception of offenders and their victims. Consequently, in modern states and societies, a crime resp. an offense is not only legally, but also politically, morally and socially constructed. The respective definitions may differ, as morality and law constitute different, competing reference systems. Furthermore, when dealing with crime and offense, limits are always involved, e.g. the limits of police work, the rule of law, or morality. Crime and deviance are characterized by transgressing the borders of what is legal and accepted. Sometimes, crimes and criminality target people who transgress radical ideas of order and thus transgress borders themselves.

The research project focuses on the relation of borders to crime resp. criminality and deviance. Their perception and representation will be analyzed with the example of Görlitz and Zgorzelec since 1949. At this time, Germany and Poland were both subjected to grave political transformations. From 1949 to 1989/90, the German-Polish border ran between the two socialist states German Democratic Republic and Polish People ’s Republic; since then it runs between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Poland. Consequently, in nearly 70 years, the political frameworks of border security and of life in the border area have changed considerably.

The project will focus on border-specific crime complexes and on such crimes which are not. The historical change of the areas of crime and their perceptions as well as the different phases and transformations of the border regimes will both be of relevance. Above all, the following issues will be addressed: What is seen as a crime resp. criminal? To what extent border-specific offenses are perceived different from such offenses that could also happen in the interior of the country? Which frame of reference and which rules are at the basis of these perceptions? In this regard, which differences and similarities exist between Germany and Poland? Which differences and similarities exist between professional and everyday perceptions? The project is supposed to contribute to a differentiated perception of crime and deviance in border areas, especially of factual and perceived threats, and promote mutual transnational understanding.