Accepted Paper:

(School) vandalism: spatial practices between destruction and transformation  


Ina Herrmann (University of Duisburg-Essen)

Paper short abstract:

Vandalism or rather signs of vandalistic practices such as graffiti and broken furniture, are omnipresent at (respectively in) schools and other public buildings or places. The aim of this dissertation is the reconstruction of structures of meaning of vandalism as an expressive practice.

Paper long abstract:

Vandalism in itself is illegal, whether as a willful damage or defacement of property, as a political statement or a part of modern popular art (as long as there are no official permissions or assignments, of course), and it plays a predominant role in German crime statistics. Especially schools and other public institutions complain about an increase of vandalistic practices like graffiti on walls and tables or the destruction of parts of the building (broken windows, destructed toilets etc). There are different ways of handling these 'expressive spatial practices', for instance closing off buildings with fences and walls or intensifying the monitoring by installing (more) observation cameras. But in order to work out efficient strategies against vandalism it is necessary to know the reasons for such vandalistic practices. There are well-differentiated and useful psychological and pedagogic models and theories to explain vandalistic behavior of adolescents (e.g. theories of deviance) but the (latent) structure of meaning of vandalism has not yet been sufficiently explored. These (latent) structures of meaning are to be analyzed with the help of the following three research methods:

1. the image reconstruction method by Max Imdahl to analyze photos and pictures of vandalism,

2. reconstructed group discussions by the documentary method by Ralf Bohnsack to analyze collective orientation patterns and

3. expert interviews with third parties like police officers or social education workers to analyze experiences concerning vandalistic practices and their causes.

During this presentation first research results will be introduced.

Panel P233
School ethnographies: inside and beyond schooling